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Jonathan Palmer Lakeland ’12 is finding success on both sides of the Atlantic

06/15/2018

Pianist Jonathan Palmer Lakeland’s playing has been described as “wordless eloquence” (Margaret Tattersall, The Herald, Stratford-upon-Avon).  The same critic has also written about his work as an accompanist, “He supported the singers with both brio and sensitivity, clearly relishing his involvement in the dramatic narrative.”

Since he graduated from Westminster in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance, accompanying and pedagogy, where he studied with James Goldsworthy and J.J. Penna, Lakeland has been honing his skills and making his mark as an accomplished accompanist, conductor and coach. Immediately after graduating, he was hired as a staff accompanist at Westminster.

He later went on to earn a master’s degree in piano accompanying from the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London, where he studied with some of the world’s greatest accompanists, including Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake, James Baillieu and Michael Dussek. He attended the Academy as a recipient of multiple scholarships and awards, including the American Society for the Royal Academy of Music scholarship. While there, he made his debuts at Wigmore Hall, the Oxford Lieder Festival, the Leeds Lieder Festival and a number of other venues across Europe.

Since returning from the UK, he has held faculty positions at two universities; served as the executive director of The Same Stream, a professional choral ensemble led by James Jordan, and kept an active performance schedule, including an extensive concert tour in Ghana in March of 2017.

This September, he’ll return to the Academy as a répétiteur fellow with Royal Academy Opera (RAO), the Academy’s renowned opera training program.  For those not familiar with this title, a répétiteur is responsible for conducting/assistant conducting productions, coaching singers and playing the piano for music and production rehearsals.  The highly sought-after and competitive fellowship with the RAO a paid staff position, which will give Lakeland great exposure as a pianist/coach and a conductor.

Designed to support young opera professionals, the program offers apprentice répétiteurs the opportunity to study and work as an integral part of Royal Academy Opera. They receive intensive on-the-job training and participate in coaching and master classes presented by visiting specialists.  The prime purpose of the fellowships is to hone skills and produce well-rounded professionals working at a very high level. The fellows are also involved in programming unusual repertoire and developing projects to encourage new audiences.

Recalling his graduate work at the Academy, Lakeland says, “I did quite a lot of opera work — conducting and playing for and conducting opera scenes productions, and serving as a répétiteur on one of Royal Academy Opera's productions, Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night.”

“The Royal Academy of Music is one of these outstanding musical institutions that surrounds its students with the greatest resources, opportunities and teaching that is available,” he adds. “Every day is a slice of artistic heaven. When you are a part of the Royal Academy of Music, meeting, performing with and studying with some of the world’s greatest musicians becomes your new normal. Such an intense and inspiring environment gives the students the ability to focus on honing craft and artistry. In many ways it is like going to Westminster Choir College – musical excellence is expected of you, but you still feel a strong sense of community between the students and professors that is rare in conservatories. I am eternally grateful for that.”

Lakeland has worked closely with Gareth Hancock, the current head of Royal Academy Opera and Jane Glover, its former head. The Westminster Symphonic Choir performed with Ms. Glover when she conducted the New York Philharmonic’s performances of Messiah in December of 2016.  As a fellow, he’ll again work closely with Hancock. “I'm very lucky that both of these people, and all of my teachers from the Academy, have continued to be big supporters of mine,” he adds.

“Having worked with Jonathan as a postgraduate I knew him to be a great musician and pianist, colleague and team player,” Hancock says. “He has shown a passion for opera and the experience he will gain playing for our productions and classes with leading international singers and coaches will stand him in great stead to enter the profession. I am extremely happy to be welcoming him back as a member of our elite team and fully anticipate that this will be a springboard to a successful career.”

In addition to his studies and performing at the Royal Academy of Music, Lakeland considers his relationship with the Georg Solti Accademia to be one of the most transformative of his life. It began when he was selected as one of six young répétiteurs to study at the Accademia’s répétiteur course in Venice, Italy. Run by Artistic Director Jonathan Papp and Executive Director Candice Wood, the Georg Solti Accademia was founded in 2004 by Lady Valerie Solti, Papp, and Wood to ensure that Georg Solti’s legacy of mentoring artists at the beginning of their careers continues.

About their first meeting, Jonathan Papp says, “I was delighted when Jonathan auditioned and accepted his place on the Solti-Peretti repetiteurs' course in Venice. I’d watched his career at the Royal Academy of Music with interest, and I had been particularly impressed with his Wigmore Hall debut as part of the Song Circle series.”

Reflecting on his time at the Solti Accademia, Lakeland says, “Studying here opened my eyes and ears to just how wonderful the world of opera is. It was the mentoring I received here from Maestro Richard Bonynge and Jonathan Papp that taught me what it means to coach and bring opera to life as the conductor and répétiteur. The Solti Accademia is one of the greatest places on the planet for young opera singers and répétiteurs to study.”

Only a year after Jonathan studied at the Accademia, he was invited to join the music staff of the school in the summer of 2016.  He continues to have an ongoing relationship with them and will rejoin the Accademia in the summer of 2019.

“He’s a great musician, and I look forward to welcoming him back at the RAM, when he returns later this year on a fellowship, but I also look forward to him taking over at the Georg Solti Accademia as my assistant. The only downside is that he’s bound for even higher things, so I don’t expect him to stay for long,” says Papp.

Before he leaves for London, Lakeland will participate in another prestigious fellowship — this time on this side of the Atlantic — at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. Selected as a vocal/piano fellow, he’ll be part of art song, chamber music and theatrical projects. His first performance as part of the Tanglewood program will be Monday, July 2, when he plays continuo for An Evening of Bach Cantatas conducted by John Harbison, followed by a series of recitals and concerts with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra.

“It is a big honor to hold a fellowship at Tanglewood,” says Lakeland. “This summer is particularly exciting, as so much of what we are doing focuses on Leonard Bernstein, and his influence on Tanglewood. It is a two-month, intense experience, but I am looking forward to savoring every moment of it.”

Only a few weeks after his Tanglewood fellowship finishes, Lakeland begins his new position in London. In addition to his position at the Academy, he will maintain a regular recital performance schedule in the UK. In October, he will accompany singers Dame Felicity Lott, Clare Tunne, and Samantha Quillish at the renowned Champs Hill performance series in Sussex. In his limited time outside of performing, he will continue to serve as executive director of The Same Stream. Lakeland is also passionate about expanding the global listening audience for classical music, and he is working on a number of initiatives to achieve this goal.

“It’s a busy time,” says Lakeland, “but it’s an exciting time. As I continue to perform internationally, I find myself regularly and passionately talking about my teachers, and my education. I am exceedingly proud to have attended Westminster Choir College. Our beloved Westminster is known around the world as one of the foremost institutions of musical education and performance in existence. The knowledge I gained from this place as well as the relationships that I developed with my peers and mentors, continues to shape me every day as a person and as a musician. I’ll forever be a champion of Westminster and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the community for the rest of my life.”