Since student days at the Royal College of Music where we were contemporaries, I have always looked up to Kathleen for many things really: her integrity as a performer, confidence which comes from good research and skill, and her courage to perform interesting left-field programmes and for her beautiful voice. Personally, Kathleen is a kind, wise and generous colleague who has already helped so many vocal students gain knowledge and confidence in this fickle business.
I first knew Kathleen McKellar Ferguson when I was Director of Music at the Purcell School in the 1990’s. She came to work with us and helped to elevate the standard of the voice department. She was a great colleague as well. I was delighted to see that Kath had been invited to teach for the RCS and that we would be colleagues once again in Scotland. She has a wonderful supportive manner with her students and I have had the pleasure of performing with some of them. Kath is a terrific teacher and a vital part of the RCS’ internationally renowned vocal department.
I recently worked with some of Kath’s students and can confirm the very high standards she achieves. Having been a successful professional soloist herself, she knows what us expected of singers and that knowledge , combined with her musicianship, boundless energy and generosity makes her an ideal teacher.
It was an important opportunity for me as head of Department when, in 2001, Kathleen decided to move north of the border to her homeland. I had no hesitation in inviting her to join the already strong team of vocal teachers and bring to the dept all the benefits of her own extensive career experience along with the technical and artistic knowledge she had acquired from her own distinguished teachers. She has continued to add a significant dimension to the department not only through her individual teaching, but by the quality of her performance classes which spread her expertise to all the singers in Stephen Robertson’s outstanding department at the RCS.
When Kath began teaching for the vocal department at RSAMD, now RCS, 15 years ago we just clicked and have remained friends ever since. I have worked on a regular basis with a number of her students and have found them to be both technically and musically proficient which is a testament to her teaching. Most importantly, the first thing to go in the diary at the beginning of each session is our weekly lunch appointment!
Kath is a very fine musician and a wonderfully effective singing teacher thanks to a combination of great personal warmth, technical acumen and caring humanity.
Rachel Redmond, Soprano, RCS 2002-2006 / 2007-2009
Les Arts Florissants, Jardins des Voix, Opera Comique (Paris), Aix-en-Provence Festival, Theatre du Chatelet (Paris), Dunedin Consort
I started studying with Kathleen McKellar Ferguson when I was 19 years old. I luckily stumbled upon her as a clueless undergraduate at the RCS and didn’t realise just how lucky I was at that moment.
Kathleen has a keen ear and eye for vocal technique and will patiently work through any issues that need attention. She has experience and expertise in a wide range of styles and languages and she has a joy for singing and teaching which is thoroughly contagious. Add this to a generosity and kindness of spirit and you find a teacher who not only has the tools to improve your singing but also the spirit to inspire your art.
These days I have a thriving and international career as a soloist. I sing frequently in France with Les Arts Florissants, at the Opera Comique in Paris and with the Dunedin Consort in Scotland. Recently I have performed in La Belle Helene at the Theatre de Cahatelet, the opening concert at the new Philharmonie in Paris, Bach St John Passion with the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Camera Opera, Les Fetes Venitiennes in Paris, Caen, Toulouse and New York with Les Arts Florissants and concerts at the Ambronay and Chaise-Dieu with Les Cris de Paris and Ghislieri Musica.
Madeleine Shaw, Mezzo Soprano, RCS 2002-2005
National Opera School (London), ENO, Royal Opera house Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, La Scala, La Monnaie, Opera North
Kath taught me for all my post graduate and masters studies at the RCS between 2002-2005. She opened my eyes to understanding what my voice could do and what it needed in order to function healthily in the outside world. With Kath’s guidance I put into place a sound technique which has enabled me to move forward and establish myself as a professional singer. As a developing artist these early years at college are pivotal as to how your voice matures in the future and, thanks to Kath I have gone on to make my living singing internationally in concert halls and opera houses.
Having been freelance in the world of opera and concert performance for the last 6 years and now doing quite a bit of teaching myself, I find myself remembering so many things from my lessons and repeating so much of the advice that Kath gave me. Kath is the master of perfect little phrases to remedy a tricky area in the voice or a moment of self doubt as all of her students past and present I’m sure will know!. “Smell the roses” and “Put the blinkers on” …to name but two! (But two of my favourites!)
