How many sixteen year old opera singers do you know? Well, add Leah Duval to the list.
Duval is a student at Howard High School in Macon who just wrapped up her third year at the annual Otis Redding Music Camp. She may be a veteran camper, but opera is new to her.
“Well, I always liked singing. I sang at church when I was a little girl and I’ve always kind of been in the church music scene,” Duval said. “I didn’t really get involved in classical music until seventh grade when my chorus teacher told my mom ‘she needs voice lessons’.”
The voice lessons came at a time when Duval really did need them, but in a different way. She turned to singing when her parents got divorced.
“That’s kind of when I started getting serious about music,” she said. “So, when I’m singing a song and I’m supposed to put emotion into it, I just think about all that happened and I’ll hone my feelings in and put it out there.”
Duval said music gave her an emotional outlet, but The Otis Camp gave her a direction. During her time with the program, Duval and other campers have been tasked with writing, recording, and producing their own music.
“My first year I did a song for the R&B genre and I liked it a lot. I got to learn a lot about the music business and more about performing in front of this big crowd,” Duval said. “[I learned] how to show facial expressions [and] how to give off the energy.”
After three years of this instruction, Duval said she hopes to attend Berklee or Juilliard one day. Wherever she goes, Duval said she will remember her Middle Georgia roots.
“At the end of the day Macon is still home and It has still inspired me as a musician,” she said.
Katie Atkinson is a student journalist at the Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism.