When Kristina Lewis ’09 left her Fairfield, Alabama home for Converse College in 2005, she had her eyes fixed on earning her degree in piano performance. While she did earn her degree, and with cum laude honors no less, Kristina discovered that it is actually her voice that will most likely be her ticket to the big time, a voice that she did not discover until her junior year of college. Her profound talent opened doors. Currently a student seeking a Masters in Music at the prestigious Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, Kristina has experienced many challenges and successes. “I’ve had to make many adjustments since I started the program, but I have a lot of support from colleagues, family, supporters of the arts, and most importantly, my voice professor, Dr. Stanley Cornett,” said Kristina.
After Kristina’s Peabody audition before graduating from Converse, the seven faculty judges were unanimous in their praise. “That rarely happens,” said David Lane, Director of Admissions at Peabody. “Kristina’s scores were through the roof across the board. We had approximately 275 voice auditions this year, and Kristina would easily place among the top 10 percent…probably even in the top five percent. She is definitely one of the best contraltos who have auditioned for us. We badly wanted her in our graduate program so we offered her a very attractive scholarship package. Everyone at Converse, especially her voice instructor (Hay) can be very proud because they have helped to produce an absolute gem of an artist.”
Dr. Beverly Hay, the Daniel Professor of Voice at Converse, can lay partial claim to discovering the power of Kristina’s voice, which some people refer to as rich, dark chocolate for its fullness. “For a while, Kristina would provide piano accompaniment for my regular voice students. Then one day during her junior year she asked if I would give her a mock voice lesson,” recalled Hay. “I was immediately and completely enthralled by her voice. It’s unusual in that it is so low and powerful. She is a natural contralto, one of the best I have ever heard, and I would have no hesitation in comparing her to the legendary Marian Anderson.”
Hay’s instincts about Kristina’s voice were on the money as less than six months later, Kristina advanced to the regional level of the über-competitive National Association of Teachers of Singing competition.
Kristina credits her musical growth to her professors. “My mentors, Dr. Douglas Weeks, Dr. Beverly Hay, Mrs. Rebecca Turner, and Miles Hoffman all pushed me because they saw the potential I had,” said Kristina. “In every lesson, Dr. Hay pushed me to learn more repertoire, listen to singers, and keep studying my diction and languages. Meanwhile, Dr. Weeks challenged me at the piano with my technique and musical interpretation to a greater level. Being a pianist and then transitioning to a singer created one of the most immense challenges in my life, but my mentors stood by my side and fully supported my talent. If it weren’t for Converse, I would not be a singer today.”