Biography

Sara-Lois Cunningham 

Sara-Lois Cunningham began singing lessons at the age of 17 with Paul Wade and Hilary Jackson of Opera North when she was a student at Wakefield College in West Yorkshire. Of Scottish parentage, she was delighted to become a student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, then she studied at the London College of Music. Upon graduation, she received a scholarship for postgraduate study from the composer Sir Malcolm Arnold. Her most recent teacher was Hazel Wood, and she has since taken lessons with David Harper, Ron Morris and Ian Kennedy to further develop her skills as a singing teacher.

Sara has taught singing since 1997. She strongly believes in continued professional development (CPD) and regularly refreshes her teaching skills by attending teacher-training courses, talks and conferences such as those run by the Association of Teachers of Singing (AOTOS), and masterclasses at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music.

Work has included:

  • Head of Vocal Studies, Singing Teacher and Junior Choir Director at the London College of Music’s Junior College

  • Deputy teacher at the Royal College of Music (current)

  • Solo and choral engagements including for the BBC and as soloist at the Royal Opera House for the Royal Ballet

  • Coaching the 2010 children’s choir for the Glyndebourne production of Hansel and Gretel

  • Cover-teaching at St Paul's Cathedral School

  • Council member of Association of Teachers of Singing (AOTOS), with special responsibility for commissioning, editing and producing the association's journal Singing

  • Writes regularly on singing and reviews singing materials for Music Teacher magazine

Sara moved to Salisbury from Tunbridge Wells in September 2016 with her two small children and her husband Andrew Hanley, a music publisher at Edition Peters and organist/director of music for the Church of England. She has now set up a teaching practice in Salisbury and teaches at Chafyn Grove, as well as deputising at the Royal College of Music's Junior Department.

Sara is an Approved Teacher of the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians) and a member of AOTOS (Association of Teachers of Singing).

Sara has an up-to-date enhanced portable DBS.


Student successes include:

  • Various students gaining entry to study at conservatoire (junior colleges and undergraduate) – in 2016, two 17-year-old singers took up places at the Royal College of Music Junior Department. (This is the first time the RCM has taken two students from the same teacher in the same academic year.) A 20-year-old student was offered a place at the RCM for undergraduate studies, with a view to begin in 2016
  • An 18-year-old tenor became a tenor choral scholar with Gloucester Cathedral in September 2017.
  • Several young singers have gained chorister positions at Salisbury, Southwark, Rochester and Wells cathedrals, Christ Church Oxford and Westminster Abbey
  • A student at Durham University was accepted on the Samling Programme (2016) for young artists who are aiming for a professional singing career. She was also awarded a title role in a student production of a Britten opera.
  • For three consecutive years  students have won third place in the Association of English Singers and Speakers Junior Recital Competition (AESS) Junior Competition, in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively (first and second prizes being awarded to students from the Royal College of Music and the Purcell School)
  • Successfully auditioning and singing with the Diamond Choir for the Queen's Jubilee service at St Paul's Cathedral
  • Broadcasting as soloist on Radio 3
  • Performing at the National Theatre
  • Gaining choral scholarships in schools and universities
  • Singing with Glyndebourne Youth Opera
  • Gaining places in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and National Children's Choir
  • Developing a full-time role as liturgist
  • Advanced students sharing evening concerts as part of a series at King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells, and in Lewes
  • Most students entering grade exams gain distinction and merit (ABRSM and Trinity)