SOPRANO Kate Dowman is proof that despite any setbacks, the world really can be your oyster.
And that the Isle of Man offers a fantastic diving board out into the ocean of life.
Having returned to the island to support Aled Jones last month, it is clear that the international singer, who has performed for the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, is still utterly devoted to her island and her music.
Even a 12cm tumour could not stop her!
The songster, who is set to release her first album soon, may now live in Nottinghill, London, but she will never forget her roots. The eldest of four, she spent her childhood at Marown School and the Buchan while her father was the casualty doctor in Noble’s Hospital.
‘I loved growing up in the Isle of Man,’ she explained. ‘It was such a happy, safe, beautiful place to be. The island is still very much where my heart lies.’
She is currently working on her first album, which she says has a classical but Celtic feel and will even include Manx folksong Graih my Chree.
‘Growing up in the island definitely had an impact on my music,’ she said. ‘There are so many stories and folksongs and such a rich heritage.
‘The island’s beautiful glens, mountains and beaches are often in my thoughts when I write my music. It’s a magical place.
‘And I always had very encouraging music teachers. From when I was tiny I was always singing in The Guild and The Young Singer of Mann competitions. From an early age music just became part of who I was.’
And her talent was clearly obvious as, aged 12, she received a music scholarship to a boarding school in England. Having left these shores, her journey into the big wide world, although exciting and rewarding, has not been easy.
She went on to study music at Leeds University but in her first year her father died of stomach cancer. Then after graduating and having organised auditions with London music colleges, she became quite ill herself.
‘After endless scans and tests they discovered I had a 12cm tumour in my liver,’ she explained, ‘I was terrified and devastated. I had to have a nine-hour operation to remove two-thirds of my liver and my surgeon told me after I’d recovered that I should have died.’
‘But,’ she added, ‘as they say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am a very lucky girl to still be here. My family and friends were amazing through it all too. I will never forget how they supported me so incredibly.’
She added: ‘Being so ill and then being lucky enough to recover (I now have a sharkbite shaped scar across my middle) only made me more determined to continue with my music.
‘It actually opened my mind to what else I could do with it. I had always shyly written my own songs and lyrics and in hospital I found writing a great mental escape. So I actually came out with almost an album’s worth of song ideas and I now have about 50 notebooks full of lyrics.’
Six months later, she went to visit her then boyfriend in Australia. ‘I went to look at the Sydney Conservatory of Music and decided to stay out there and do my opera training,’ she said, ‘And, yes, I did sing in the opera house! It was amazing.’
Since then her voice has taken her all over the world including to Dubai for Bulgari, Mumbai for the Maharaja, Tokyo for a hotel chain, China for the earthquake appeal, Spain for a golfing convention and Milan for fashion week.
‘I love it,’ she revealed. ‘You meet a lot of interesting people. Mind you, it’s not quite so glamorous as it might sound, you tend to fly in, soundcheck, sing, sleep and fly back home the next day so I see a lot of airports and not so much of the countries themselves.’
But she explained: ‘I love airports for writing. They’re so full of emotion. Everyone’s so happy to see people coming back from their adventures. I always have a notebook handy and I write everywhere. I’m always scribbling ideas.’
She added: ‘I’m a great daydreamer - my mum’s nickname for me was always Dilly Dolly Daydream. Often, if I have a free afternoon, I will go and sit in a coffee shop in Nottinghill and write. It’s full of every type of person you can imagine. It’s the only place in London where, like on the island, people will just start chatting to you. It’s nice as the city can get lonely. But if I ever want to just sit and write and I don’t have a particular inspiration I do just drift back to the Isle of Man. If I sit at the piano and think of the island I can usually come up with something.’
So coming back to perform in the Villa Marina last month must have been more than just her average gig.
‘It was amazing. I really loved it. I think when I last stood on that stage I was about 10 in The Guild! It was so nice to sing to a Manx audience, I felt so proud. It just felt like I’d come home. It nearly made me cry.’
Unfortunately she had to return to London the next morning to sing with Brian Conley at the Cadogan Hall. ‘I’d come back at the drop of a hat... just ask!’ she shrilled.
Kate’s future plans include Christmas singing in Selfridges department store (‘They dress me in diamonds and have me sing on a balcony. Last year The Hoff [David Hasselhoff] walked past and sang back at me...it nearly made me forget my words!’), a lead role in Verdi’s opera Falstaff and a part in Goldie’s new stage show.
The Manx starlet is certainly becoming accustomed to A-List company. She has even performed for Madonna at a welcome home party.
‘I was more nervous then than I was singing in the middle of Twickenham Stadium!’ she said of the night. ‘Her friend said he’d like to have an opera singer as Madonna loves opera. I sang three Italian arias and she was really lovely about it. She asked me what the arias were about and her daughter came up afterwards and said that she loved it. I stayed for a drink afterwards, then went home and had to pinch myself to check I hadn’t just dreamt the whole thing!’
She concluded: ‘Weird things happen to me all the time. It’s funny. But that’s why I love what I do. It’s a tough career, really tough at times, but mostly I wouldn’t change it for the world.’