Mezzo-Soprano shares her message about the challenges of growing up blind, Jewish, and gay


Blind mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin sings at Marsee Auditorium, accompanied by her partner Jennifer Taira, on Friday, Spet. 21, 2018. (Jack Kan / Union) Photo credit: Jack Kan

Overcoming obstacles like being blind at birth, she was able to forge a career as a singer, lyricist, jewelry designer, speaker, and writer. Mezzo-Soprano Laurie Rubin performed at Marsee Auditorium, accompanied by pianist Jennifer Taira, on Friday, Sept. 21.

Rubin went to Oberlin College and Conservatory, and then to Yale for graduate school. She has sung title roles in operas and given recitals at prestigious venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center, the White House, Carnegie Hall, and London’s Wigmore Hall.

At Marsee, she first sang an operatic selection in German, in French and in Italian, which ranged from Liszt, Poulenc, and Puccini to Bizet. After the intermission, she sang “Ah Paris” by Stephen Sondheim, “Yiddish Medley” by Molly Picon, and “Far from the Home I Love” from “Fiddler on the Roof”. She closed with “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, with the audience participating in the refrain.

Rubin also sang “The Girl I am”, which she co-wrote with her partner and piano accompanist Jennifer Taira.

Taira is an accomplished chamber musician and solo recitalist who plays the clarinet and piano. She graduated from Northwestern and Yale and she is also a composer.

“Laurie and I met at Yale and we have been partners since. We now live in Hawaii”, Taira said.

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Together, Rubin wrote and Taira scored the acclaimed musical “Peace on Your Wings”, which is based on the story of a 12-year-old Hiroshima victim, Sadako Sasaki.

Rubin and Taira also co-founded Ohana Arts, a performing arts festival and school in Oahu, Hawaii.

In between songs, Rubin sprinkled several anecdotes from her own life about the challenges of growing up blind, female, Jewish, and gay. She talked about being bullied or taken for granted.

“While chaperoning me during one of my teenage trips, an 18-year-old family friend told me that the reasons why I was not popular were obvious: I was going to remain dependent on my family, and I would have to remain at home all my life, I might have a difficult time finding love or a partner, and I would never be able to get a job”, said Rubin.

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After the performance, Rubin signed copies of her 2012 memoir, “Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl without Sight”. Maral Abrijian, a visually-impaired CSULB student and a soprano singer herself, could barely contain her excitement while waiting in line. When she finally met Rubin, they talked for a long while. This moment of connection reflected the message Rubin wants to convey beyond her music.

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