Yulefest soloist nearly gave up singing

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This year's Yulefest presented by Riverside Live will be entitled "The Bells of Christmas" and feature a guest appearance from local celebrity vocalist/actress Leslie Meyer of Rochester, Minn.

Leslie Meyer is glad she took her mother's advice and gave voice lessons another chance.

Meyer, who is the featured soloist Saturday at Yulefest, nearly gave up singing as a youngster. "I fell out of love with it," she said. "But my mom asked if I would give it another try."

Even that second effort almost came to a screeching halt when Meyer met her new voice teacher.

"I walked in and the teacher said, 'I don't know what you've sung in the past, but I only teach classical music,'" Meyer recalled. "I said, 'OK, what's that?' I grew up on the Grateful Dead and the Beatles."

She also grew up putting on plays at home and singing every commercial jingle she heard on television. "I've always been kind of an out-there personality," Meyer said.


Maybe that's what helped the Iowa native find the path that eventually led to a master's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music, and roles on stages in New York City, where she was a founding member of the One Act Opera Company.

But when she and her husband decided to start a family, they headed back to the Midwest. Now, they live in Rochester, where they are raising two children. Meyer is teaching voice, and has been gradually getting back into performing.

For Yulefest, she'll sing "Silent Night," "White Christmas" and a medley of holiday tunes, backed by the Rochester Concert Band and Choir.

"When I was at Iowa State, I would sing with the band and choir," Meyer said. "It's so full. It's like a whole body experience."

Since moving to the area, Meyer has been seen primarily in musicals on local stages. She had lead roles in "South Pacific" and "Man of La Mancha" at the Rochester Repertory Theatre. This season, besides performing at Yule Fest, she's also part of the "Forever Christmas" cast.

"I love to perform, but teaching is a lot of fun, too," Meyer said.

And as a teacher, she remembers the lessons that were taught to her. "One teacher was incredibly hard on me and made me cry all the time," Meyer said. "The other one helped me love the making of music." Meyer looks for the middle ground between those two examples. "I don't want to make my students cry," she said.

Meyer does, however, instill in them a lesson she'll put to good practice Saturday. "To sing, you have to be open and relaxed," she said. "You have to make it look easy. But at the same time, you're working incredibly hard."


In addition to Meyer's contributions, the concert will include a variety of sacred and secular Christmas pieces, including Gustav Holst's "On This Day Earth Shall Ring," James Curnow's "Christmas Carillon" and Meredith Willson's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." The 50-piece band and 50-voice choir are directed by Chuck Blattner.

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