Blind, Lesbian Opera Singer Inspires With Her Story
By Andrew Villagomez
Being a lesbian, blind, and Jewish are three distinct traits that some can see as a triple minority, but you strived for success and followed your goals. What was the pivotal moment or reasoning for you to decide to take your story and immortalize it through writing?
When I was in New York, I realized that even though I had this rich life [where I could go water skiing and cook, but] when in the public, most people didn’t even realize how independent I was and they actually kind of treated me like a delicate flower. Some of that treatment even led to people being so afraid of me that they wouldn’t even hire me for gigs.
I also realized that there is a ridiculous amount of blind people that are not employed, about 70-80%. [While talking out ideas with Jenny and friends,] I realized if there was a really great need to have this story told because people they were curious, educationally for understanding [blind people], and breaking down barriers; and so that is why I started writing. Of course being Jewish was such a big part of my life, and being gay. And I think a lot of times blind or disabled people in general are just decentralized because people assume that they don’t embody the same sexuality as people who are “able-bodied” and I really wanted to write about my experiences and relationships because I feel that would open people’s minds to the fact that of course I’m still a human being and the only thing that doesn’t work is my eyes.
Have you always been out in your career?
I was never really in the closet; I never made a blatant point of talking about it with people because I just would introduce Jenny as my partner and talk about it that way. But when Proposition 8 in Los Angeles was passed, we were so upset and with our chamber music ensemble, we decided to perform a concert called "Love Has No Bounds" of a gay and lesbian composer, and we also did an opera feature from the opera called Patience and Sarah, which was about a lesbian relationship in the 1800s. We ended up giving the proceeds to the Hetrick-Martin Institute because we felt that so many people in LA were fighting for Prop 8 because they said “we have to protect the children,” but then we felt like they are not protecting the children, they aren’t protecting these gay and lesbian children that are on the street and that is why we ended up giving money to the Institute. So I definitely try to be involved and use my art form to be politically active in the causes I feel are very important.
I read you also opened up a community music school with a summer program in Hawaii where you reside now. How long has it been open and how did you come up selecting to do that?
Yes, [Ohana Arts] is a music festival and school, and we actually have a lot of LGBT youth in our program. It’s so great and exciting how free they are about coming out now a days the way they weren’t so many years ago, it’s really refreshing.
What advice you would tell either your young self going through figuring out your identity or LGBT youth today going through it with the questions of “who am I?” and “where do I fit in?” always fluttering through their minds?
Well, actually, Jenny and I wrote a song about that called “The Girl I Am,” and the song is all about no matter how awful you are made to feel or that you feel about yourself in those really awkward times in your life, you have to know that you have to believe in yourself so much that you get through that time. And just remember to always love the person you are because when things seem rocky at those times, it really can only lead you to better times. Those times also build upon compassion so much, you really end up becoming a better person for having gone through that, and you can take that and be kind and helpful to others who are experiencing the same things. Dream big and always pursue your dream, and be resilient to find your place. Never believe the naysayers, only believe your mentors, because those are the people who know who you are, and they are going to help you become the person you are going to want to be because they understand you.
You have upcoming shows in NYC, DC, LA, and the book’s release and book tour. What is next for you?
We start off with a tour in San Francisco in January, and we also give concerts in LA, Wyoming, and Idaho. Then for one month going for an artists residency in Saratoga to work on our album, The Girl I Am, and a big national tour the following year. It's a busy fall!