The Singing School Sets the Stage to Give Students More than Just a Voice

Feb 06, 2024

The legendary Ella Fitzgerald said it best — “The only thing better than singing is more singing.” No one knows that better than Ann Chau, the founder and director of The Singing School in Downtown Markham. Founded in 2019, The Singing School provides voice and singing lessons for children, teens, and adults.

The school is a lifetime dream for Chau. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. After graduating, she taught in several local high schools before realizing she wanted to go beyond the prescribed curriculum.

“They have a particular way of things. I wanted to be more creative and also reach different communities,” Chau said.

Chau started the school by first renting space when needed. As her student base grew, Chau looked for a permanent home, one she found in 2019 — right before the start of the pandemic.

“The moment we opened the school, our student base tripled. It was the most exciting time. Then the pandemic hit, and everything went online. We were able to evolve and operate in the digital space, but most people who want to study singing and music want an in-person learning experience. We're happy to be able to now offer that in-person experience again,” Chau said.

The Singing School offers training starting at age five through to adults. Chau said they have students in all phases of life, from high school students looking to break out, young adults looking to get better at karaoke, and retirees wanting to learn how to sing. Many of its students have gone on to local, provincial, and national productions.

“We have kids trying to get into an art school or a university arts program. We've had students be admitted to the University of Toronto, Berkeley, and Harvard for music. We also have students that have gotten placements on Nickelodeon shows. One of our students was recently cast in a Mirvish Theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Chau said.

The community has provided The Singing School with an impressive student base. Chai said Downtown Markham is an active hub, attracting new students from the community and those just passing by the school. In addition to lessons, the school offers numerous camps on singing, songwriting, and production. Students of the school recently wrote, recorded, and produced a video for an original song titled “Shout It.”

“We try to build a program where everything's accessible and affordable. One of the camps that we did was a songwriting camp. During that week, the kids learned about rhythm and melody and brainstormed how to tell a story through lyric writing,” Chau said. “After they wrote it, they got to be a part of the team that produced, recorded, and made the video. They got to star in their own original song.”

The Singing School’s success has been recognized in international competitions and in Markham. In 2022, the school was awarded the Markham Board of Trade’s Business Excellence Award for Cultural Relationships. In turn, Chau said the school works to give back to the community. They have raised $100,000 for the Chi Heng Foundation Canada and $70,000 from a benefit concert for the new North York General Hospital birthing centre.

“I thought it was really sweet that the kids raised so much for North York General Hospital,” Chau said. “It is important for them to see the power of giving. It's something we should all be doing. Giving doesn’t have to happen when you have a lot either — it’s simple acts every day that make a difference.”