Meet Laurie Rubin… acclaimed mezzo-soprano, author, jewelry designer, and Woman You Should Know. Blind since birth, she has never let her “difference” define her. Despite what people throughout her life told her she could and would never do, Laurie has never given up on her dreams or backed down from a challenge. Instead, she has created a rich and colorful life, and earned immense success in the highly competitive world of opera, proving that what makes you different can make you extraordinary.
While she was always told “yes you can” by her supportive family, Laurie, from a very young age, was hearing the opposite from classmates, teachers, and friends. In middle school, she was dismissed because she was different and discounted because of her blindness.
But it was through music that Laurie leveled the playing field, and discovered the life she wanted for herself. Pop-culture side note: Kenny Loggins was her first music teacher, and he also taught her to water-ski.
Blessed with perfect pitch and dogged determination, Laurie, a graduate of Oberlin’s world-renowned Conservatory of Music, went on to earn a Master’s Degree from the Yale School of Music, who accepted her into their rigorous opera program, yet refused to cast her in a production fearing she would fall off the stage.
In a beautiful example of one of the countless times Laurie has proven people’s assumptions wrong, she has since played the lead role in numerous operas over the course of her professional career… and has never once fallen off a stage.
Laurie’s career highlights include performing at the White House, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and the Getty Museum under the baton of John Williams, as well as making her United Kingdom solo recital debut at Wigmore Hall and in the U.S. at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. She has also received high praise from The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, and has been lauded by the Los Angeles Times special critic Josef Woodard.
In addition to performing all over the world, Laurie is the Associate Artistic Director of Ohana Arts, a performing arts festival and school she co-founded with her wife Jenny Taira in Honolulu, Hawaii. The aim of their program is to provide students at varying levels of experience and skill levels a nurturing yet disciplined environment in which they can hone their skills, and in many cases, discover their talents.
In her spare time, the die-hard jewelry lover, is also a self-taught jewelry designer. Laurie debuted her first handmade collection under the brand name The LR Look in 2007 and has continued to expand the business.
If you’re wondering, “How can a blind person design something so visual as jewelry if she’s never seen color?”… you’re not alone. It’s a question Laurie gets asked often. The answer is complicated, but she has an amazing ability to make it sound really easy. Check out her fascinating explanation here.
In accomplishing all that she has, Laurie still follows the advice she got from a teacher years ago… in order for someone to hire her, she would have to be better and offer something so compelling that the person would justify working past his or her own fears of her blindness.
We think this Woman You Should Know more than delivers on offering something compelling in everything she does. What a true privilege to know her and call her a friend.
What Else She Shared… More With Laurie Rubin
WYSK: What is the most interesting item in your handbag right now?
LR: It’s probably my CD player because (laughter)… who has a CD player anymore? I use them because when I’m working on a piece of music you can just scroll really quickly back like 30 seconds without having to look for the track position on your iPod or something. So it’s definitely the most antiquated thing in my bag right now.
But I do have an iPhone and all the normal stuff like lipstick. I guess to some people lipstick would be the most interesting thing in my handbag because they think, “How does a blind person put on makeup?”
WYSK: What gadget or technology can you not live without?
LR: Now it has become my iPhone and I resisted it for the longest time. My wife wanted me to get one, my mom wanted me to get one and I just thought, “You know I’m fine with my dumb phone. I don’t need to have email all the time… it’s going to drive me crazy waiting for emails all the time. If I don’t have it, then I won’t miss it.” But now that I have it, it does come in handy.
WYSK: What is the last book you read?
LR: The book I’m currently reading is called The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. It’s by a best-selling author who lives in Hawaii that I met at a book festival. It’s so cool to read something by someone I’m in communication with. But one of the books that I recently read that I LOVED was a mystery called Reconstructing Amelia. That was a really, really cool book.
WYSK: What is your biggest pet peeve?
LR: When people think that they can’t say things to me like “see you later” because they think, “well you don’t see, so you’re not going to SEE me later”. And I think, “Uh… SEE is a figurative word, you know.” What are they going to say, “I’ll hear ya later.” People are so funny when they walk on eggshells with their terminology.
WYSK: What is your favorite indulgence?
LR: It used to be cupcakes or anything chocolate, but now I’m trying to be gluten and dairy free. So I love French macaroons. I know they’re sort of the big craze now, so I hate to admit it, but I LOVE THEM… they’re so yummy.
Connect With Laurie
Also, be sure to check out her memoir Do You Dream in Color? Insights From a Girl Without Sight… it’s an inspiring read that shows how Laurie’s determination to continually surpass and redefine others’ expectations, has enabled her to defy the naysayers.