Katherine Jenkins' story began, quite unusually for a classical singer, when she was offered a recording contract immediately after leaving college ― a six-album deal with Universal Classics. Her debut album Première went straight to number one in the classical charts in April 2004 and stayed there for eight weeks, outselling operatic greats like Kiri te Kanawa, Lesley Garrett and Angela Gheorghiu. For Jenkins it was a dream come true: "My three ambitions have always been to sing at the Millennium Stadium and the Sydney Opera House, and to get to number one in the classical charts, and I can't believe I've done all three."
Her record company immediately wanted to find time in her busy diary to record her second album. Despite a hectic schedule of tour dates, personal appearances and promotional trips to America, a new album Second Nature was released in the UK in October 2004. Second Nature is exactly what the tracks on the album are to Katherine ― a collection of operatic favorites and melodies which are part of her musical lifeblood, such as "Caruso," "Time to Say Goodbye," "Aranjuez" and many more.
Brought up in Neath, South Wales, by the time Jenkins was seven her interest in pop music had been superseded by classical music. She started taking piano lessons and joined her local church choir. Over the next ten years she represented Wales on three occasions in the Choirgirl of the Year Competition, winning the BBC Radio 2 Welsh Choirgirl of the Year Competition twice and the BET Welsh Choirgirl of the Year. Between 1990 and 1996, Jenkins was a loyal member of The Royal School of Church Music Cathedral Singers where she achieved the St. Cecilia Award - their highest award, and was also a member of the National Youth Choir of Wales for three years.
After achieving nine A grade GCSEs, Jenkins passed four A Levels including Welsh. Her music went from strength to strength and she achieved Grade Eight distinctions in both singing and piano. She was awarded the Pelenna Valley Male Voice Choir Scholarship for most promising young singer and won the "Singer of the Year" prize at the Gorseinon College Festival of Voice. She was only 17 when she won a scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Music where she graduated with Honors. At the R.A.M. she studied Italian, German, French and Russian, played Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Dorabella in Cos_ fan Tutte and Carmen in Carmen. After she was voted "The Face of Wales" by the Welsh public she supplemented her grant by modeling. "My mum saw the competition in our local paper and she sent in two pictures for fun, and I got through to the final. I did quite a lot of makeup and hair modeling. It was a way of earning money and supporting my studies but I knew it wasn't ever going to supplant music."
Six years ago Jenkins was performing a Christmas concert with her college choir at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea. As she hit the high note in "O Holy Night" there was an enormous bang. The audience ducked worried that they were being shot at. A true professional, Katherine just carried on singing, even as tiny shards of glass showered around her. Her voice had cracked one of the chandeliers above the stage. "I haven't done it since," she giggles," but I shall have to start practicing at home to get the right frequency."
During 2003 she sang at a special Mass honoring the Pope's Silver Jubilee at Westminster Cathedral and a month later made her international debut at the Sydney Opera House as the special guest on the Max Boyce Down Under show. This show was aired on BBC Wales on the eve of the Wales vs. New Zealand game and achieved a 40% share of viewing figures. Jenkins then supported Aled Jones on his 2003 UK tour - another former Welsh chorister. During the Rugby World Cup Jenkins was the official Welsh team mascot and recorded the Welsh Rugby Team's Official Song, on Universal Classics, a rousing, spine-tingling rendition of "Bread of Heaven," backed by a 100-piece male voice choir. "Unfortunately," she adds, "I didn't bring the team any luck!" She was also invited to sing the Welsh National Anthem, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau," before her home crowd at the Wales vs. England game in the Millennium Stadium. "I was so nervous the week before," she admits, "but as I walked along the tunnel 70,000 people were singing 'Delilah.' I just felt so at home that I wasn't the slightest bit nervous. I sang, walked off and halfway up the tunnel I turned to jelly."
2004 has already been quite a year for Katherine Jenkins. In addition to many radio and television appearances, including Today with Des and Mel, to promote the first album and interviews with the press including Hello! magazine, Katherine went on tour as a special guest with Hayley Westenra. In May she was the first singer ever to perform both at the FA Cup Final and the Powergen Challenge Cup Final (Rugby League) in the same year. Both events took place in the magnificent Millennium Stadium in Cardiff ― fast becoming a "home ground" for Jenkins. This was closely followed by an appearance at the Classical Brits 2004 which was broadcast on ITV1. Another tour as special guest on the Amici Forever eighteen-date UK tour during June followed and she has given many other open-air classical concerts throughout the summer including dates supporting Bryan Ferry and Cliff Richard.
A revamped version of Second Nature will be released on Universal Classics in the U.S. in Spring 2005. Jenkins will tour the U.S. as a special guest to Ronan Tynan in 2005.