Extra-Curricular Music Coordinator
Few SIS people are busier than Kimberley Akester. As you see her seated at the piano, proudly accompanying eager students in one of our choirs, you may not realise that Kimberley has a wealth of stage and recording experience to share with them too. In fact, nothing short of ‘show business’!
Teaching, though, has always been an integral part of her career. ‘I studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’ she tells us, ‘And at that time you were required to learn teaching skills as well as performance. My first student was my brother who I taught to sing alongside my own development as an operatic singer.’
Kimberley’s voice though was not to be restricted to the operatic repertoire. ‘I always enjoyed singing in a variety of styles and I had a voice that could adapt.’
Indeed it was her ability to control the operatic vibrato and to hold a straight tone that resulted in her successful audition for The Swingle Singers, a leading international a cappella group, with whom she toured the world and built up an impressive discography during her four and a half years with the group.
‘Today, I would be called a crossover artist’ she comments ‘but then I was just following my love of music. With the Swingles I performed alongside the Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and London Symphony Orchestras. With my vocal flexibility I was able to do a lot of session and backing singing too.’
She remains a lover of the a cappella style, and with two collaborators has formed the singing group 3’s Company. As well as straight vocal performances the group have developed narratives to complement the songs, including English Rose, a collection of wartime classics built around an oral history of wartime recollections. The show has been booked in Stockholm for 2023, but you can get a sneak preview – and an example of the quite different operatic Kimberley – here.
As a result of this experience Kimberley was tempted to explore the possibilities of singing on stage, not as part of a group, but as a performer in musical theatre. One mass mailing of demo tapes later and she had found herself an agent and a role in a touring production of Phantom of the Opera, playing Carlotta. More musicals followed including Chess, and, fatefully, a touring production of Fame that brought her to Scandinavia.
A romance blossomed on that visit. A romance that would endure two years of her touring, until finally she decided it was time to commit to a move, and that brought her to Stockholm. It was twenty years ago that she first started working part time for Stockholm International School to ‘run some choirs’ as she puts it. However, the demand grew and continues to do so. Kimberley not only teaches vocal and choir but manages the after school music activities, instrumental/vocal programme, and at weekends runs the Scandinavian International Theatre School.
So, after a career that has seen her sing for the late Queen Elizabeth II in the UK, share a recording studio with Abba, and add her vocals to soundtracks for films such as Evita, The Prince of Egypt, and Romeo and Juliet, isn’t working in a School a little prosaic? ‘I love the enthusiasm – we have tremendous demand for after school classes, and the junior choir has about 98 participants’ she says. ‘I just love the vibe of it all’.
And what would she change if she had the chance? Without hesitation she says ‘Space!’. To accommodate more participants you need more rooms for individual music practice, bigger spaces to accommodate a bigger choir, and a bigger auditorium to fit an audience in too. It’s a very practical limitation, but we can dream…’