September 2016: An 18 year-long relationship has resulted in a Topsham opera singer signing a professional contract. Since age 14 Nancy-grace Dersham has been guided by Highland Green resident and voice instructor Sharon MacCallum. Now 32, Nancy-grace has recently been retained by the distinguished Lombardo Opera Agency in New York City.
Of hundreds of people who participated this year in a series of rigorous auditions at the National Opera Center for a production of Don Giovanni, Nancy-grace was one of only five candidates called back for a Master Class, leading to her contract. “I could not have done it without Sharon,” says Nancy-grace. “She prepared me perfectly by knowing exactly how the auditions would work and what would happen at callbacks, so I was completely confident.”
“Being a coloratura soprano, capable of agile scale work, I knew she would be asked to sing the role of Zerlina, so we practiced that aria,” says Sharon. “But I also knew that if they were interested in her, they would call her back to be paired with a baritone, so we thoroughly practiced the Zerlina-Don Giovanni duet.”
Sharon’s prescience comes from years of training and experience. Born in Wisconsin, she sang and played piano from an early age and by 14 she was being paid to perform. She majored in Piano and Music Education in college and was soon a regular on Milwaukee television.
Sharon worked professionally as Ensemble Director for the Schubert Theater Opera Company and as the coach and pianist for Opera majors at State University of New York – Purchase. She also performed in New York City and all over the world as an accompanist for numerous choral groups.
She later moved to Brunswick, Maine with her husband Bob where she became a popular voice instructor while accompanying her students on piano. Later, Sharon found that Highland Green was the only place in the area where she could move to a lower-maintenance lifestyle, still teach her students, and have a house with a two-car garage and walkout basement. Her 2,000 square foot custom home was specially engineered around her grand piano and she has plenty of room to minister to her pupils.
The Highland Green Community Center is the hub of resident-organized activities. And as an HG owner, Sharon is able to reserve it through the HG Resident website, and holds recitals there at the end of each season. In turn, HG residents have enjoyed her students’ performances, including that of her star apprentice.
Nancy-grace Dersham took her namesake role in the musical Oliver in 8th grade and caught the “theater bug.” In 9th grade she started lessons with Sharon, who soon asked her to attempt an aria. “I fell in love with opera immediately,” says Nancy. “She is a natural,” boasts Sharon. “From day one and over the last 18 years every weekly assignment has come back 100% complete. She is extremely dedicated and talented. On stage she becomes a chameleon, changing from comedic to tragic roles and every kind in between with ease.”
Nancy-grace has performed at the Boothbay Opera House, the Carousel Dinner Theatre, Boothbay Harbor Inn, the Footlights, the Lincoln Theatre and many other Midcoast locations. She studied voice and opera at the USM School of Music and at the Boston Conservatory and has participated in masterclasses at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival and at the National Opera Center in NYC. She has a diverse repertoire ranging from opera to jazz.
“Opera is my first love, so I must care for my voice and work with my teacher to choose a repertoire that fits it,” says Nancy-grace. And though she has taken the next step toward national fame, Sharon will continue to be her guide. Of her Nancy-grace says: “She is amazing; a wonderful person, mentor and friend.”
To watch Sharon MacCallum’s entertaining and moving interview, click the piano picture on our video page.
To visit Nancy-grace Dersham’s website, click here.