Freshman debuts on National Public Radio

Katherine leidlein

UTSA freshman Katherine Leidlein appeared on a national broadcast of “From the Top” on National Public Radio (NPR), the preeminent showcase for America’s best young classical musicians, hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley.

Starting Sept. 22, thousands of listeners tuned in to the broadcast by visiting Ms. Leidlein appeared on show #292 taped June 29 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

In 2000, NPR’s From the Top was created as a radio experiment and evolved into one of the fastest growing and most popular weekly classical music programs on public radio. From the Top is broadcast on over 200 stations in the U.S., reaching 700,000 local listeners.

Annually, From the Top’s live tapings are heard by more than 20,000 live audience members of all ages. The program features some of the best musicians in America who happen to be teenagers leading normal teenage lives.

Leidlein performed Chanson Triste by Henri Duparc (1848–1933), with Christopher O’Riley’s piano accompaniment.

Leidlein is an experienced soprano from Lake Jackson, Texas. More specifically, she is a lyric mezzo. She is currently a freshman at UTSA majoring in Vocal Performance in Dr. Diana Allan’s Voice Studio.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Leidlein would like to further her vocal studies by getting her graduate and doctoral degrees. She plans to sing in opera houses and concert halls all over the world and then teach private voice at a university.

Being featured on NPR’s “From the Top” was a remarkable experience and rare opportunity for Leidlein.

“I could not believe that I was getting the opportunity to sing on National Public Radio,” Leidlein said. “It had been a three-year process of auditioning and reauditioning just to be considered, but it was worth every ounce of my time. Everyone there was so talented and kind. They made a real effort to make me feel at home. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and will never forget this experience.”

She played the violin for 3 years and loved it but she knew that it was not what she wanted to commit to. She joined her school choir and a women’s choir group after her friend recommended she audition.

Leidlein’s choir director and voice teacher inspired her to go into music. But the choice of becoming a doctor like her mother always lingered in the back of her mind.

She helped her mother, an ophthalmologist, in eye surgery clinics for six summers in a row as a circulator during the surgeries her mother performed. She witnessed the life-changing effects that her mother had on people with cataracts. She saw how by merely extracting a cataract, she gave someone the ability to see again.

“I had a bit of an inner dilemma watching my mother give people sight,” Leidlein recalled. “Then I realized that through music we help peoples’ souls.”

Leidlein was interested in medicine but she noticed that music, specifically opera, gave the viewer something that medicine could never give.

As an opera singer, Leidlein “can’t give sight or make people live longer,” but she can touch people’s souls and “heal and fix their soul through singing and performing.” People come listen to opera to relax, have a good time and get in touch with their emotions.”

Leidlein’s love of music was solidified after she attended a musical arts camp in Michigan when she was 14 years old. After joining a women’s choir and the All-State choir, she began to consider choir as something she might want to continue.

“What I love about opera is that you get to have all the art forms put together – you have orchestra music, singing, acting, ballet, dance,” Leidlein listed. “On opera, all of the art forms are in one, and it’s amazing to get to watch that collaboration.”

Little did she know she was going to leave NPR’s From the Top master pianist speechless.

Leidlein originally sent in a video audition of three songs to From the Top and was rejected after being in the waiting pool for three months. “I was disheartened but had not given up hope.”

Even though Leidlein had been rejected, she looked at it as a learning experience. “‘No’ is a learning experience. ‘No’ can tell you what you’re doing wrong, or that you need more time to develop your skills. Part of the business is to get rejected”

During the fall of Leidlein’s senior year of high school she saw a poster for a piano master class with O’Riley. Leidlein immediately ran to her piano teacher’s house and begged her to let her sing for the master pianist.

“All I wanted out of that master class was to get some advice on how to get to that next level in my performing,” Leidlein said. “I had no idea that a week later I would get a call from the producer of From the Top offering me a plane ticket to Salem, Mass. and a spot on the show.”

Leidlein admires O’ Riley’s musicality, artistry and good ear which is something that she looks for in every instructor she chooses.

Leidlein’s decision to attend UTSA stemmed from the expertise and personality of her current her voice professor, Dr. Diana Allan. At UTSA, Allan helps Leidlein understand performance, artistry, voice and musicality.

“Her experience with the art of performance, her vocal intelligence, musical sense and her kind personality” is why Leidlein chose Allan as her voice professor.

Not only did Leidlein focus on finding the instructor with specific qualities, she also looked at the college. She felt that UTSA “felt like home” and students were inviting people with whom she wanted to make friends.

Leidlein also likes how students at UTSA are interested in many things at once. She advocates student involvement in various art forms. She believes that non-art majors should go to art museums, the opera, and enjoy the talent and many art forms San Antonio and UTSA have to offer. Leidlein personally likes to visit the San Antonio Symphony and the San Antonio Museum of Art with her friends on the weekends.

“I would love to see young people go watch the opera and I think that a lot of our generation thinks that opera is for old people,” Leidlein said. “Opera is just like a play with sung words and you’re watching people act.”