Making it: Louisa Waycott '07

From the mountains of southern Idaho to the most heralded stages in the world of opera, Louisa Waycott’s journey has not been an easy one. “Making it” in the world of opera is an exercise in navigating between the flurries of optimism and the inevitable waves of disappointment or rejection. For Louisa, who discovered her love of opera during her Senior Project, diving into the world of opera was all risk with no guaranteed reward. She says, “I didn’t know my voice or personality would fit in that world until I sold my car, packed two bags, and moved to New York City to give it a shot.” She threw herself into musical theater and opera, working odd jobs and taking as many voice classes as she could with her voice teacher, Neil Semer, who, according to Louisa, “introduced me to what my voice could do and the potential that it had for growth, power, and depth.”

For Louisa, failure has been one of her greatest teachers. Never a kind teacher, failure taught Louisa to “never, ever give up.” In the world of music, failure often comes in the form of rejection and you have to be resilient and determined to eke out the lessons that failure offers up. “I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been rejected from auditions, schools, and programs. Hardly anyone knows this, but I did not get into any college the first time I applied for musical theater conservatories. It was completely devastating to me.” Former Sun Valley Community School teacher Dick Brown and local music teacher R.L. Rowsey kept working on Louisa’s behalf to get her some more auditions to a few schools and she eventually enrolled at the very southern University of Mississippi. “It took me a long time to get over that shame of rejection, but I think attending a school in the Deep South, where I could learn about the world of opera away from a highly competitive conservatory, was the best thing for me.”

Louisa tells how she sang “one song for an entire year” to retrain her voice after a voice teacher told her she’d been doing it all wrong. She’s been told by a famous soprano that her voice was not unique or exquisite enough to be a part of her summer training program. She’s been told her voice wasn’t large enough to carry over an orchestra. But time and again, Louisa gets up off the mat and works harder, more determined with each blow, to find her voice and succeed in this world.

Recently, Louisa has been performing in Washington National Opera’s production of Faust and she will perform Tosca in May. “I am also beginning to learn German in order to audition in Europe by 2020.” Louisa says that she learned a lot from Sun Valley Community School’s plays and musicals. “The most special thing,” she reflects, “was that we got to perform with an orchestra! I had no idea how unique that was until I moved to New York.”