Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

64°F

Portland

Partly Cloudy

Humidity: 73%

Wind: 6 mph

  • 2 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 78°F 56°F

  • 3 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 75°F 53°F


A Gresham-bred singing sensation

- Lauren Searls, 20, pursues dream of becoming an opera singer


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LAUREN SEARLS - Lauren Searls, a 2011 Gresham High School graduate, performs in Handel's Messiah at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in December with the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West and Chorale.

When Lauren Searls was 7, she made her vocal debut singing “Little Drummer Boy” at the Mt. Hood Community College Christmas program.

It was a chance opportunity through her piano teacher, Annette Steele. Little did Searls know that 13 years later she would study voice performance in college and dream of a career as a professional opera singer.

“From age 7 to 12, I never thought I was going to want to pursue a music career,” Searls, now 20, said. “It was always the medical field — an anesthesiologist or an Ob-Gyn. When I was 7, I was adamant that I did not need piano in my life, but it was the beginning of dabbling and setting music in my life.”

Today, Searls is a vocal performance major at Pacific Lutheran University. She recently fulfilled a dream of performing a solo at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in PLU’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” and will star as Helena in the school’s January 2014 production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“Opera is a way I can show and share who I am with an audience,” Searls said. “Whether it be me portraying a character or singing a recital, it’s sharing an art that’s really personal. As a singer, you’re giving away you and putting yourself on a table.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON - Searls, 20, dreams of touring the country and world as a professional opera singer.

Searls became passionate about vocal performance as a seventh-grader at Clear Creek Middle School, where she joined the Pacific Youth Choir and had the opportunity to sing with a symphony for the first time.

As a student at Gresham High School, Searls sang in school musicals such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” She collaborated with the popular Portland musical group, Pink Martini, on their albums “Joy to the World” and “1969.”

“When she came in as a freshman, I had never heard a voice so advanced,” said Janine Kirstein, choir director at Gresham High. “She had this beautiful, strong soprano voice. I moved her as a freshman to concert choir during the semester, and that was a first.”

Searls, a 2011 graduate of Gresham High School took first place in state for vocal performance her senior year and sang at her graduation ceremony with accompaniment by Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini.

She studied her first two years of college at Portland State University where she performed two operas before transferring to PLU this fall and receiving the Smith Agnes Berge scholarship.

Searls as also performed in the MetroArts Inc. Young Artists Debut! Concerto with Niel DePonte.

After college, she hopes to pursue graduate school on the East Coast for vocal performance.

Searls has had the opportunity to perform at the Schnitz, Keller Auditorium and Newmark Theater, among others. Someday, she dreams of singing at the Moda Center for a Blazers or Winterhawks game and eventually, the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

For now, she’s enjoying winter break with her family and preparing for her January opera at PLU.

“Lauren is not only a talented young lady, but has a insatiable appetite for repertoire,” said Angela Niederloh, Searls’ private vocal instructor from high school through early college. “She just devours it. She’s also a singer after my own heart — the higher the range, the better.

“It’s wonderful to see that culmination of hard work and talent take bloom.”