A talented soprano singer is holding a concert this Sunday as part of her Crowdfunder appeal to raise money towards a prestigious postgraduate music course.
Music teacher Jessica Smith, who was born and grew up in Rushden, has earned an Artist Masters place to study singing at the highly-ranked Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.
However, the costs of studying there are expensive and because Jessica is now a 27-year-old, she is deemed too old to qualify for many study grants or trust funding.
The former Tennyson Road Infants, Alfred Street Primary and Ferrers Specialist Arts College student, explained: "I was incredibly lucky in gaining a place at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama to study singing, recently ranked number one in the university league tables.
"These courses are incredibly competitive - there are about 600 applications for just 20 places. There is a postgraduate loan available of £11,000. However, the fee costs for this alone are £21,000, plus living expenses in London for two years.
"I am 27 and unable to access most grants/trusts in the local area as these are only available to people under the age of 25."
To keep her dream alive, Jessica has launched a Crowdfunder appeal online and is also holding a fundraising concert this weekend in a bid to raise £3,000 in total to aid her study costs.
The concert, entitled Music for a Summer's Evening, is taking place this Sunday from 7pm at All Saints' Church in George Row, Northampton, where she is the head chorister.
It will be a night of vocal and piano music, with Jessica singing alongside pianist Edward Pick.
Tickets cost £10, or £7 for children, and are available on the door, or in advance online by visiting the website www.jessicasmithsoprano.com/booking
Jessica has been heavily involved in the county's music scene for many years and as a 16-year-old represented Northampton in the BBC Radio Two Young Chorister of the Year competition, which was broadcast live from St Paul's Cathedral in London.
She has been an active member of the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT), where she won awards, and has also taught sixth-form music groups at the Northampton School for Boys.
Jessica continued her music studies at Royal Holloway in London as a choral scholar both with the chapel choir there and at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, where she performed live on BBC Radio 3, toured in Europe and recorded some solo CDs.
Since graduating, she has worked in various teaching posts at Northampton College, Abbeyfield School and more recently with the NMPAT, where she directs the Northamptonshire senior girls' choir.
She has also been running three adults' community choirs, including the Northampton General Hospital Choir, which recently held a fundraising concert which raised a substantial amount of money for the hospital.
It was while growing up in Rushden that she first discovered her love for singing with teacher Mr Scott at Alfred Street Primary. She learned to play the recorder and violin and was in all of the school's musical groups. She performed her first vocal solo while at Alfred Street, singing the opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City at a school carol concert at Rushden High Street Church.
After this, she started to become fascinated with music and attended the NMPAT's Ferrers Centre on Saturday mornings where she sang with the choir and played in the orchestra.
While at Ferrers School, she joined the church choir at St Mary the Virgin in Higham Ferrers and completed her Royal School of Church Music Dean’s Award.
Jessica sang her first solo with a string quartet at Rushden's St Mary’s Church, which was one of her most memorable performances as a young singer.
She also competed in the Rushden rounds of the Rotary Club Young Musician of the Year contest, reaching the semi-finals as a teenager, alongside competing in the Northampton Music Festival.
She was a member of the NMPAT's youth choir, youth orchestra and concert band, eventually going on to became one of the youngest members of the main choir for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, where she was performed on the televised BBC Proms series and received training from world-class musical directors.
To support Jessica's Crowdfunder appeal, visit the website https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jess-masters-funding-