Applications for this year’s Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund (DVSF) are due to close on July 9th and the DVSF’s new ambassador, mezzo-soprano Laura Wright, is calling for eligible veterans to apply before the deadline.
Laura became one of the decade’s biggest selling artists after she won BBC Chorister of the Year in 2005. She is now a successful English mezzo who performs classical and operatic music, popular songs and musical theatre, and has sang in front of the Royal Family on numerous occasions – even being described as the Queen’s favourite soprano.
She is a regular presenter on the BBC’s Songs of Praise and in her role as a UK Ambassador for the Invictus Games, she wrote the anthem Invincible and has performed the song at each official Opening Ceremony.
From the start of the pandemic to date, Laura has given more than 250 Sing Happy workshops to help improve the mental health of isolating individuals including veterans with PTSD, long COVID patients, NHS nurses, NHS staff, isolating teenagers living with arthritis, people living with dementia and stroke survivors.
Becoming a DVSF ambassador
Laura became aware of the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund after speaking to Sir Christopher Colville, one of the fund’s ambassadors:
“We spoke after an event at Mosimann’s restaurant at which I was performing. A wonderful thing about having an audience is that you can share your passions with them. I, of course, spoke about my personal drive to help military focused charities which led to a post-performance conversation with Sir Christopher who I am now so proud to be working alongside as a DVSF Ambassador.”
Laura has always felt strongly about the need to support our military veterans. Her grandad served in the Royal Navy and she has made connections with a number of military charities through sport; performing at sporting events, or at the Invictus Games, as well as working with both Princes William and Harry on mental health issues.
She is excited at becoming a DVSF ambassador and believes the key is rehabilitation – giving veterans a drive and sense of purpose and bringing them back into a working environment as they have so much to offer:
“We need to give military veterans as much help as possible, and that’s why charities like DVSF are so important. I know from teaching – I run around 8 singing workshops a week for the Soldier’s Arts Academy – that for so many of them it is a case of rehabilitating into society again. They’ve said to me that the music we share together is a form of rehabilitation. That’s why scholarships like those offered by The Open University are so vital because they give much needed focus and direction, which leads to greater confidence and new opportunities. Military veterans have been trained to have focus and drive but so many lose that when they leave service, and it can be especially daunting for those with a disability. The DVSF gives purpose and drive back into their lives, it adds to their credentials, and improves their chances of a career that’s long lasting.”
Family and Sport
Family and sport play a huge part in Laura’s life. She is married to former rugby player Harry Rowland and they live together with their 18 month old daughter in Suffolk.
She says it was definitely her family’s drive and belief in her that drove her on as a youngster:
“I always loved sport and music growing up, and I wondered at one point if I would follow a career in sport. But things changed for me when I was 15. My music teacher suggested that I enter the BBC Chorister of the Year competition. I didn’t really have the confidence at the time, but encouraged by my family, and after a lot of cajoling from my singing teacher, I was convinced into recording a tape for the show. I didn’t really know what would happen and didn’t think too much about it. But I won the competition and that was the catalyst that opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I was encouraged and pushed, when needed. My family saw the potential, and I feel eternally grateful that they inspired me to sing and to write music too.”
Laura became the England Rugby team’s first ever official singer and also performs for NFL, RFU, RFL, WSB, Jockey Club, British Grand Prix and the FA. But her proudest professional moments so far are undoubtedly performing for the Royal Family which she has done on many occasions.
Singing for the Royal Family
“During the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 I was asked to perform at several different events. One of which, at Westminster Abbey for the Commonwealth, was a particularly proud moment for me as it was such an important event for Her Majesty. It’s always an honour and a privilege when you’re asked to perform by the Royal Family at prestigious events. There’s a certain amount of pressure and expectation, but I think you have to see it as an opportunity to do your best. That’s what my parents taught me; always do you best.”
Jhumar Johnson, Director of Development, The Open University said:
“We are delighted to welcome Laura as one of our DVSF Ambassadors in the knowledge that we all share a common purpose in helping disabled veterans. Her commitment to Veterans is inspiring and she will undoubtedly be a huge asset to our endeavours in the coming years. We have supported 160 veterans so far with scholarships, and aim to help another 50 who will start their studies in Autumn 2021. For me, the students, their journeys, the challenges they have overcome and their commitment to continuing to give back to the nation they once served are hugely inspirational. I am proud that at the OU we are able to help them rewrite their futures and succeed in their studies.”
Laura talks to ex veteran and DVSF scholar in podcast
Laura hosts her own podcast: Music In My Life. In the latest broadcast she talks to disabled veteran Daniel Bingley, who studied with the OU in the DVSF’s first year.
How to apply to the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund:
For more information visit: Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund
Applications close midnight 9 July 2021
Now in its fourth year, The Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund has given 160 scholarships to veterans from a variety of service backgrounds who have a range of complex health challenges due to their service, including those that suffer with mental health conditions. With free study at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and specialist support to help them forge new careers in the civilian world. There are around 2.6 million veterans’ living in the UK. More than four in ten (44%) of veterans with a disability reported that they found the experience of finding the right job role as difficult. The OU has a long experience in working with disabled students – many of whom would find it difficult to attend a traditional face-to-face university – and a deep understanding of how high-level skills training through distance learning can transform their lives.