Senior Performs Lead Role in One of Country's Most Notable Opera Programs

Small-town girl Laynee Woodward has spent the past three years filling the O’Donnell Auditorium stage with her big soprano voice.

The senior from Minden has played the lead roles in many Nebraska Wesleyan University operas and she’s shared the stage with the University Choir and Touch of Class Jazz Choir.

Last summer Woodward left the comforts of her college stage and traveled to Atlanta, Ga., where she joined hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students from across the country who were each hoping to land the lead role in one of the most famous summer opera programs.

Listening to other sopranos practice their astonishing F note, Woodward knew her audition could be more memorable if she sang her required piece four ledgers higher than required.

That decision and a flawless performance landed her the lead role of the doll in the production, Les Contes d’Hoffman, at the Harrower Summer Opera Program. It was a role she was already familiar with, having played the doll during Nebraska Wesleyan’s opera scenes in 2012.

Each summer the Harrower Summer Opera Program performs two full-length productions. Participants spend three weeks in acting classes, voice lessons, French diction classes, and master classes taught by some of the best opera performers in the business.

“That was my favorite part because we could all ask the tough questions about this competitive profession we all want to pursue,” said Woodward, who worked alongside Frederica von Stade, a six-time Grammy-nominated opera singer. “I received helpful tips about auditioning for graduate schools and great networking advice.”

Woodward says her education at Nebraska Wesleyan University has been a great asset as she pursues her goal of becoming a professional opera singer.

“As an undergraduate, I have three performing roles on my resume.  Many of the students in Atlanta had about as many and they were in their graduate program,” Woodward said. “Dawn Krogh (adjunct instructor in music) is a fantastic vocal coach and really gave me the confidence to audition for the Harrower Program. She truly cares and wants to see me succeed beyond Wesleyan.”

Now Woodward is back on the O’Donnell Auditorium stage where she is rehearsing for her final operas at Nebraska Wesleyan before she graduates in May.

“I am so appreciative that Wesleyan gives so many experiences to undergraduates,” she said. “This reason alone is why I chose this university.”

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