Joanna Forest, Classical Crossover Soprano

The first independent artist to go straight to Number 1 in the official Classical Album Charts with a debut album 

After I’d played Wendy in ‘Peter Pan’ for 13 Christmases, my husband said: “If you always do the same thing, you always get the same thing.” I needed to shake it up…

My parents agreed I could go to stage school if I passed the audition. I’d never had a singing lesson, so it was a leap of faith for all of us. I had so many opportunities whilst studying Musical Theatre and I really treasure my memories at The Barbican.

We were all taught that finding work would be challenging, so I was overjoyed to be offered a part in a West End play by Sir Michael Palin; then, just as my career was beginning, I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 21.

After all my treatment had finished, my passion and love for performing made me get back on stage, and I enjoyed success as a character in many shows. It was my ‘Peter Pan’ revelation that gave me a much-needed push to take every opportunity to sing as myself.

I recorded my self-financed album, ‘Stars are Rising’, with orchestras in Prague and London. Without a label or a manager, I relied on my instincts – partnering with a fab producer, Robert Emery, and building an amazing team around us.

To make classical music accessible for everyone, I included covers by David Bowie, The Beatles and Slade. A pound from every copy sold went to the life-saving breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!

To my complete shock, it went straight to number 1 in the Classical Album Charts – a first for a debut artist!

It breaks my heart that music isn’t on the curriculum, so two years on, I’ve followed up with ‘The Rhythm of Life’ – a classical album for younger ears to fuel their imagination. My amazing collaborators include CBeebies presenter Andy Day, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ star Paul Potts and Disney animator Gary Andrews. Next year, I’m planning to deliver classical workshops in schools.

I’m not defined by having had breast cancer. I’ve had so many more experiences over the past 20 years. I tell my story to show you can put it behind you, rebuild your life and make your dreams come true.

Joanna Forest