CONVERSATIONS WITH... A Musical Child Prodigy

At the tender age of 12, child soprano Mikey Robinson is hitting the high notes in many ways.

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At first glance, Mikey Robinson looks like any other 12-year-old boy. Get to know him better and you’ll realise that this soft-spoken tween has accomplished more in the past few years than most kids have in their lifetime.

The offspring of a British father and Japanese mother and raised in Singapore, Mikey started showing an aptitude for singing at the tender age of 4. Eager to get him into music, his mum Yuri ― who plays multiple instruments ― started her gifted child on voice-training lessons.

In the last two years, Mikey has performed internationally ― from Asia to New York’s Carnegie Hall. Not only has he performed in charity concerts in Singapore, Tokyo and Nagoya after the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, he has won two international vocal competitions.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mikey released his debut album on June 2. Titled Boy Soprano, it features 14 songs handpicked by the young musical maestro himself, ranging from classical and romantic pieces, to even traditional Japanese folk songs.

The album, which is available on iTunes, clinched the number one spot in Singapore an hour after it dropped and also on the Indonesian iTunes classical chart.

SmartParents sits down for a cup of coffee with the boy wonder to find out more…

Congrats on your debut album topping the charts, Mikey! How does it feel?

It’s a great feeling, but to be honest I was very shocked to learn that my album hit number one in Singapore within an hour of dropping. I remember waking up at 10.30pm because my iPad was buzzing to remind me that my album had been released ― I had pre-ordered it. Then I went back to sleep and the next thing I know, my mum was shaking me at around 11pm saying, “You’ve reached number one!”.  There were apparently lots of pre-orders, so it was constantly climbing the charts.

Tell me more about the songs in this album.

These are my all-time favourite songs which I have been performing for the past few years already. I don’t only sing in English, but also German, Italian and Japanese.

Do you speak all these languages?

Not really [laughs], so it can be quite hard when I’m learning them. I have to learn the proper pronunciation and translation. I get some help with it from one of my teachers, who is German, and the others I learn by watching YouTube videos.

I do get stage fright once in a while. I cope with it by imagining the entire room is not filled with people, but potatoes!”

What’s your favourite song in the album?

Voi che sapete ― it’s an Italian song from Mozart’s famous opera, The Marriage of Figaro. I like it because one of the character, Cherubino, is a cheerful 14-year-old page boy who sings the song to an older lady that he's infatuated with.

So, where did your interest in singing stem from?

I come from a family of musicians on my mother’s side. My great-grandma and grandparents all dabbled in it. Mum sings and plays the piano and cello. I have two older brothers, William, 23, and James, 21. William plays the violin and piano and both of them sing a bit as well.

How did you get into performing?

My parents thought I was a very shy boy. When I was about 4 years old, they wanted to do something to encourage me to speak up. So, they sent me to a rhythmic class where I learnt how to dance and sing. I was still shy initially, but they tell me that a few months later, I was taking centre stage. And I was happy performing.

What’s your earliest memory of performing?

Probably when I was 4. I was singing a duet of medleys with another girl. I sang Somewhere Out There and I remember feeling awkward [laughs].

Do you get stage fright?

I do get stage fright once in a while. I cope with it by imagining the entire room is not filled with people, but potatoes! I’m not sure why I came up with that, but that tactic works to help me calm down.

That’s so interesting! Anything else you do to prep yourself before a big performance?

Before I go on stage to sing I will do some mouth practice, like saying my vowels “A, E, I, O, U” repeatedly. I will also take a deep breath right before I start singing.

So why sing soprano?

When I started singing I didn’t even know what a soprano was. Then one day, when I was 9, I watched a movie called Empire of the Sun with my mum and brothers. In it I heard soprano singer James Rainbird's rendition Suo Gân [a traditional Welsh lullaby]. His voice was very pure. The very second the song finished, I remember turning to my mum and asking her if I can sing professionally as a boy soprano.