In tune

Photography: Javad Jafari,

Can singing have an impact on the wider community? Dr Hootan Shah, who works at Doncaster Veterinary Hospital in Victoria and as a Pawssum mobile vet, intends to find out.

“My singing teacher, Julie Edwardson, runs Emotionworks Cut Opera, a Melbourne company that reimagines traditional operas. I appeared in a production called La Beatles Boheme—a mixture of Puccini’s La Bohème and the work of the Beatles. I was singing pop songs as Paul McCartney and then switching to an operatic style to play Rodolfo. It was great fun.

“I grew up in Iran and always loved to sing. However, it wasn’t until I emigrated to Australia in 2009 that I started to get serious. I was a vet in Iran but my qualifications weren’t fully recognised here so I had to study again at Melbourne University. During my last year at uni, I entered a talent contest and sang Persian folk songs. The response was very positive and the uni asked me to perform at the graduation dinner in front of lecturers, students and their parents. 

“One of my friend’s dads was a tenor and he encouraged me to train my voice so I started taking lessons in classical singing. The funny thing is that you never stop. Even well-known singers will return to their teachers to make sure they’re on the right track. For the past five years, I’ve had a lesson every single week.

“Obviously, English is my second language but it comes very easily when I am performing. I sing in Persian, English, Turkish, Spanish and Italian. I would love to put a multicultural band together of like-minded people interested in animal welfare. A band of vets doing fundraiser concerts for animal shelters would be a way to contribute to the wider Australian community while appreciating Australian diversity and multiculturalism.

“I used to play guitar—I still play a little—but when I started singing, it became my main priority. I have never felt the sense of self-enjoyment when playing an instrument that I feel when singing. I think singing has a healing effect, not just on people who are listening but on the singer, too.

“I have a man cave downstairs where I practise three or four times a week. When I hit the top notes, it feels like I’m vibrating the whole building. It’s a very strong release of emotion and makes me feel empowered. It really has an amazing, boosting effect on my mood. Singing is the one thing I can’t ever imagine giving up.”

Anyone interested in joining Dr Shah’s band can contact him at


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