A Grand Stage

Two music teachers from GEMS Wellington International School share their experience of singing in the CineConcert series of Harry Potter at Dubai Opera

Jennifer Baxendale and Joe William Steede from GEMS Wellington International School

Joe William Steede, Head of Performing Arts

What do you teach? I am the Head of Performing Arts and my main subject is music.
What was the performance, what was your role? It was part of the CineConcert series of Harry Potter 3. My role was to sing bass 2 in the choir.
How long did you rehearse? Rehearsals in total were around 16 hours, throughout the week running up to the performance, during evenings or the weekend.
What did it mean to you? As a professional musician, it’s always a fantastic opportunity to be part of a performance like this. I was extremely excited to be asked. It’s such a privilege to work at this level with other professionals.
Describe the experience. The experience was different to what I expected. The music was fairly difficult and took a lot more time to learn, however, the dress rehearsal and final performance was fantastic. It is exciting to sing and work with a live orchestra in a venue as big as Dubai Opera.
How did you get the opportunity? Last year I was sent an email asking about auditions for Dubai Festival Chorus, this is a choir that is operating here in Dubai and entry is by audition only. I was invited to audition and was accepted into the choir. Last year we sang at the Dubai proms and at the Bocelli Concert in Abu Dhabi.
Did you tell your students? I told all of my students about this event and showed them pictures and video clips of the performance after. I feel it’s really important to show students that myself and my team are active musicians.
How do you inspire creativity in them? I inspire students through giving them opportunities to be creative and express themselves through different musical activities. As a keen performer, having opportunities for students to
get involved with professionals is really important.
What is your passion? My passion is playing the tuba in either an orchestra, brass band or wind band setting. Cycling, writing and listening to music and reading are other passions.

Jennifer Baxendale, Primary Music Teacher

What do you teach? I teach Primary Music classes. I teach Year groups 1, 2 and 3, which encompasses four to eight year olds.
What was the performance, what was your role? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I sang in the alto section.
What did it mean to you? I have always been a big fan of Harry Potter so it was a privilege to sing it live with an orchestra.
Describe the experience. The experience was hard work at first, due to some of the complex music that we had to sing, but it sounded excellent after all the rehearsals. It was a fantastic feeling to sing with such a talented group of singers and musicians.
How did you get the opportunity? I auditioned to be part of the Dubai Opera Festival Chorus last year and was successful.
Did you tell your students? Yes, I mentioned it to the older students. They seemed excited that their teacher was performing at Dubai Opera.
How do you inspire creativity in them? I try to give them lots of opportunities to express themselves using instruments and their voices. The children really enjoy hearing music played live, like when I play my flute. I try to inspire creativity by using puppets and storybooks in lessons as this allows the children to make interesting connections in their learning. It also gives them inspiration to create musical stories using instruments as well as their voices.
What is your passion? My passions are cooking, swimming and singing. Since a young age, I’ve been singing in choirs in the UK and I started to learn the flute aged seven. At college, I studied performing arts and I’ve taken part in a range of musicals and choral performances. I played lead roles in Little Red Riding Hood and in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.