October 22, 2013

Rebecca Pederson Conquered Partial Deafness to Win the MET Opera Competition

Recently I attended a concert featuring a lovely new opera singer named Rebecca Pederson.  She is only 21 with only 3 or 4 years of singing experience, and a hearing problem, yet she recently won the MET competition in New York City!  It's not a fluke; it's a result of  applying hard work and determination to her talent.

Photo Courtesy of BYU
Rebecca is one of the older children in a large family-- 11 kids total.  That meant hard work helping her mom.  Rebecca loved to sing although she suffered the loss of hearing in one ear.  In High School she took a voice lesson, but it didn't really inspire her.  In her senior year, she tried singing again, joining the choir.  Rebecca said, "I couldn't sing parts for the life of me.  I'm deaf in one ear so I couldn't sing alto. So my choir teacher's like, 'Well, we'll put her on soprano.' Then it was like, 'Shh, Becca, be quiet.' Because I would stick out like a sore thumb."   

Later, Rebecca's mom took her to an Opera featuring Fredrika Von Stade.  "My mother dragged me," Rebecca said. "I fell in love with the art form. I realized it wasn't just for old people. It was alive and beautiful. It was obvious to me that it took your whole body and soul to sing opera. It takes everything you have in you to get up there and sing with that passion and force."

Rebecca began listening to opera recordings and at age 18 she started taking lessons again.  Her teacher told her she had the kind of voice to perform in the Metropolitan Opera House (MET) in New York.  That gave her hope.

After High School graduation, she was unsure of what education she should pursue.  As she prayed about it, she felt like God wanted her to build on her singing talent.  She applied to Brigham Young University to study under Darrell and Jennifer Babidge, a husband and wife team of opera teachers on the faculty.  Working two jobs to pay her bills, Rebecca wore herself out training in her spare time. Rebecca kept practicing with her mentors and teachers, putting hours into training her voice to sing and her ears to hear the music.  

After a couple of years of training, the Babidge team decided Rebecca could use some experience in competitions.  They encouraged her to enter the Met competition.  Rebecca was young and had nothing to lose, but lots of good experience to gain.  Over the next two months of competitions preceding the MET, Rebecca kept advancing- winning district, regional and semi-final competitions.  She was elated when she realized her dream of competing in the final MET competition in New York City, one of 10 singers out of 1800 entrants. 

Rebecca didn't expect to win her first competition.  It was just for experience.  But Rebecca did win!  Suddenly professional offers came her way.  She turned them all down, preferring to apply the $15,000 cash prize to her BYU tuition and continue toward her degree. 

Rebecca is quick to tell people, "Talent isn't enough to get you to the MET. It takes that, and hours and hours of study, practice and research. It takes lots of prayers, tears and sweat."  Professor Babidge agreed, adding, "Rebecca has a gift, as well as the discipline to work hard and the maturity to handle an opera career." 

The recipe for success never changes-- a measure of talent, hard work and determination, and help from God.  Rebecca has shown that this recipe works, even with a hearing loss and working two jobs. 


McBride, Jon.  "BYU Sophomore Wins Prestigious MET Opera Competition."  18 Mar 2013.  BYU Press Release.  News.byu.edu.  22 Oct 2013.  http://news.byu.edu/archive13-mar-operastudent.aspx

Mikita, Carole.  "Partially deaf BYU student wins Metropolitan Opera Competition."  21 Mar 2013.  KSL.com.  22 Oct 2013.  http://www.ksl.com/?sid=24494905

Reichel, Edward.  "Utah Soprano Makes it to Semi-Final Round in Met Auditions." 26 Feb 2013.  Reichelrecommends.com.  22 Oct. 2013  http://www.reichelrecommends.com/utah-soprano-makes-it-to-semifinal-round-in-met-opera-auditions/

Van Walkenburg, Nancy.  "Bountiful Soprano Wins Prize at the Met."  11 Mar 2013.  Standard Examiner.  22 Oct. 2013.  http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/03/11/bountiful-soprano-wins-prize-met

Zajick, Delora.  "Congratulations to Rebecca Pederson on her 2013 Met Opera National Council Audition Win!"  12 Mar 2013.  22 Oct. 2013.  http://www.dolorazajick.com/2013/03/12/congratulations-to-rebecca-pedersen-on-her-2013-met-opera-national-council-audition-win/


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