As Clarissa Evans puts it, every child has their own “lovely uniqueness” – some just need more help than others to show it to the world. On meeting Clarissa at the head office of Starlit Voice, the creative arts organisation she founded two years ago, I was so impressed by what she has achieved that I was ready to hand over both of my children – and if they had classes for adults, I would’ve signed up for those too!
Starlit Voice was created by Clarissa and Nicci Corrado in 2013. She freely admits that in the early days they worked out of the back of taxis on the way to venues. The initial model offered drama and communication classes in schools as an extra-curricular activity (ECA). It has grown exponentially since then and now includes up to 20 local and international schools as well as in-house classes at their head office in Central and workshops throughout the year at various venues. Rather than being just another run-of-the-mill ECA provider, Starlit Voice has a team of professional practitioners who help students develop essential communication skills in the best way possible – by letting kids be themselves.
In 2015, Starlit Voice founded Drama School HK – the first vocational training programme in Hong Kong for young performing artists aged between 10 and 18. Together they form a creative hub that provides a pathway from childhood through to young adulthood – a journey that can be started at any point, whether it’s at an ECA, private tutoring for LAMDA exams, workshops or at Drama School HK.
Clarissa is the sole authorised representative of LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) in Hong Kong, working with them to bring examiners to Hong Kong throughout the year. They offer Communication and Performance examinations, designed to develop language, literacy communication and acting skills. Children as young as four can take the exams, but Clarissa stresses, “It’s important that a child comes out smiling. We never let them take an exam before they’re ready, and we prepare them so they get the best outcome.”
In a city where there’s so much pressure to perform and succeed, this approach is refreshing – and effective. Children really blossom when they achieve in this way. “Starlit Voice works because it’s made up of a team of trained professional practitioners who each bring something different but who all are able to identify, mentor and nurture the needs of each individual child”.
All classes are very inclusive, with children of all needs and abilities taking part. The LAMDA syllabus crafts a creative pathway to inspire spontaneity and draw out even the shyest child eventually. Through the study of dramatic techniques, the classes teach children how to use their voices properly, going into the finer details of voice modulation and expression. They learn the importance of eye contact, facial expressions, and body language, and how to get their personalities across when talking to people – universal skills that they can take beyond school and into the world.
How often do we hear of otherwise outgoing children struggling through school entrance interviews? I only have to watch my own children squirm their way through interactions with adults to be reminded that the ability to really engage with others doesn’t often come naturally. Clarissa saw a need for classes that helped build not only communication skills, but confidence as well. Whether a child is reserved or really outgoing, the set work is tailored for each child to allow their personalities and individuality to come through. This type of teaching encourages self-awareness and reflective thinking, allowing children to develop their own special qualities.
As the children grow in confidence, they are given the opportunity to share what they’ve learned by running a “class” themselves at the end of term. “The students just love showing that they understand what we’ve been working on all term.”
Clarissa has five children of her own, ranging in age from 13 to 23, and all of them have been through her classes and achieved high levels in the LAMDA examinations. As a mother and ex-teacher myself, I can only imagine the sheer determination it must’ve taken to achieve that with her own brood, and I have nothing but respect for both the method and the mother in question. At the heart of what she does at Starlit Voice is a desire to help children to feel good about themselves, by engaging with them and bringing their best selves to the surface. The fact that they have so much fun, and learn valuable life skills at the same time, is an added bonus.
Summer School with a difference
If your kids are passionate about performing then they should join Drama School HK for a week of theatrical creativity in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This camp will provide the chance to work with professional practitioners and develop skills in core areas of performance and stagecraft. Over the course of a week, students will create a piece of theatre as well as getting the opportunity to explore the beautiful area of Chiang Mai and engage in an exciting variety of organised cultural and adventure activities that will make this an experience to remember. The best part is that parents can come along and take advantage of tailor-made activities, enjoy a relaxing massage or just lie by the pool.
Starlit Voice, Unit 1005, 10/F, Universal Trade Centre, 3 Arbuthnot Road, Central. 2108 2182