Her Place To Shine
The idea of a deaf opera singer might seem improbable, even impossible, but Leslie Lopez is used to defying the odds
The 2022 vocal performance graduate from UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts was born with Waardenburg’s syndrome. Along with being completely deaf in her right ear, Lopez has scoliosis, heterochromia – different colored eyes– and only four fingers on each hand. While these abnormalities may seem like tremendous obstacles to achieving personal success, she was determined from an early age to rise above them and realize her dreams.
Coming from a low-income, Hispanic background – her mother gave birth to her at 16 – Lopez focused on conquering any barriers related to her social status or physical limitations. She initially aspired to become a doctor to help children facing similar challenges know that anything is possible. However, after a health setback, she decided to pursue her other great passion; opera singing.
After transferring to UCI, Lopez quickly connected with a community that supported her talents as an opera singer, her diversity, and her disabilities. “The teachers are always there for you; they always open their doors. They dedicate time to their students," she says. "I love the family I met there. I love the friends I made there – lifelong friends.” Lopez also attributes her student success to the vital financial assistance she received at UCI. In 2020, she was awarded the Dr. Lorna Carlin M.D. Scholarship from the Disability Services Center. It covered costly virtual learning expenses such as microphones and electronic equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The teachers are always there for you; they always open their doors. They dedicate time to their students," she says. "I love the family I met there. I love the friends I made there – lifelong friends.”
During her years at UCI, Lopez served as a College Advisory Committee ambassador at the Los Angeles Opera. This immersive student volunteer program provided her with valuable real-world experiences and community engagement opportunities. She even coordinated learning workshops for her classmates so they could have access to such behind-the-scenes operations as tech rehearsals. Her work resulted in the opera hiring her prior to graduation as its community engagement associate overseeing the community educator program. Through this role, Lopez collaborates with the Opera League of Los Angeles to provide opera accessibility and education to the L.A. community.
Lopez credits UCI’s commitment to advancing upward mobility as a large contributor to her success. And because UCI is also dedicated to inclusive excellence, everyone on campus expects equity and supports diversity. A community where anything is possible despite your social background or physical self. Lopez found her place to shine – and sing.
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