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From the Archives: Houston Grand Opera Finals 2001

I've kept some detailed journals over the years. In reading them, I see tremendous vulnerability and extraordinary growth. So, I've decided to start publishing some excerpts in this blog so that young singers can get a glimpse into obstacles turning to success and sometimes failure revealing to be great lessons. Enjoy!

From February 2001:

Well, I made it. I'm in the finals for the Houston Grand Opera McCullom Competition. The semi-finals consisted of two auditions where I sang two arias, and now they have narrowed it down to 8 singers. And I am one of them. WHAT?!

I must say I am in awe of life. I never dreamed of making it this far, but deep down, I always thought I could. I'm so nervous about the concert Thursday. Walter Cronkite is the emcee. Holy Hell. Hopefully, I can turn this into positive energy.

Right now, the driving force of my calmness is the attitude of everyone here. People here are extremely nice. Diane Zola and Brad Blunt have been great. It's like I've known them forever.

Who knows what will come of this? I feel great here. All the sunshine makes me feel like I am home.

But yesterday when I received my call I could hardly breathe. My heart and my stomach fell to the floor, and my chest was extremely tight. I was almost in tears after getting off the phone. Not joyful tears either. I was so full of fear and doubt that I fell on the floor and rolled around like I used to do as a kid.

But, I pulled myself together and called a friend. "You've made it this far for a reason. Just have fun.", he said.

And you know, maybe that's true. I have worked hard to be here. Maybe I am a good singer after all. Maybe I shouldn't constantly doubt that. I guess it's good I'm not a cocky singer or arrogant person. I do believe in myself, I just get all weird when others do it.

It's coming down to two more days. People say I should be nervous, and I am sure I will be, but I'm coming to peace with the whole idea. I'm giving some peace to this anxiety and self-doubt. Just trying to be what I am right at this moment. If you sing your best, that's great. If you sing okay and miss a little, you will live. That won't happen to you, Leah, because you are always prepared!

I've worked so hard....only good things can happen. I'm resolved to love these next few days. I'm sure I'll be remembering and talking about them for years.


I did not win the competition, and I did not get into the young artist program with Houston Grand Opera. But I DID stand on that stage in front of a vast audience and WALTER CRONKITE and sing my heart out. I remember being so proud of myself and so glad to be done with it too! It was the first time I'd ever sung outside of the state of GA and the first time I'd performed at that level. So I took my accomplishment and headed back to Indiana University with my head held high and hopes lifted for more to come.

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