Gretel Coetzee grew up in a family where music was a normal part of life. She learned piano and violin as a child, and eventually studied B.Mus. at the University of the Free State. However, it was only after hearing the great South African baritone, Werner Nel, perform Schubert's Winterreise, that she developed a love for classical singing.She started voice training as an extra subject, under Margaret van der Post. During this time she became a member of the PACOFS opera chorus, and also took part in the PACOFS youth concerto festival. Gradually singing became her main focus.
Taking up a teaching post, she also continued her vocal training with Eric Muller. Eric’s knowledge of good diction and pronunciation proved invaluable, especially with German and Italian.
A time in England followed, during which she continued her training under Peter T. Harrison, and also performed in opera and oratorio. Peter helped her on the road to free to voice, developing strength and flexibility. Prof. Harrison is still a major influence; and she has visited him at his studio in Oporto, Portugal, for refresher courses.
Back in South Africa, she performed regularly in Cape Town, also training under Marita Napier.
In 2002 the family settled in Windhoek, Namibia. Here she performed as soloist in the Saint-Säens Oratorio de Noel, Brahms Requiem, Vivaldi Gloria, Mozart Requiem, Carmina Burana and The Creation by Haydn.
Her opera performances include the following: Madame Silberklang (Schauspieldirektor), Die Erste Dame (Zauberflöte), Fiordiligi (Così fan Tutte), Flora (La Traviata), Violetta (understudy) and Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus).
She regularly collaborates with the Namibian Chamber Ensemble and is also an avid Lieder recitalist. In 2013 she presented a Lieder Recital in Krakow, Poland (Dworek Bialopradnicki).
In the beginning of 2010 she made a recording of lullabies in German, Afrikaans, English and isiZulu, titled Thula Baba.
Gretel is also a voice teacher and educator. She is passionate about encouraging good singing among young people. Inspired by the teaching philosophy of Frederick Husler, Yvonne Rodd-Marling, and Peter T. Harrison, she aims to help her students to achieve vocal freedom. The Husler/Rodd-Marling teaching philosophy draws on knowledge of the intricate anatomy of the voice and its relation to the rest of the body. In February 2015, Peter T. Harrison visited Namibia to give intensive, individual vocal training some of Ms. Coetzee's students.
Each student poses different challenges, and it is very rewarding to witness how voices as well as personalities achieve increasing freedom.