Hitting the right notes

17 November 2017

Waikato alumnus Jarvis Dams doesn’t let full-time work get in the way of a major singing competition. The Hamilton-based baritone won this year’s New Zealand Aria competition.

By day, Jarvis is a customer services officer at Hamilton City Council, but outside office hours he’s a baritone on a mission. His long-term aim is to become a professional singer on the world stage. He’s practising every day and travelling twice a week to Auckland for lessons.

“It can be challenging sometimes, but when you get to perform and share so much amazing music with people it really makes all the late nights and early mornings worth it. As the expression goes, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. For me this is definitely the case as I love to sing, but I also really love working for the Council.”

Jarvis has been an NZ Aria finalist twice before, but this year he nailed the top $20,000 prize package when he sang Puccini’s Questo Amor. “I went in trying not to think about the competition, but focussing on the story I’m sharing with the audience. And I try to enjoy the other performances rather than thinking of them as my competition.”

Questo Amor is known to be a hard song to sing, but Jarvis says he’s always liked it and was keen to perform it with a professional orchestra.

Jarvis graduated from the University of Waikato with a Master of Music and credits vocal coach Dame Malvina Major for helping him improve his voice and vocal technique. He was also selected as a Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist for New Zealand Opera, which helped him develop even further.

His ‘Aria’ prize money includes $5000 towards entry in next year’s Eisteddfod competition in Sydney.

All in all, it’s been quite a year for 28 year old. “Earlier this year I won the IFAC Handa Singing School Aria Competition in Napier and followed that up with some amazing performance experiences overseas. I was lucky enough to attend the International Vocal Arts Institute in New York, a three-week intensive programme that focused on getting young singers ready for the industry.

And ultimately that’s what Jarvis would like to be doing – performing on some of the world’s top opera stages.

He’s currently studying with Catrin Johnsson from Auckland and in the not-too-distant future plans to audition for music schools in the UK.