WaterBear Students Celebrate the Songs of George Michael


Students at WaterBear The College of Music, were recently given the valuable opportunity to celebrate George Michael’s incredible musical legacy with George’s backing vocalists – Cowboys and Angels.

The leading music education college welcomed Cowboys and Angels to its Brighton seafront venue for the highly anticipated occasion, where students attended a masterclass and performed some of George Michael’s songs alongside the vocalists.

George Michael, singer-songwriter, record producer, philanthropist and pop icon is one of the best-selling artists of all time. In the 1980’s together with his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley, he delivered dancefloor classics such as ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ and ‘Club Tropicana’ selling over 25 million records worldwide. Post Wham! he navigated an equally successful solo career debuting his solo album ‘Faith’ in 1987. Over his career he performed with some incredible artists such as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and with Elton John, performing at Live Aid in 1985.

A prolific songwriter, his songs continue to bring joy to millions of people across the world and he was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2023.

Throughout his solo career, he was supported by an incredible team of backing vocalists which included Jo Garland, Shirley Lewis, Lucy Jules, and Jay Henry, known as Cowboys and Angels, who continue to honour his memory performing his songs across the world today and will soon be announcing a Christmas show in London.

Jo Garland, an internationally acclaimed vocalist and long-term backing vocalist with George, shares some insights on working with him and keeping his musical legacy alive: “George Michael was all about ‘giving back’. He was my friend firstly, then my boss, but he was also my biggest champion. He was the most loyal and generous artist I’ve ever worked with. We all miss him dearly, which is why we want to keep his music alive; we are his music family.

We had a great time with the students, and we hope that they gained some insight into what it will be like being a front artist with the comfort of having background singers supporting you. From a singer’s perspective, it’s a game changer, it really raises the bar vocally.”

Several of the students who performed at the event shared their experiences of working with Cowboys and Angels.

Artist and WaterBear student Rosanna Bucci comments: “Attending George’s event was a dream come true for me, fuelled by a lifelong admiration instilled by my mother. Working alongside Jo Garland and the other vocalists was an incredible experience; the love and support from all of them was exactly why I feel everyone did so well. These masterclasses are invaluable in offering first-hand insights into the professional world and inspiring me to elevate my own craft. One crucial takeaway was the importance of letting go and enjoying the moment; though I initially felt pressure to perform perfectly for my mom, simply singing alongside seasoned professionals during soundcheck was immensely gratifying. As ‘Rosanna Bucci’, I’m carving my path as an artist, with plans to release more music and perform extensively in Brighton.”

 Becca Hulkes, a vocalist studying on the BA Professional Music (Performance) degree at WaterBear comments: “Participating in George Michael’s tribute event was deeply personal, honouring my late mother’s friend and George’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community. Working with Jo Garland and fellow vocalists was exhilarating; their support made me feel like a star, easing any nerves. Key advice I’d give to others is to go in with an open mind and heart so you can come out with new knowledge and the achievement of a goal. Be present in the moment and don’t worry about remembering everything. Such masterclasses are crucial for aspiring musicians, offering tailored guidance—one of the things I love about WaterBear! These events are also fantastic for networking; the contacts and connections I have made are amazing. The event taught me to be present, not to emulate George Michael but to showcase my own identity as a performer. Looking ahead, I aspire to sing on cruise ships, combining my love for performance with global exploration. Additionally, I’m exploring music management and plan to release original music while building my social media presence.”

Eve Massaad, Director of Marketing at WaterBear commented: “By providing students with connections to the industry, they gain insight into the level of dedication and professionalism necessary to succeed in the music industry at its peak. George exemplified this drive in his pursuit of creativity, rising to fame with Wham! at a young age not much older than these students. Though greatly missed, his legacy, charity work, and persona remain an enduring source of inspiration for both the young and old alike.”

WaterBear offers BA (Hons) degree and master’s courses made for today’s musicians, artists and industry professionals. Its colleges are based in the heart of Brighton and Sheffield, two amazing UK cities with incredible musical roots and heritage. The college also has a range of online distance learning courses.

WaterBear is a College of Falmouth University, a pioneer in creative industries education, entrepreneurship and innovation. Run by musicians, for musicians WaterBear is about smaller class sizes, flexible course delivery, bespoke one-to-one mentoring and exclusive work experience and career development opportunities.

Image Credits: @michellefredericks_pho-tography 


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