Elizabeth Key, Mezzo Soprano, RSAMD, 2003-2006:
Glyndenbourne Festival Chorus; Chorus Royal Opera House , Covent Garden.
Kath is a talented, intelligent and thoughtful musician, singer and performer and anyone who had the previledge to study with Kath will be given the guidance and skills that will not only last your singing career but also your life. One of my kath quotes, of which there are many, is ‘run your own race’ reminding me to not put unnecessary pressure on myself, just be myself and do the very best I can. Kath makes high demands of her pupils which bring huge rewards from the result of hard work and dedication from both Kath and her pupils.
Through hard work and determination and under Kath’s watchful eye my voice has bloomed and I am proud of the soprano I have become.
Kath is a stickler for technique and believes everything should be done properly and together we have spent years perfecting my vocal technique- and I am still learning! Both vocally and professionally I would not be where I am today without Kath’s guidance
Bartholomew Lawrence, Baritone, RCS 2005-2009 /2011-2013
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, Opera North Chorus.
John Findon, Tenor, RCS Under-Graduate 2009-2013
ENO Young Artist, Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and the Opera North Chorus
Kath was my teacher for two years at the RCS Opera School. From the very first lesson, she has been a very supportive teacher for a young singer like me at the time, working on my techniques and starting to learn big roles for the first time.
Being far away from home, I felt that I could talk to Kath about anything and I always received great love and constant support throughout my journey at RCS.
The two years of studying with Kath has been very productive technically and musically. I really appreciate all your knowledge and support which gave me the foundation to become a singer that I am today.”
I studied with Kath as an undergraduate at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a joint bassoon and vocal studies student, Kath instinctively understood my musical interests and respected my curiosity and musicianship. She is a fine all-round musician, singer, pedagogue and pianist and this underpinned the success of lessons and the overall learning journey.
Kath is a rare breed of singing teacher who is at ease working with all voice types of any age, and she draws on this expertise in lessons to ensure free, healthy singing whilst making appropriate repertoire choices. She does not miss a trick and will immediately provide a solution to overcome vocal or musical hurdles.
As a teacher working in the class and in performance settings with students from aged 3 – 18, many of Kath’s musical and technical approaches form part of my practice as an educator. The trust that was cultivated through our student-teacher relationship allows me to achieve high quality and healthy outcomes with my own students.
I have been training with Kath for six years as a student of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Kath is an excellent teacher who cares as much about your vocal development as your wellbeing. Under her tutelage, I have gained countless pearls of wisdom, not only in vocal technique but also in lessons of life. I count myself truly blessed to have her as my teacher, mentor and friend.
She certainly didn’t like to cut corners so I had to be patient but I saw results in a few months and I’m now reaping the rewards of the hard work. Kath instilled the idea in me of good, healthy vocal technique that will serve you for your life, not just for the next song or aria. My voice opened up hugely and I now have a range that I never believed I would have. I now don’t feel as tired singing as I’m doing less – because everything is now vocally in the right place.
Kath’s technique has put me in an excellent position to move on to my next teacher as I begin my postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music; with my new teacher making comment on the fact that she thinks I’ve had very good technical training. My own personal observation is that Kath’s technique and methods know no bounds, as they are effective for both male and female voice types. I discovered this after a discussion with a tenor in my year who also studied with Kath. The tenor and I had very similar technique but Kath still tailored her methods to suit our individual needs.
Further to this, Kath was a really great friend to me throughout my undergraduate. She invests a huge amount of support and care to her pupils and she was always there for me in hard times, musical and personal. She throws a great party for her students and is always a phone call away. For anyone considering a consultation lesson with Kath I say to them… you will not be disappointed!
Kath is a truly inspirational teacher, mentor and friend and I would highly recommended her to anyone wanting to develop their voice and explore the world of singing.
