Rachel Willis-Sorensen actually tried to hide her powerful voice in high school. Though she performed in musical theater as a student, when she went to college, she was rejected by every choir.
“I was a little disproportionate to most art forms—I don’t know what it was–being 5’11” and not being a ballerina– the sound of my voice, the size of me…” she remembered.
She eventually found the perfect fit in the opera department at Brigham Young University (BYU), where the faculty helped refine her ability.
“When I found opera, all the strangeness– all the specificity of myself, my person, fit really well. I had this earth shattering moment when I realized this is what I was born to do. This is my niche on the planet,” she explained.
It was a triumph when she returned to her hometown and made her solo debut with a Richland, WA performance at the Battelle Auditorium in 2007. She credits BYU with providing unfailing support that has been instrumental to her success.
In 2008, Willis-Sørensen was a semifinalist in the National Council Auditions, winning the Utah district and Rocky Mountain regional competitions. Though she was eliminated in the semifinal round, the competition made her more determined than ever to develop her ability. After graduation, she went to the Houston Grand Opera Studio and studied with several prestigious coaches, including renowned mezzo-soprano, Dolora Zajick, to prepare for the 2010 National Council Auditions. This time she knew what to expect–and it paid off. She was chosen as one of five equal winners of the competition. Singing in German was a cinch, since she had been a Mormon missionary in Hamburg. She was linguistically fluent and culturally fluent. And then, she had this voice.
In 2011, she entered the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition where she won both divisions—opera and operetta— a feat that has only happened three times in thirty years. Since then, she has sung around the world with the most prestigious orchestras and opera companies.
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