(HawaiiNewsNow) - Beginning with her childhood days in Encino through the rise of her career as an opera singer praised by The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and opera publications, in her new book, Laurie Rubin looks back on her life as an artist who happens to be blind.
Peppered with celebrities who took an interest in her, such as Kenny Loggins, Phantom of the Opera's Michael Crawford, Frederica Von Stada…and the thrill of learning Barbara Streisand had Laurie's cassette in her car, are just a part of her story about surviving a lifetime of discrimination. Her victory of being the first blind person to attend her middle and high school was offset by acute loneliness and isolation. People would disappear in mid sentence while she was talking. While her classmates liked to bop to pop, Laurie loved opera.
As one of 16 students admitted to Yale Opera graduate school, Rubin embraced the program's policy of casting each student in at least one lead role in the main stage operas. (stage experience essential for director to hire her) Tragically and ironically, Yale who had accepted her into the program, refused to cast her, citing they didn't have the time or resources to work with a blind performer. (although she has no trouble getting around campus or in her kitchen!)
She gained the support first from the Los Angeles community and later from many artists including Frederica von Stade, John Williams, Joan Sutherland and even Kenny Loggins whom she recorded with, by every day working to follow profound advice from a teacher: that in order for someone to hire her, she would have to be better and offer something so compelling that the person would justify working past his or her own fears of her blindness. Rubin writes: "if anyone else didn't have it together, they were just having a bad day, but if it were me, my blindness was blamed for slowing me down. I couldn't be normal or good or great. I had to be superwoman. I had to make it my business to know a piece of music backwards and forwards when I knew my colleagues would be sight reading it the first time."
It's paying off. Rubin has played the lead role of Karen in the New York City Opera's production of The Rat Land by Gordon Beeferman, Penelope in Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses, and the title role in Rossini's La Cenerentola. She's performed at the White House, at the Getty Museum under the baton of John Williams, made her United Kingdom solo recital debut at Wigmore Hall and in the U.S. at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.
She has received high praise from critics including The Los Angeles Times' Mark Swed who noted her "charismatic, multi-textured performance…a compelling force" and New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote she possesses "compelling artistry," "communicative power," and that her voice displays "earthy, rich and poignant qualities."
Her latest CD, Do You Dream in Color on Bridge Records which includes the world premiere recording of Bruce Adolphe's composition inspired by Rubin's experiences of being blind.
Laurie found a life in music and in Hawaii, a home. She has "paid it forward" having co-founded The Ohana Arts Festival in Oahu where she lives.
She has a Yale Ventures grant to develop a curriculum to educate and sensitive others to and increase the perceived value of those who are "different."
Her book, Do you Dream in Color? Insigt From a Girl Without Sight comes out on October 23rd.