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Cirencester group that gives youngsters chance to perform

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Author: Thomas Hadfield, Posted: Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 09:00

Maria Jagusz and her MJ-UK students Maria Jagusz and her MJ-UK students

When professional opera singer Maria Jagusz first moved to Cirencester around 20 years ago, she had no idea just how much talent there was hidden away in the Cotswold town.

“I’d been touring all over the country and decided I needed to settle somewhere,” said Maria, originally from Manchester. “I began to tentatively teach singing in Cirencester and was absolutely gobsmacked by the standard of singers that knocked on my door.”

As word got around about Maria’s talent for music and teaching, more and more children and teenagers with dreams of appearing on the West End stage got in touch, leading to the creation of MJ-UK.

MJ-UK is a theatre company that focuses on giving young people in Cirencester and the surrounding areas an opportunity to get into singing and performing with the help of Maria, who has had years of experience on the stage.

“We’ve got around 35 kids attending at the moment,” she continued. “I think we must’ve had around 60 or 70 former students gone on to have careers in music.

“Our ethos is to create a sense of community, make friends for life, and give the kids confidence and boost their self-esteem.

“I think the fact we get our older former students coming back, attending our concerts and helping out so much is really testament to this.”

2018 was a hectic year for MJ-UK, with Maria and her students busy performing at a number of concerts.

Maria continued: “We like to do charity events where we can and last year we raised quite a lot for various causes.

“We were really busy this summer with our own original production ‘Alice in Theatreland’ which went really well.”

MJ-UK also has strong links with Cornwall, with Maria and some of her older students visiting the coast every summer.

The connection to Cornwall began with Chris Treglown, a local that Maria taught. Chris’ story was sadly cut short, but he remains an inspiration for MJ-UK students.

“Chris was tragically killed in a car crash in 2012. He had gone on to star in Les Miserables, and his parents have set up a foundation that will give £1000 to a young person who wants to get into musical theatre.

“We hold a competition every year for anyone to enter and sing in front of a panel of judges to win the grant. It’s a bit like the X Factor except we’re all nice!”

Alongside the competition, MJ-UK have plenty more concerts planned, including a show at Chapel Arts in Cheltenham, which surprisingly enough came about while they were in Cornwall.

Maria explained: “We were performing in Port Isaac, a beautiful place in Cornwall where they film ‘Doc Martin’. Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs but the crowd persevered, bless them.

“One man came up to me afterwards and said, “I wish you were Cheltenham based because I’d love you to perform at my venue.”

“And I told him funnily enough we’re only down the road in Cirencester so we’d love to come and perform there!

“We’ve got several other concerts lined up in Cirencester and also back down in Cornwall in the summer and we’re all really looking forward to it.”

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