‘I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be half the musician I am today without the amazing guidance, knowledge and passion that I was lucky enough to gain from having Kath as my teacher. I started my journey with Kath during my undergraduate at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland when I was 18. For four years she helped me understand what it means to be a genuine and supportive colleague as well as a vocally healthy and passionate singer. Kath has a deep and honest understanding of both the physical techniques and psychological battles that one has to experience on the road to becoming a professional artist. After four years of inspirational lessons with Kath I have come away with quotes for every situation, a personal favourite being ‘blinkers on!’. Kath not only encouraged me to work hard and develop as an operatic soprano, but also helped me to approach training with positivity without getting too bogged down when things don’t go to plan!’
I first met Kathleen when I was completing my Post-Graduate Diploma in Perth, Australia. After one lesson with Kathleen my voice changed dramatically and I knew I had to have her as my teacher. After moving from Australia to Scotland to study, Kathleen not only helped me grow as a musician but also helped me through the challenges of moving countries and missing home. She is to me more than just a singing teacher and anyone who has the chance to work with her is very lucky indeed.
Anabella Ellis, Mezzo Sorano, RCS 2015-2017,
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus; L’Opera de Nice; Regents Opera; Savonlinna Opera Festival; Dorset Opera; Swansea City Opera; Orquestra Reino de Aragon
I studied with Kath for my Masters degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. During those two years I was already working in the field and therefore I did a lot of traveling. Kath was always very warm and welcoming and flexible for my ever changing schedule! We worked very hard on the technical issues I had but she also tought me that it is very important to take time to recover and rest and have fun in life. Kath is such a warm person who wants the best for her pupils. She has a lot of knowledge and knows that it pays of to be kind in this world. Whenever I’m in Scotland now I try to go and see her for a lesson and a chat which is always a great experience!
Lisa Willems is a Belgian soprano. She is a young artist at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels where she has performed in Lohengrin (Edelknabe 2), Dialogues des Carmelites (cover for Mère Marie), Der Rosenkavalier (Eine Modistin), a show for young audiences called Frankenstein (The Mother), in lunchtime recitals (Zemlinsky’s Maiblumen blüthen überall, young artist recital), and in Masterclasses.
Other engagements include Odysseus’ Women + Anaïs Nin (Andriessen) in het Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ in Amsterdam, L’enfant et Les Sortilèges (Ravel) in Bozar in Brussels and a tour of Diary of one who disappeared (Janacek/Van Parys) through Europe.
I am not exaggerating when I say that working with Kathleen has changed my life. I first had a lesson with her years ago when she visited my home town in Australia, and it was that lesson that sparked a huge shift in my life path – my move to the UK to study with her further at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Kath is not only a world class technician and has transformed my singing, but she is a caring and supportive soul and over the past two years has enabled me to feel safe and capable of achieving my absolute best. My improvement as an artist has been dramatic thanks to her, and I finally feel ready to head out into the professional opera world.
Kath is a truly inspirational teacher, mentor and friend and I would highly recommended her to anyone wanting to develop their voice and explore the world of singing.
As I had heard that Kathleen was now a highly respected teacher, who I knew had also valued her time with Margaret, I decided to contact her. And I am so glad that I did. We had a dozen lessons, both in London and Scotland, from which I benefitted immensely. Sadly the geographical distance between us didn’t permit me to continue, however, I still cherish all that Kathleen taught me. With her I have been able to continue building on a solid technique which has never let me down. She also works on connecting the resonators with a strong support allowing the voice to emerge freely to it’s full range and capacity all whilst keeping it’s pitch and own individual timbre. Kathleen gives herself 100% in her lessons and has a lovely, kindhearted and clear way of explaining her thoughts and advice. She is also so dedicated to her pupils and their vocal wellbeing and development that she will personally create specific exercises for them to help them tackle a particular difficulty.
What makes Kathleen stand out for me from other teachers is her unique knack at hearing with great accuracy how the singer is producing their sound and how to successfully rectify any possible problems. This is always done with tremendous insight, intuition, warmth and a wicked sense of humour. I really miss our lessons together! I cannot recommend Kathleen Ferguson highly enough as a teacher.
I have enjoyed singing lessons with Kath since 2002!! (I think I am her longest standing private pupil since she moved back to Scotland from London!!) Whatever mood I arrive in, I always leave feeling relaxed and energised, with my enthusiasm for singing rekindled. Kath shares her extensive experience and knowledge of technique in a patient, understanding and fun way. She is happy to help with all types of singing I want to tackle, from opera to musicals. Over those years, boyfriends have come and gone, a husband has been married, a baby has grown into a girl, and Kath has expertly kept alive my passion for singing.
