Acclaimed opera singer seeks to share inspiration, music

By Rob LeDonne

When Laurie Rubin was growing up in Los Angeles, she knew she was different from the other kids. Raised with a love for music she started taking piano and voice lessons at a very young age, but after seeing a production of “The Phantom of the Opera” she told her instructor at the time she wanted to “sing like them.” What separated her from her peers, however, was that Rubin is blind.

“I garnered this interest in opera because my grandparents used to listen to it almost exclusively,” she explained on an early Friday morning from her home in Honolulu, Hawaii. “I first started singing contemporary songs, but then it just snowballed into opera.” The term “snowballed” could be considered an understatement, since Rubin has now built her entire life on the bedrock of opera and the arts, and is impressing people the world over with her inspiring story and stunning voice, and leading major critics, including the Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed, to describe her as “a young mezzo-soprano whose voice is darkly complex and mysteriously soulful and who adds intense emphasis to every word of text.” In addition, she’s performed at the top venues in the world, including London’s Wigmore Hall, The Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center and the White House.

However, first starting out wasn’t easy as people weren’t as open.

“Once I was in junior high, I felt isolated because of my blindness. All of the kids were a little afraid of me, but I eventually ended up making friends.”

Those friends came from a variety of after-school activities and extra-curricular clubs where she met other singers like her who first and foremost “bonded over music.” Those initial clubs introduced her into the world of show business, and she’s never looked back since. After a stint living in New York, Laurie and her partner Jenny moved to Honolulu with a wild dream. “New York was great, but the thing is that when you’re there, there’s a zillion other people doing what you want to do. We loved it and were having success (in the industry), but what we really wanted to do was give back.”

From there, the duo moved to Hawaii where they were inspired to start up a performing arts school and festival, based on her partner Jenny’s high school experiences.

“When she was a senior, she attended a performing arts camp for kids from all over the world which she cherished. When we went to Hawaii, we realized there should be a similar program like that there.” So far she says the school, which invites kids between the ages of 8 and 18, has been monumentally rewarding for all involved. “We’re in our fourth season of programing and are now gearing up for the musical ‘Footloose.’ Just seeing it created is one of the most unbelievable things ever.”

The school and festival they run, dubbed Ohana Arts, has been a resounding success among many others in Rubin’s life. She published a memoir about her life experiences this past November called “Do You Dream In Color?” which is also the name of her latest album. As if that all weren’t enough, she’s about to embark on a multi-city tour around the world in support of both projects.

“People can expect a concert where I get to turn the auditorium into my living room. It’s me sharing music and stories about my life,” she says of the show which happens to have a stop in Encintas this Friday, Jan. 18, among others in Beverly Hills, Idaho, Wyoming, and Switzerland. The whole point, she says, is to inspire others through her own story. “I have this great life and have everything I never thought I’d have in middle school, whether it be romance or a successful career. The idea is that if you can get through it, you can become a better person for it.”

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