UNI student receives prestigious opera award



Leia Lensing is a graduate student who took first in the Concert of Arias on Feb. 2.


UNI graduate student Leia Lensing won first place at the prestigious Concert of Arias on Feb. 2.

The Concert of Arias is the live finals of an extensive audition process for the Houston Grand Opera Studio, an elite program for emerging young artists.

As first place winner, Lensing won $10,000 — not to mention worldwide recognition for UNI’s music program.

“This award brought even more light to what a fantastic school of music we have here at UNI,” Lensing said, a contralto who will complete her master of music degree in vocal performance in May.

“All the musicians and ensembles in the School of Music have been taking the world by storm with touring and recordings and teaching,” Lensing said. “It was just fun to be able to be an individual representing the school and especially the teaching that occurs at UNI.”

The Concert of Arias, hosted at Rice University in Houston, Texas, was streamed live via Youtube and Facebook. In addition to first prize, Lensing won the Online Viewers’ Choice award.

“I’m so grateful for all who watched and cheered me on through this experience,” Lensing said. “I know a lot of the Viewers’ Choice votes came from Iowa and especially from the UNI family. Thank you!”

Lensing recounted the strenuous audition process. She spent eight days in Houston, auditioning four times in three days.

“I had never felt so challenged and pushed in an audition setting before,” Lensing said. “So many auditions for the same company in such a short period of time is exhausting, mentally and physically. Also, being surrounded by such fabulous performers is exciting but also a little unnerving. You have to really believe in yourself when you are surrounded by such high talent.”

According to Lensing, it was during her seventh-grade talent show when she first realized performing was for her. However, she didn’t discover her love for opera until her sophomore year of college, when she joined UNI Opera.

“I love that opera singing is purely produced by the voice. There is only yourself to rely on when making sound,” Lensing said. “There is an empowerment in knowing that the sound you produce is completely unique to you and that no one else can play it except for you.

“Vocal performance is never something that can be perfected because there is always something new to learn,” Lensing said. “I love that this career is essentially full of forever-students!”

After earning her degree in May, Lensing plans to move to New Mexico to be a member of the Apprentice Singer Program with the Santa Fe Opera.

Reflecting on the Concert of Arias, Lensing encouraged others to pursue their dreams.

“One of my dreams came true that night, so from firsthand experience — cue the cheesy music — your dreams are within reach,” Lensing said. “Work hard, take your time, find the people to support and help you along the way and just go for it!”

Lensing will be performing in UNI Opera’s Aria Concert on March 1, and her master’s recital will be held on March 20 at 6 p.m. in Davis Hall.