Elysabeth Muscat teaches the next generation of singing stars
By Danica Low
Elysabeth Muscat Hegab is a world-renowned professional opera singer who resides in Bristow. After spending her childhood in Fairfax County, Muscat went to Tulane University, where she earned a psychology degree. Next, she got her Master’s in music from Mannes College of Music in New York City.
After singing in Europe for many years, Muscat returned to the states and co-founded Baltimore Ballet School. There, she worked as the managing director and learned that in addition to opera music, she had a passion for running a dance school too.
Now, she teaches piano and voice in Prince William County. She is also the managing director of Virginia National Ballet, where she presides over administration and leads piano and vocal instruction.
Muscat has also served on multiple local and regional artistic boards. These include the Prince William County Arts Council, the National Association of Teachers of Singing (Maryland, Washington D.C. chapter), and the Baltimore Ballet Company.
The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University hired Muscat as a faculty member to teach voice during her first few years back in the U.S.
“While I was teaching at this large academy,” says Muscat, “I observed a lot about how to run an institution. I was exposed to other large dance institutions during that time as well, and learned a lot about how dance schools and companies operate.”
When Muscat was 15, she began voice lessons and retired her dance shoes. However, she continues to support dance as an essential component of expression.
“I enjoy watching all dance forms, and I think it’s helpful for ballet students to study other forms of dance to make them well-rounded,” says Muscat. “Especially as many college programs and professional companies include contemporary dance as a component of their training and repertoire.”
Virginia National Ballet offers character, modern, hip hop, tap, and jazz styles of dance, as well as ballet, and of course, it offers voice instruction and piano lessons.
Muscat’s students have gone on to win regional and national voice competitions, earn entry into prestigious music schools for undergraduate study, and land leading roles in major productions in regional theatres and national tours.
“I enjoy teaching all ages and levels from total beginners to advanced students,” says Muscat. “I cater each lesson to the needs of each student, whether they are casual beginners, serious pre-professionals, or adults. I like to schedule one lesson first to see if we’re a good fit, and then we can arrange a regular weekly time.”
Muscat charges per lesson rather than requiring monthly contracts for private music lessons.
Muscat is also a trained pianist, as she began taking piano lessons when she was 10 years old, and she accompanies her voice students during lessons. Her current piano students range in age from 7 to adult.
“It’s very exciting to start with a total beginner and then see them work hard and progress each year to the point where they are playing Chopin Preludes, Mozart Sonatas, Bach Preludes,” says Muscat. “I have had students study with me from 8th grade through high school and then go to a great music school such as Juilliard or Manhattan School of Music.”
“I like to teach all of my voice students a healthy, bel canto style of singing,” says Muscat. ‘Bel canto’ in Italian means ‘beautiful singing’ and it’s a traditional classical style.
“During technical exercises,” says Muscat, “students learn how to use their voices properly and receive corrections and suggestions. A typical lesson includes exercises to warm up the voice and improve vocal technique, help with musical skills, and working on repertoire. The more advanced students will sing more advanced repertoire, and classical students will eventually learn art songs in English, Italian, French, and German.”
As for proper vocal care, Muscat says singing should never hurt. “If your voice is hurting after singing, that means you’re doing it incorrectly,” Muscat shares. “There is a proper technique to singing well in any style. Many people don’t realize that they are misusing their everyday speaking voices, which can negatively impact their singing voices.”
Most recently, her voice student since 2015 Jake Miller, made headlines when he landed a supporting role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera, called Love Never Dies.
“Jake is incredibly successful,” says Muscat. “He’s only 12 and already singing professionally with many impressive credits on his resume. He’s exceptionally talented.”
Muscat’s plans for the future are to continue to grow both the music studio and the Virginia National Ballet. “Our students get to perform at the Hylton Performing Arts Center,” says Muscat, “which is a beautiful, huge venue. Virginia National Ballet’s professional company performs a full season at the Hylton as well, and enjoys touring. At some point I may start a children’s choir and more singing groups if there is enough interest in that.”
“For many students,” says Muscat, “their voice lessons are the high point of the week and it’s an outlet for them from their daily grind. For some, it’s almost like therapy! I also really enjoy meeting and getting to know many different people. It is fun for me to work on a wide range of repertoire and to play, sing, and hear great music each day.”
About the Author
Danica Low is a local contributing writer (www.higher-writing.com). For seventeen years, she has worked in public and private sector, public relations, administrative and non-profit work. Her real enjoyment is encouraging and connecting with others. Crafting a story to bring light to a journey brings her joy.