Interview with Sam Roberts-Smith of The Ten Tenors
Sam Roberts-Smith of The Ten Tenors Knows Rock's Classical Favorites
Young tenor Sam Roberts–Smith’s operatic roots originate from the land of one of opera’s greatest all–time stars, Joan Sutherland. After winning the prestigious Joan Sutherland Society Scholarship, the Australian Singing Competition and the Symphony Australia Young Vocalist Award, Sam became his country’s representative for the International Paris Opera Award. He walked away with 3rd Prize—and an international singing career. Since then, he has concertized in Australia, the UK and France.
Now a member of Australia’s celebrated TEN Tenors, Sam has become a familiar face worldwide. The group regularly performs for sold out crowds with both classical and contemporary favorites. Their accomplishments include six platinum and gold records and collaborations with a wide variety of musical luminaries, such as Andrea Bocelli, John Travolta and Keith Urban.
EM: What made you decide to join the TEN Tenors?
SRS: After finishing my studies, I successfully auditioned for Australia’s national opera company and remained for 6 years. I learned and experienced a lot but never felt completely settled. At the end of that period I didn’t even know if I wanted to sing anymore. I needed a change so I took a risk and left. The following week I was invited to Paris as a finalist in the Paris International Opera Awards and received a response from an email I had sent
to The TEN Tenors—two life–changing moments. I had always known about the TEN Tenors but had never been in a position to audition. Now was my chance—I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join Australia’s premier classical–crossover group!
Do you find constant touring fun, physically exhausting or both?
The other guys are great and everyone gets on really well so touring is heaps of fun. Because we spend so much time together all over the world it’s natural that strong friendships are formed. It’s like a working holiday with your mates. Constant touring can be absolutely exhausting, though! Different time zones, jet lag, airports, customs lines, cranky flight attendants and passengers, no sleep, can all be a challenge for a singer. When we find ourselves a little under the weather, it’s nice to know you have nine mates to cheer you up.
How would you describe the musical chemistry between you and your group mates? Where are you all from?
My first experience singing with the other guys was the sound checkthe afternoon of my very first performance with the group. It was scary. We had been working such a tight schedule, there was no other time to rehearse with everyone. I had heard The TEN Tenors on their recordings but not up close, so I was unsure of how my voice would fit in. It was amazing. The other guys were so welcoming—all accomplished musicians in their own right. Musically, it could not have gone better. We all want to make the best sound and make sure the music is the highest quality. Having this professionalism not only produces a great sound, but also lets us relax and rock out when we have to. I’m from Perth but the other guys are from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane plus one New Zealander. We’re all from diverse musical backgrounds, but that’s why we’re able to perform such a varied repertoire and sing everything from “Somebody to Love” to Nessun Dorma.
You sang the Australian National Anthem at the National Memorial Service for flight MH17.
I was touring around Australia performing The Magic Flute when the tour manager received a call from the Prime Minister’s office asking if I would sing at the event. After some deliberation and further requests, I was released from tour. It was a huge honor for me to perform for my country, for the victims and the families left behind. I was nervous because of the strong national significance and sadness surrounding the memorial, but happy and proud to offer whatever support I could. It was extremely sad but another experience I will always remember.
What are the most fulfilling aspects of your work with the group?
Since joining the TEN Tenors, I have found my joy and love for singing again, which is priceless. Learning all the music is hard; however, after putting in hours, weeks and sometimes months
of work, it can be extremely rewarding once we’re up on stage. I love watching people dancing in the aisles. It’s nice to help people forget their stress and worry and escape for a while.
Among your classical and pop selections, what are some of your personal favorites?
Because of my background I would have to stick with the classics, Nessun Dorma, Phantom of the Opera, although since I’ve been working on my dance moves I enjoy Jersey Boys and the Michael Jackson Medley. I was tentative when I first joined and saw the rock ballads on the show list, but now I enjoy a big rock belt. It’s extremely important to be versatile as a performer if you want a long career in entertainment. With fast–moving technology and social changes it’s important never to miss an opportunity.
What do you look forward to in 2016?
2016 is looking like a massive year. So many exciting things coming up. The TEN Tenors will tour internationally to four or five different countries along with an Australian tour and other performances. Between tours I will also perform lead roles with opera companies in Australia and potentially Asia. In addition are single night performances and other events throughout the year. Not much time for anything else. There will be some exciting updates soon. Keep an eye out for those!
You can catch Sam and the rest of the TEN Tenors at the California Center for the Arts in San Diego on Friday, December 4th.