When Lainie Ewers of Gainesville tells people she’s an opera singer, she’s often met with perplexed reactions.
One of her most memorable encounters took place on an episode of “Family Feud,” which aired in early January. While competing with her relatives on the show, Ewers said Steve Harvey, the host, asked her “What do you do?”
“I said, ‘Well, Mr. Harvey, I sing opera,’” Ewers recounted. “He looked at me like I was a strange creature. Then, I sang for him.”
Ewers, who is now a junior at Brenau, said her passion for music sparked in the eighth grade when she joined Chestatee Middle School’s choir, directed by Eric Elliott.
“I was a timid shy girl who hadn’t been to a public school in three years,” Ewers said. “When I went in on the first day, he (Elliott) was so welcoming. I didn’t know how inviting music was.”
Ewers said her love of singing grew in high school while attending Lakeview Academy. She said her vocal teacher, Gretchen Plummer, encouraged her to perform as a solo and trio vocalist in the Georgia High School Association Region Literary competition. During her sophomore and junior year, Ewers entered the contest, placing third in state both years.
For her last year in high school, she was the first-place state winner for female vocalist.
“It was this moment of overwhelming joy,” Ewers said. “I felt like I was finally able to prove how much I loved music to this group of individuals.”
During her senior year, Ewers received the Charles J. Thurmond Kiwanis scholarship, which is presented to local students in the arts.
Ewers is now pursuing a bachelor’s in vocal performance at Brenau. She said her time at the university and the support of her professor, Barbara Steinhouse, have helped pave a promising path for her, one that leads to the opera. The student received her first introduction to this branch of musical and dramatic art her freshman year.
“I remember seeing these performers singing and acting on stage,” she said. “It made me realize in that moment, this is what I’m here for. This is what I want to do with my life.”
Opera comes in many forms and encompasses a range of languages. For Ewers, she particularly enjoys singing in Italian and German. She said her hope is to soon give Latin and Spanish a go.
When Ewers sings, she enters her element. The vocalist said this is when she feels at home and the most like herself.
As someone who lives with Asperger's, Ewers said communicating with people effectively can prove challenging. However, when she sings, the messages she wants to express become clear.
“Through music there’s no misunderstanding of communication,” she said. “It is just the words being spoken to you through song that speak to your soul and make you filled with joy or sadness, or whatever the music is trying to convey. Even though I’m different on the outside, one thing I can share with others is music.”
Ewers is currently in the running for the Georgia Symphony Orchestra’s Virtual to Center Stage Talent Competition. She said the musician who comes in first place will have the opportunity to perform live with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra. The opera singer is now in the third round of judging, which involves narrowing down the top 25 contestants to five.
She can only move to the fourth round through public voting, which ends at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 15. People can vote for her by searching “Lainie Ewers GSO Virtual to Center Stage” on YouTube and liking the video, or by going to Georgia Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page and liking Ewers’ video. People don’t need to have an account on YouTube to interact with the clip.
Ewers said she aspires to become a member of the Atlanta Opera. By winning the competition, she will not only be able to sing with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, but take one step closer toward her ultimate goal.
“Being able to sing with an orchestra is every vocalist’s dream,” she said. “It would be so wonderful as a young vocalist to have that experience, and know what it feels like.”