The gift of song

Being a singer requires hard work, talent and dedication. It’s not easy reaching the professional level within the arts, but Leia Lensing, a voice performance graduate student at UNI, beat the odds and won the online viewers choice award and first prize at the 30th Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition held at the Houston Grand Opera.

Lensing won the online viewers choice award and first prize at the 30th Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition held at the Houston Grand Opera.

Lensing first became passionate about singing in middle school when she sang in a talent show.

“I will never forget the elation and shock that came from that first performance,” recalled Lensing. “Lots of nerves involved but once that first performance happened, I have never been able to leave the love of performing.”

Lensing was heavily involved in the arts throughout high school. When deciding on a college, UNI was the only school she visited, but she was conflicted between three majors before ultimately committing to pursue music. Her chosen genre of music is opera and she is a contralto. She earned her bachelor of music education degree from UNI.

“The list goes on and on for all of the faculty at UNI who have shaped me into who I am today,” said Lensing.” I firmly believe that every moment with every professor, boss and colleague has played a factor to where I am now. UNI has essentially given me the tools and reins to live my dreams.”

Lensing has been living out her dream and recently participated in the Eleanor McCollum Competition in Houston on Jan. 26. Every year, hundreds of singers from across the globe audition for the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) Studio, one of the most prestigious young artists programs. The Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers brings the best of these young opera singers to Houston for the finals. Lensing, along with eight others, traveled to Houston to compete, with each participant singing two arias. Lensing opened the concert.

Facebook Live and YouTube streamed the event, which had an online viewers choice vote. Lensing ended up taking home both the online viewers choice award and first prize.

“I had never felt so fortunate in my life. It was a far off dream to be in the semifinals, let alone win the whole thing! Honestly, my favorite part was winning the viewers choice award. I know many of the votes came from Iowa and many of those from UNI and Cedar Falls,” said Lensing.

Not only did Lensing win the entire competition, she gained networking opportunities and developed friendships. It was truly an experience she will never forget. 

“Even your furthest away dreams are within reach if you take the time and discipline to learn from those who can help you, take chances and cast the biggest net for yourself, and just keeping working till you achieve what makes you thrive. Nobody's journey or path is the same. You have to pave your own road to what you want to be.”