Laura's journey to the stage and her passion for the performing arts is a story you don't want to miss! Learn about how this talented opera singer found her voice and is singing her way into our hearts!
Alyssa: Tell us about your journey to Houston.
Laura: I grew up in Southern California, went to undergrad at the University of Arizona, and Michigan state for grad school. Before my senior year in college I did a summer singing program at the University of Houston, and during that time, I met a bunch of new people and saw some of my family who lives here. They showed me around the city and I really enjoyed it. After grad school I was looking for a real city (after spending 2 years in farmland Michigan!) that was relatively cheap, and I've low key always wanted to be a Southern belle. I liked that in Houston you can still drive, and I already had friends and a great arts community, so I was like great, I’m moving to Houston! When I moved here things worked out finding a job and I found some singing opportunities as well!
Alyssa: It’s so cool that you are an opera singer. How did you discover your love for singing?
Laura: There are videos of me as a kid telling my dad not to sing the princess part in Disney songs because I wanted to sing their songs by myself! As a kid I would even put on performances and take monopoly money for my shows. I started singing more seriously when I was in middle school and high school. I had always loved musical theatre and joined choirs as well. I went to a summer program in Indiana, heard other people sing opera, and thought that it was cool how opera included so many languages, histories, and cultures. Opera seemed so academic, and I have always been drawn to stuff like that, where I could always be learning more. I decided to start taking voice lessons when I was 16, so I called up the head of the voice departments at local colleges, got some names of some local teachers, and started taking voice lessons my senior year of high school.
Alyssa: Where did you study vocal performance?
Laura: I started auditioning at a few schools for vocal performance for undergrad and the University of Arizona gave me a full scholarship, so I was like, I guess I’m going to be a singer! I really had only been into classical singing for a year, and in college is when I fell in love with it all, being on stage with a full orchestra, the collaborative elements, and connecting with other artists was really exciting for me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a full-time singer, so after college I tried out using the business aspect of my degree, but after 4 or 5 months I knew that I definitely wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I auditioned for grad schools, and studied with a famous voice teacher in Northern California during that time in between. I was offered a full ride to Michigan State and a teaching assistantship, teaching voice lessons to non voice majors. My program also had an outreach program where we would travel with a cabaret show to different high schools around Michigan, performing musical theatre and opera.
Photo Credit: Harley J Seeley
Alyssa: What is your favorite show that you have been in.
Laura: That’s super hard, it’s a tie I think. My favorite role that I’ve ever sung in terms of music and the whole show was Hansel and Gretel during grad school. I got to play Gretel! It was so fun just getting to run around and sing and be crazy and hyper like I usually am! There wasn’t much "out of the box" acting to be done in that one for me. The music was beautiful, we had a full ballet, the sets were amazing, and I got to do it with my good friends. My other one would be the Super Mario Magic Flute with Pacific Opera Project in LA, that was just so fun. There were so many different kinds of people involved with the project, and modernizing opera in that way is going to be so important moving forward. We had an audience who may have never been into going to an opera, but because we had video game characters like Mario and Princess Peach, it drew in so many more people. I played an old lady, Princess Peach, and my special cameo role as a Goomba was definitely fun to play, as well!
Photo Credit: Martha Benedict
Alyssa: Do you come from a musical family? Laura: My dad’s side is definitely musical. No one on that side pursued music, but I have some cousins who do theatre pretty seriously. I also have a cousin who has done some big stuff off-Broadway, and another second cousin who received her Bachelors and Masters in vocal performance like me.
Alyssa: Where can people go to discover performing arts in Houston?
Laura: A great organization that would be a perfect intro to opera would be Opera on Tap, where we do an hour long show at a brewery or winery. It’s a fairly new organization here in Houston that is actually run by another Jewston member, Bethany! There is also TUTS (Theatre Under The Stars) at The Hobby Center, which has lots of Broadway musicals with inexpensive tickets. There’s the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Opera in the Heights, and the Alley Theatre...etc. Lots of these organizations are trying to do new things to bring in a younger crowd. There is so much to do in Houston for theatre, dance, music, it’s really incredible.
Photo Credit: Harley J Seeley
Alyssa: Tell me about your awesome job here in Houston!
Laura: Along with being a piano and voice teacher, I'm also the director of Lessons in Your Home, a music school here in Houston. We are like any other music school, but we do all of our lessons in-home, although currently they are all online. I run the entire school, so I recruit new families, match them with teachers, schedule them, manage the 50+ teachers, facilitate recital and events, and so much more! It's a perfect blend of my music and my business experience.
Alyssa: Has Judaism influenced your singing at all?
Laura: The first time I was recognized for my voice was at my Bat Mitzvah actually! Everybody was really complementary and impressed with my singing voice, so the year after that is when I started to take singing more seriously and had my first big role in a play, where I was Sandy in Grease!
Photo Credit: Opera Grand Rapids
Alyssa: What was the theme of your Bat Mitzvah?
Laura: It was a tropical Hawaiin theme! Which is so random, but everything was hot pink, even the kippah’s, which is still very on brand for me.
Alyssa: What has kept you connected to Judaism throughout the years?
Laura: I have a really close knit group of friends from Hebrew school and Talit, a retreat program for Jewish high schoolers in Orange County. I've stayed in touch with them over the years and have kept connected to my Judaism through life experiences as well. In Amsterdam, I went to the Anne Frank house, and then was a part of an Anne Frank music project here in Houston. My Birthright trip was also one of the best and most meaningful trips I've ever been on. Jewston has also kept me really involved, including connecting me to Opera on Tap. It’s the little things throughout my life that have kept me connected to Judaism.
Photo Credit: Hung L. Truong
Alyssa: When Jewston comes together we... Laura: Celebrate!
Email Alyssa (firstname.lastname@example.org) to nominate your friend to be our next Jewston Mensch of the week!