Rebecca Pedersen, age 21, is one of six winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, one of the most important opera contests in the country. She is a sophomore at Brigham Young University. Rebecca caught the opera world by surprise because she has only been singing for three years and is the second-youngest winner in the sixty years the contest has been running. This was her first opera competition.
She only intended to do the local Salt Lake City audition for the experience. She felt it would help her in the future when she was competing seriously. However, she won, so she then went on to the next level, held in Denver, Colorado and finished up with two rounds in New York, where she also had the opportunity to receive training with the Met’s professional coaches. There were 1800 contestants this year and only two women made it into the final ten candidates.
When she won, opera companies began inundating her with job offers, but she intends to take the prize money and continue her education and training through graduation. She studies at Brigham Young University with Darrell Babidge, who saw her potential from the beginning. He thought, of course, it would take far more years of training to bring her to a professional level. Gayletha Nichols, executive director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, noted that it is very unusual for someone who is only a sophomore to win. The opera world has taken note of her, leading to the likelihood of summer performance opportunities and a certainty of job offers after graduation.
Her only real singing experience was singing in the Church choir. Rebecca Pederson is a Mormon—a common nickname applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She went to one voice lesson with her mother, but didn’t like it. In her senior year of high school, her art teacher suggested she take voice lessons, but being part of the school choir was not encouraging. She is deaf in one ear and couldn’t sing alto. They moved her to soprano but encouraged her to sing softly because her voice didn’t blend and she couldn’t sing parts.
It was hearing a professional soprano sing in concert at Brigham Young University that caused her to begin to think she might enjoy singing. Her mother made her go to it with her, and it was her first exposure to opera. She admitted to her mother that she might enjoy that type of singing. They attended a master class the next day and a year later, she enrolled in voice lessons at the university. She was so inexperienced that when her teacher told her the first day she had enough talent to sing at the Met someday, she had to go home and look up what the Met was.
Winning the competition does not guarantee her a place in the Met’s opera company, but it definitely increases the likelihood of it happening. The prize money she received is viewed as an investment in her education and training, since she was too young to actually begin working for them now. She does, however, intend to audition for the Utah Opera Company this month.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.