Glenda Collens (nee Thomas-McSween) holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Boston University. She began performing at a very early age and remembers her first performance being on the Aunty Kay show at age 7.
Her next major performance was at the Vienna Music Festival at age 15, as a member of the combined school choirs of Holy Name Convent and Queen's Royal College, under the direction of Michael Steel. She continued performing in the classical music arena throughout her teenage years. As a young soprano, she studied with and was coached by Jocelyn Carr Sealy, Holitsia Seucharan Lawrence, Michael Steel and Lorna May Myers, before heading off to New York to study music at Manhattan School of Music and Harlem School for the Arts, where she studied voice with Ms. Betty Allen (Columbia University and Harlem School for the Arts NY) and Ms Gail Blache Gill, NY. She was a member of the choir Belvedere and the Trinidad Opera Company, competing successfully in the biannual Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival, where she was awarded many first, second, third place and championship prizes. While singing soprano solo roles as a member of the Trinidad Opera Company in operas, The Best of Operas, I Pagliaci and Cavaliera Rusticana, the Merry Widow and De Fle Demause conducted by Havlock Nelson, she got the opportunity to be coached by Ms. Noel Barker of Guildhall School of Music, London and to work with directors Pat Akien Trinidad and Tom Hawkes, Castleward Opera. Before heading to New York to study voice, Glenda took the opportunity to explore the local music scene and performed as front line singer for the band Frantic, which evolved into Second Image, and for one Carnival season she sang with the big band Fireflight.
On her return from New York, she became a member of the Immortelle Theatre Company, directed by Bernard Hazell and Ricardo Nanton, with whom she produced and also composed original music for “Waves of Hope”a play written by this dynamic duo. Derek Walcott attended the final performance and was so impressed with her singing he invited her to become a member of The Trinidad Theatre Workshop to perform the role of Tisbea on his two-year Nobel Prize wining tour of Dream on Monkey Mountain and The Joker of Seville to Holland and Boston. While performing in Boston, Glenda's talent was again noted and she was recruited to Boston University and awarded a full four-year scholarship to study voice at Boston University’s School for the Arts, by Dr. John Silber, then President of Boston University. She had the honoured distinction to study voice with acclaimed American soprano Phylis Curtin at the Opera Institute, Boston University, an historic first for the college, as no undergraduate had ever been awarded such a prestigious scholarship. While in Boston, Glenda also studied Oratorio with Mr. William Sharp, International Phonetics in German, French and Italian with Ms Sheila Kibby and Vocal Pedagogy with Susan Ormont and Ms Sharon Daniels. She was a member of Boston University’s Symphonic Choir, where she worked with conductors Ann Howard Jones and Bernard Shaw.
Mrs. Collens has performed in solo recitals in London, France, Italy and Hungary. She premiered the works of many young classical composers in Boston, including the 'The Man with the Blue Guitar” by Travis Haddaway and “The Poems of E.E. Cummings” by Ron Vigue. While a student in Boston, Mrs. Collens interned as an actress for playwrights at the Boston Playwright’s Theatre. She also interned as a Stage Manager, Property Master and Wardrobe Person and juried auditions under the direction of Ms Katharine Snodgrass. She also had the privilege of being directed and coached by acclaimed acting coach James Sprull. It was during her first year at Boston University that Glenda contracted TB of the larynx, which unfortunately put and end to her pursuit of a life on stage as an Operatic singer. Because of the unusual nature of her illness, it was many months before she was diagnosed and by then the damage of weakened larynx and scared lungs had been done. The prognosis by the doctors was You may never sing again, but thorough a rigourous regime of medication, speech therapy and a complete rebuilding of her vocal techniques with her teacher Phylis Curtin, she did, and surprised everyone—including herself—when she auditioned for the role Ms. Addie in the opera Regina and got it. This was her last operatic role, staged at the Huntington Theatre, Boston, under the baton of conductor David Hoose.
She completed her studies at Boston University and returned to Trinidad. Undaunted by the monumental challenge to continue her life as a vocalist, she launched her production company, MEDEA, which focuses on staging musicals and vocal coaching. She produced her second production, a musical called Swing Out Live at the Little Carib Theatre. Swing Out Live! was a critical success, nominated for six Cacique Awards. She continued to work with the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, under the direction of Albert LaVeau and Derek Walcott, as resident Voice Coach and Musical Consultant. Glenda was associate casting agent for Disney's, Lion King in Trinidad and Tobago, hosting the Disney team on their last casting call in Trinidad. She had the pleasure of having her voice students cast in lead roles in London, Toronto and Germany.
In 2005, Mrs Collens was Musical Director, Voice Coach, Choral Director and Conductor of Jesus Christ Superstar at Queen's Hall. In 2006, Peter Minshall asked her to compose and sing an operatic air for her portrayal of the Singing Hart at the Queen's Park Savannah for his last Carnival presentation The Sacred Heart. She collaborated with the musical Rapso group 3 Canal in their Carnival productions, singing the role of the Diva. She composed and sang operatic airs, teaming up with the group from the show's inception till 2008, including the Young International Performers Festival 'Play Mas', Hamburg Germany. In 2008 she was asked by 3 Canal to assemble and coach a 30-voice choir, compose and arranged four part choral music to back them up in their Carnival production Shine. She sang her familiar role of Diva for the last time in this production. Before her Boston University studies, Mrs. Collens won the Cacique Award for best original music for the play Dansé staged at Queen's Hall and the Cherri Drama Festival, Chierri, Italy. On her return from her studies, she branched out on the stage as an actress and performed in many performances at the Central Bank Auditorium and Queen's Hall. She was twice nominated for the Cacique Award as best supporting actress. In 2004 she premiered the role of Minstrel Mary in Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah in Queen’s Hall, Trinidad after doing the role the year before at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, England.
Continuing her musical journey, Glenda recently formed and launched MEDEA The Band, a high-energy music band performing Funk, R&B, Neo-Soul and Jazz songs that she arranges and re-orchestrates. Since launching her band at Sky Bar one year ago, she and her band have performed at most of the major entertainment venues in and around Port of Spain and Tobago. She and her band have twice been featured in Women in Jazz, a month-long series at MovieTowne. She co-produced and sang in 'A Prelude to Jazz' in collaboration with Cafe Iguana - Tobago, Jazz in July - Queen's Hall, Songshine at Sky Bar, Studio Live at Studio Lounge, Shakers on the Avenue, Cafe Ibiza and Earth Restaurant and Bar.
Mrs. Collens was on the panel of judges for the Best Village Competition 2007 and Digicel Rising Stars from 2009. As a Voice Teacher and Vocal Coach she has worked at Holy Name Convent, Bishop’s Centenary High School, The American International School and has lectured and held workshops in voice and speech at the University Of the West Indies Trinidad & Tobago. Mrs. Collens continues to coach her Voice Development courses at her studio, from which she has had the pleasure of working with some of the Trinidad's most talented young singers.
Dougie Redon top session player and sought after sideman on the Trinidad and Tobago circuit.