Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Laney instructor Lori Willis has two dream occupations

    She is a college music teacher by day, Mezzo-Soprano by night

    Born and raised in the East Bay, Lori Willis comes from a family with a great music legacy, which starts from her grandmother and expands to her twin sons.
    Willis’ mother and her greatest influence is Lucy Kinchen, a local musician who also teaches at Laney College and directs her own choir, The Lucy Kinchen Chorale, in which Willis has participated with solo performances. “I had a great exposure to music as a child, because music is part of my mother’s whole being,” Willis said.
    During her childhood Willis participated in many youth music groups, including the UC Berkeley Young Musicians Program and the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra.
    Her music studies include a scholarship she earned at one of the top music schools of the country, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, in Ohio.
    She later did graduate studies at Cal State East Bay, where she was introduced to opera singing, which became her calling.
    “When I went to do my graduate work I was exposed to different types of singing methods; I was pushed towards the opera direction and then I realized I really loved it.” Prior to opera, Willis had been involved in more popular styles of music, such as R&B and pop.

    Lori Willis

    Despite the challenge to learn techniques and the great level of self-discipline required, Willis says that opera is very rewarding because these techniques can be applied in different types of music.
    “Opera offers a great platform to build skills that can be applied in other areas, for example in theatre. An opera singer has many options and there is a certain level of self-discipline required. Given that opera singers are not supported by microphones and they have to sing with an orchestra, they have to make a resonant and unamplified sound.”
    Willis made her opera debut in 2006 as Malcolm X’s half-sister Ella in the “Life & Times Of Malcolm X” in Oakland Opera. She now participates as a mezzo-soprano in San Francisco Opera; following “The Trojans” in June, she will be performing in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in November.
    How does Willis apply her opera singing skills at Laney College? Willis says that her primary goal is to teach her students how to get the enjoyment and fulfillment of singing and provide them with tools that will help them to properly use their voices without hurting their vocal chords.
    “My goal is to teach good vocal technique and show students how to avoid vocal strain.”

    Jeff Engler

    Willis decided to start teaching in Laney when she saw all the wonderful things her mother was doing at the Oakland campus. “I wanted an opportunity to get involved and to see how I can give back to the community.” What she likes the most about Laney College is the great diversity of the school community, and the fact that she gets to meet many different types of people. “I learn a lot from my students and this has been a very enriching experience.”

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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