My Music Career

My “illustrious” music career began when I was a little girl two years old and possessed a passion for performing in front of our gabled bathroom mirror.

I could stand there for a very long time occupying myself by singing to my heart’s content (and my parents’ amusement). Often I would bedeck myself with long strands of beads and dress-up dresses. I wonder where I saw that from…

My mom could sing beautifully. She was the best singer I had ever heard, and so one day as a middle-school age child I asked her to please teach me to sing like her. She did – in one evening. I remembered what it felt like to sing that way and replicated it again and again until that was how I always sang. I sang for church – in the church children’s choir, for special music, and my favorite memory, as the lead in the Christmas musical, “A Gift For Shobi.” And, of course I sang all the time at home.

Then, as a freshman in high school I took advantage of dual-enrollment for home-schoolers with our public high school and joined the freshman choir – which was also the un-auditioned choir for upperclassmen at the time. At my first mandatory voice lesson with the choir director he asked me who I took lessons from. “No one.”  I replied. He asked if I had ever auditioned or participated in the state middle school choir. I had never heard of it. He just kept shaking his head. “Yours is the most naturally beautiful voice I’ve heard in over 40 years,” he said. And then my “career” got lively.

A new lady had started attending our church and I happened to sing special music. She could not stop talking about it afterward. “She has perfect placement!” She kept saying. Come to find out she was a seasoned voice teacher with several degrees in music. She offered to give me lessons for free, just because she felt I was so promising (and we were so poor), and she was very influential in choosing where I would pursue music post high school.

High school was busy with singing opportunities, musicals, solo contests, the A’cappella choir and the even more elite Chamber Choir, All-State, All-State solo finalist, state honor choirs, honor choir awards, musicals, musical theater contest, leads in the musicals, finalist in talent competitions, music camps, master-classes, and more. It was evident that I had a gift, and I knew Who it was from. Every time I sang whether at church, in front of a judge, or on a stage in front of hundreds people, I wanted to give God glory. He is my Savior. He sent His Son Jesus for me, a sinner, to give me eternal life. I sang out of a deep love for Him and tried to show it every way I could.

At the Ia State Fair Bill Riley Talent Show, Courtesy of Walden Photography

The awards and scholarships poured in. Besides pursuing music I was also interested in pursuing linguistics at a Christian college. However, God quite clearly directed me to attend Simpson College (also my voice teacher’s top pick because of the instructors there, and because the music chairman was a world-renown name in opera). You can read about that story here.

As a freshman in college I distinguished myself by singing challenging coloratura arias right from the get-go. I enjoyed many performing opportunities. Although the morality of the “Opera Culture” rather shocked me, the future looked bright!

The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart

Then, my sophomore year God changed the course of my life. Well, He started changing it the semester before when I met this amazing guy at college who, aside from being extremely handsome, loved God so much and asked me to date him.

When my sophomore year began I became one of two sophomores to receive a lead in the opera “Prima Donna,” by Rufus Wainwright.

I was to be one of the coloratura Prima Donnas. I was numb with excitement as I took my score and began perusing it. And then, I realized I couldn’t do it. My role was that of a prostitute. Most of the entire opera I was hurling insults at another prima donna prostitute. The role involved being touched in ways that I was not okay with by a guy and pretending to make out (etc.) at the end of the story.

I knew it was just a play, that I would be pretending to be someone else – but I bear the name of Jesus Christ everywhere, and that was something I just could not do. Not to His Name, not to my future husband, and not to me. I called my family and told them. I told the chair of the music dept. and I told the Opera Director who also the chair of the music department. He was especially confused and said that “Nothing like this has ever happened before.” God sent me a little confirmation by way of another girl with a role in the opera asking my friend, “Has Elissa seen the score? Is she going to do it?” There was a QUESTION as to whether I would even do it. My testimony was at stake, and I wasn’t going to let God down. If Jesus gave up heaven for me, I could give up a lead role for Him.

And I could give up a performance career. My year and a half at college had shown me that opera wasn’t the place for me. It is, essentially, a classical music hollywood. It would constantly be challenging my morals. While I had wanted to sing on a stage to glorify God, it was becoming clear that God had another plan to bring Himself glory through me. 

And that one involved that handsome young man I mentioned earlier. We both grew so much in our faith that year together, constantly studying the Bible together and being very actively involved in our church. I changed my major from a Bachelor of Music to a Bachelor of Arts in Music and crammed my schedule so I graduate a year earlier with Nick. We married before our senior year so we could be together all the time. I still performed recitals and sang in choirs, and had the opportunity to sing in the entire Handel’s Messiah. My vocal instructor gave me more religious music to perform, although I still enjoyed singing coloratura arias.

Senior Recital At Simpson College.

I completed my B.A. in three years and graduated with honors. Nick and I welcomed a baby girl into our family and I became a M.L. (Master of Lullabies.) My little girl was much too precious to do anything other than stay home with her and be her mama. So, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since her birth.

After her birth, I sang and soloed with a community choir in the area for several years until our youngest was born.

Now we have three children in our family and I home-school the two oldest, with the youngest starting soon. Is it as exciting as performing on stages? Yes! Is it as illustrious as a professional singing career? Yes! My heart is so full and I know, had I ever gone on in opera, once I met Nick and we married it would have resulted in the same outcome!

Investing in my kids each and every day is Kingdom Work. There can be no greater mission. Every day I share Jesus with my little ones, encourage my husband with his walk with the Lord, and minister to ladies and children in our church.

My husband has long encouraged me to do a CD. Although I cannot sing for crowds at this stage in my life, my music can reach hundreds and more, and, as always, for God’s glory!

The song “In Christ Alone,” by Keith Getty  and Stuart Townend describes my life so well. My professor actually let me sing it as the closing piece in my junior recital. It echoes with the apostle Paul who said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).

I can honestly say that God has given me the life I never knew I wanted. And, just when I thought my music career was over, it is now taking a new and exciting turn with releasing my own CD!

I hope my story and singing inspire you to follow God’s path for you, even if it doesn’t seem as glorious as you envisioned. Remember He is working for you a “far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

P.S. Since I just LOVE being a mom, homeschooling, singing hymns, arias, cooking, and telling funny stories, stay tuned for more posts about everything “Elissa,” (which means it has to be in purple! 😉 )

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