Teaching Staff

Valerie Parker
Valerie Parker
Principal Singing Teacher, mezzo soprano

Valerie Parker has been associated with York Singing Academy (formerly The De Costa Academy of Singing) for more than 30 years as both a pupil of Michael De Costa and assistant teacher, taking the position of principal singing teacher in October 2021. Michael was Valerie’s teaching mentor for many years, and she is proud to be continuing teaching in the ‘bel canto’ tradition.

Valerie studied Music and English at the University of Birmingham alongside singing and piano at the Birmingham Conservatoire. She gained a postgraduate degree in Vocal and Opera Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and was a semifinalist in the RNCM’s Leslie and Dorothy Blond Award. Valerie also reached the semifinal stage of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition.

Valerie has taken part in masterclasses with mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker and American baritone Sherrill Milnes and has worked with Malcolm Martineau, Dame Ann Murray, Mary King, Christine Cairns and other inspirational artists at Oxenfoord International Summer School.

Valerie has been a member of the London Symphony Chorus, performing with them on tour in America, in recordings, and at numerous London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Festival Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral. She has the curious honour of being a genuine Savoyard, having performed in Gilbert and Sullivan at the Savoy Theatre in London.

Valerie’s operatic roles include Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Third Lady (The Magic Flute), Hata (The Bartered Bride), Ursula (Beatrice and Benedict), Azucena (Il Trovatore), Katisha (The Mikado), Tessa (The Gondoliers), Ruth (The Pirates of Penzance), Lady Jane (Patience). Oratorio repertoire includes Messiah and Dixit Dominus (Handel), Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini), Elijah (Mendelssohn), Gloria (Vivaldi), Mass in C minor (Mozart), Magnificat (Bach), Maria Theresa Mass (Haydn).

Whilst a member of vocal trio ‘Desperate Mezzos’ Valerie performed a wide variety of repertoire both comic and serious, also providing lyrics and arrangements for several of the group’s songs.

Alongside teaching at the Academy, Valerie performs in opera and oratorio and appears regularly in concert as a solo recitalist.

Matthew Collins
Matthew Collins
Accompanist and Head of Music

Matthew Collins graduated from the University of York with a master's degree in Vocal Studies, and has been the principal accompanist at the Academy since 2006, playing for pupil lessons and exams, assisting the teaching, and accompanying the Academy's concerts and full opera performances.

While studying in Cornwall, Matthew participated in masterclasses with international concert pianists Leslie Howard, Pascal Rogé and Piers Lane. Matthew has studied the piano with Paul Comeau and Joan Dixon, and the organ with Christopher Gray, Roger Tebbet, and currently, Keith Wright. He is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists (ARCO) and a regular organ recitalist in the area. Venues in 2022 include St Hilda's, Whitby, and the Minster churches of Howden, Leeds and Grimsby.

Matthew was appointed Director of Music at Howden Minster in 2009. His Oratorio credits as musical director or accompanist include Messiah; Stabat Mater (Poulenc), Requiem (Fauré, Duruflé and Rutter); The Crucifixion; Christmas Oratorio (Saint-Saëns); Magnificat (Rutter); The Redeemer (Shaw); and Petite Messe Solennelle. Matthew has also sung in the many of the country’s major cathedrals as a member of the Royal School of Church Music Millennium Youth Choir and the RSCM Chamber Choir.

Matthew also works as a freelance accompanist for singers and instrumentalists and, as founder of Jorvik Gilbert and Sullivan Company in 2007, directed the majority of the G&S canon before handing over the baton in 2016.

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