YUNG Speaks to Egyptian Soprano Laura Mikhail

Mikhail became the first Arab musician to be awarded the Bocelli-Jameel Scholarship

YUNG Speaks to Egyptian Soprano Laura Mikhail
Yaseen Dockrat

Soprano Laura Mikhail has become the first Arab to be awarded the Bocelli-Jameel Scholarship. The scholarship was established between the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, and Community Jameel, an international organization that supports science and technology in tackling global challenges. Since her award, the Egyptian-born soprano has also had the opportunity to perform alongside Bocelli himself.

Mikhail’s success is proof, if we needed any, that the Middle East is bursting with talent in almost any industry you could think of. The region continues to produce stars in film and music. Egypt perhaps led the way, with its film industry and famed singers such as Umm Kulthoum, but the entire region is alive with creativity. Laura Mikhail’s story is part of both Egypt’s cultural traditions and a tale of the MENA region’s ongoing creative surge.

Laura Mikhail

Here, YUNG sits down with Laura Mikhail as she talks us through her career to date.

When did you first discover your passion for singing?

When I was young, I used to sing in my church choir, and I received a lot of compliments on the way I sang and encouragement to hone my talent as a soprano. And during my stay in the States for six years, I studied music performance at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and I also gave vocal lessons to children.

How did you decide to pursue a career in this field?

During high school, I was performing the Easter performance with my church choir, and I was asked to sing a soprano piece. On the day of the performance I felt amazing singing this piece, and everyone loved it, and they kept telling me how powerful my voice was and that I should be singing more of that genre. Since then, I have been determined to be a professional opera singer, and I was always seeking opportunities I could find in Egypt. 

How does it feel to be the first Arab musician to be awarded the Andrea Bocelli Foundation Community Jameel Scholarship?

I’m very honoured to be the first Egyptian, and the first from the Arab region, to receive the Andrea Bocelli Foundation–Community Jameel Scholarship, and I’m so thankful for the support I’ve been given from both foundations. It was the most amazing experience to learn from professionals and prominent music teachers. I’m grateful to be one of the very few people who get to be there and receive this outstanding level of education that will allow me to be part of different stages worldwide.

Laura Mikhail

What do you plan to achieve following your scholarship?

I’m planning to achieve a career as an opera singer and to be among the Arab opera artists who are playing a role in spreading the art of opera around the world.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Minya, Egypt, and I lived there until I finished high school. Then I got a scholarship from West Virginia Wesleyan college to study music performance, and I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2014. I worked in Virginia for a year as a music teacher then returned to Egypt, where I lived in Cairo for six years. I worked in many schools as a music teacher, and I taught privately as well. I worked at the Cairo Opera House for two years as a member of the acapella choir. Also, I taught privately at Vocal Xtreem, where I met my coach and my mentor, Sherif el Dabaa, whom I owe for encouraging me to pursue my dream of being an opera singer. He coached me before I auditioned for the Royal College of Music, and he still coaches me online occasionally.

From a career in teaching to a scholarship in music, tell us more. 

It has always been my plan to get my Master’s in classical singing after finishing my Bachelor’s degree… I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to apply to get my Master’s, I felt like I didn’t have what it took for many years. I loved being a teacher and for many years it was amazing to be able to teach the kids about music. But I knew deep down that this was not what I was supposed to be doing. My passion and love for singing were, and still are, bigger, and it is what makes me wake up every morning feeling like I have a purpose in life.

For more stories like that of Laura Mikhail, visit our Art & Culture pages.