Singer, writer and educator Jessica Walker works across opera, theatre, cabaret and new music
A passionate advocate for artist-led work, Jessica believes in empowering the next generation of artists to take bold creative decisions, and to retain agency in their career trajectory. Collaborating across genres as singer, writer and producer, her own recent performing and creative projects have taken her from the Barbican to the Adelaide Festival to Brits off Broadway New York, where her work and performances have earned her critic’s pick in the New York Times on three separate occasions.
Having originally graduated as a singer from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she was awarded her PhD with commendation from Leeds University in 2016. Her practice-led research explored 'The Singer-actor as Creator and Collaborator: a performer-led model for new music theatre works’. This research has been key in the development of her pedagogical focus on the benefits of creative autonomy for young professional artists.
Outside of the Academy, Jessica has worked as a mentor for several organisations, including the Jerwood opera-writing scheme at the Britten-Pears Foundation, the CoLab collaborative practice scheme at Trinity Laban, and as artistic advisor for Mahogany Opera’s 2020 Various Stages Festival for new music theatre work. Her teaching has included seminars, workshops, talks and master-classes at the Guildhall, Leeds University, university of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Melbourne, the Melbourne Conservatorium, and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
As a writer, recent projects include Not Such Quiet Girls for Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, Cabaret Macabre for British Youth Music Theatre, and Fake or Stake, initially developed with the Royal Opera House. Recent projects as performer/ writer include a new film, Songs for Our Times, for Lichfield Festival, All I Want is One Night, produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, An Eye for an Eye for Bath and St Magnus Festivals, Pat Kirkwood is Angry for Opera North and the Royal Exchange, and The Girl I Left Behind Me, commissioned by Opera North projects. Her most recent stage performances include Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest for Neue Opera Freiburg and Bernstein’s On the Town with director/ designer Antony McDonald in Hyogo and Tokyo. As a concert artist, Jessica’s appearances have ranged from the UK premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Penelope with Psappha, to Mercy and Grand - the Tom Waits project with composer Gavin Bryars at Opera North and on an international tour. She has been artist in residence for the Lichfield Festival, and a resident artist at Snape Maltings.
Academic articles include 'The creative/ collaborative process in industry: aesthetics, agency and pragmatism' for Studies in Musical Theatre Vol 11:2, and 'The Girl I Left Behind Me: the disjunction between vocal and visual performance in male impersonation', for Studies in Musical Theatre, Vol 6:1.
Jessica is a founder member of MAX, a new network for musicians and artists exploring the reimagination and regeneration of the professional live arts.