The Voice contestant Melissa Cavanagh returned to the city school which sparked her love of performance art.
After winning a place in the next round of the BBC show after wowing Boy George, Melissa faced a more nerve-racking task: performing on her old school stage.
She gave a motivational speech to pupils at Thornhill School, before belting out Titanium by David Guetta and Sia.
The 25-year-old discovered a talent for singing while a pupil at the school from 2001 to 2006 under music and performance art teachers Mark Leadbeater and Jacqui Bennett.
Whilst fostering her talent, they also supported her in 2003 when she was struck down by Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
Speaking to the Echo, she said she felt more nervous about performing on her old school stage than she did performing for The Voice panel, which also includes Paloma Faith, Will.i.am and Ricky Wilson.
It’s been amazing working with Boy George and he’s given me some great advice about how to release my inner Janis Joplin.The Voice contestant Melissa Cavanagh
“I was really excited, but it’s scary performing here,” said the singer. “I remember sitting in assembly listening to other people talk and sing and now I’m here.
“I wasn’t a big fan of lessons as a pupil, but I absolutely loved performance art, music and choir. Mr Leadbeater and Mrs Bennett are legends.”
After beating cancer following eight months of chemotherapy and leaving school, Melissa went on to study musical theatre at Newcastle College and this year, after five years of trying, made it to the Blind Auditions of The Voice. After Boy George turned his chair for her she’s made it through to The Battles round, which will be aired in the next few weeks.
She said: “It’s been amazing working with Boy George and he’s given me some great advice about how to release my inner Janis Joplin. He keeps in touch via email and Twitter and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks. That’s what I like about him. He gives you critique, but it’s to help, not hinder.”
Melissa is not the only former Thornhill pupil to make it in the spotlight.
Past pupils include West End stars Ben Forster, who is currently starring in the lead role in Phantom of the Opera; Gary Watson, who is in the West End Jersey Boys; Michael Pickering who is touring the country in Jersey Boys and Daniel Mackinlay who is in Book of Mormon.
Mr Leadbeater said: “Mrs Bennett has retired now, but we always call her the ‘Star Maker’ because her pupils have done so well. I remember Melissa as a pupil, she would always take part in school shows.
“And she sang in a benefit concert for Cancer Research UK after she beat cancer. It’s great to have her come back as an inspiration to the pupils to show what can be achieved.”