There is never a dull moment in a singing lesson with Kath. I started being taught by her several years ago with the hope that one or two small issues might get sorted and that my performance in the chamber choir and large national chorus that I sing with might improve.
Since then my confidence has grown, my vocal range has been extended and I have been introduced to repertoire that I thought was way beyond my capabilities. Lessons are an absolute delight and Kath ticks all the boxes. There is a big physical element needed to improve technique and I have found myself throwing balls in the air,balancing on a yoga ball or standing on one leg in order to ‘feel’ what is going on in the body! Best of all though is Kath’s incredible emotional intelligence and insight that leads to a deeper understanding of the music and brings out the very best in the students.
I have been having lessons with Kath for nearly four years. I am a retired health worker and now one of the joys in my life is singing in the R.S.N.O. Chorus. When the Chorus Director accepted me into the RSNOC, he recommended that I should go to Kath for lessons to improve my singing technique.
I visit her warm and welcoming home every few weeks for an hour’s lesson. I so enjoy this opportunity to work on the fundamentals: breathing and posture, vocal exercises, she explains it all clearly. She has introduced me to some lovely songs, in which pronunciation, phrasing, trying to evoke the feeling of the song – the detail, but also the whole. Kath is encouraging and positive – and patient! It is a pleasure and a privilege to learn with Kath and to benefit from her great experience.
Kath helped me realise my voice.
After years, nay decades, of singing ‘nicely’ but never on my own, I wanted to get into the RSNO. I reckoned I needed help to get through an audition, so I went to Kath on the recommendation of a friend not realising the range and depth of her experience.
Being lovely, Kath told me I had a nice voice but I wasn’t using it properly which was the perfect combination of encouragement and nudge / poke with a sharp stick which I needed to improve. I was shocked at how little I knew about how to sing well – about posture, about breathing – in and out, using the eyes, achieving presence. And I thought it was just having good pitch!
Many hours later, of standing – properly!, breathing down to the diaphragm, expelling, swooping and diving, I reached the point where – as long as I did everything I’d learned, the new muscle memory, I barely recognised my own, yes glorious, sound. And I got into the RSNO and then into the Edinburgh Festival Chorus as an occasional augmentor. And I can sing on my own now even though it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Years on, I still value a refresher lesson and the chance to hone those skills, and even to reflect on the challenge to any performer to handle and communicate the meaning of a piece of music without losing it.
Kath is a delight to learn with. I consider myself very lucky.
Kathy O’Donnell, Cor-Us Productions. Edinburgh
A really great teacher not only has mastery of the technical, physical and artistic process, but of the psychology that underpins it all and the ability to bring all of these elements into clear focus for the benefit of the student.
That’s Kath. She’s phenomenal.
“I knew of Kath first as a singer rather than a teacher. A concert she and friends gave at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling some years ago simply blew us all away. But she was a singer of international repute, and I just sang for fun, so I couldn’t ever see that our paths would cross. A few years later, I began to take my singing more seriously: so seriously, that I joined one of Scotland’s best choirs. I passed the audition, but soon realised that I would need to continue to work hard to keep my place there. It is the best choir I have ever been in, and I want to sing with them forever – hence the need for lessons.
I sought recommendations from singing friends and then went for trial lessons with a number of local teachers. Kath’s reputation went before her, so it took me a while to pluck up courage to approach her for a trial. I wasn’t sure that someone held in such high esteem in the music world would want to spare time to teach an amateur like me. I am so glad I did. She made me so welcome that I immediately relaxed and wanted to sing my very best for her. It felt like I had come home. Singing with her is a joy – she celebrates my successes as if they were her own. She often makes me laugh but her lessons are no walk in the park, she pushes me hard. The lessons are full, so full that recording them is vital – I spend hours going over the recordings afterwards, listening and re-listening to everything she said. I am so glad to be able to call her my teacher and I feel that my voice is better and stronger than it has ever been, which is thanks in no small part to Kath’s tutorship.”