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Born With Hearing Loss, This Singer Is Sharing Her Passion For Opera With Communities In LA

A women with brown hair and a white long sleeved shirt stands looking to the left, leaning on a guitar perched on a railing. The sun sets between buildings in the background.
(Steve Zylius/UCI)
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Leslie Lopez was determined from an early age to rise above any physical limitations and realize her dreams.

“I find it surreal when I tell people that I am a deaf singer with four fingers on each hand, who enjoys playing the ukulele during her free time,” she said.

A 2022 vocal performance graduate from UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Leslie was born with Waardenburg’s syndrome. Along with being completely deaf in her right ear, Lopez has scoliosis, heterochromia – different colored eyes – and four fingers on each hand.

Lopez is one of the many pioneers from the University of California, Irvine who are enhancing lives in this state and beyond, helping to prove that making a global impact starts locally — from advancing the future of health and finding climate solutions, to making learning more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Lopez initially aspired to become a doctor to help children facing similar challenges. However, after a health setback, she decided to pursue her other great passion, opera singing.

After transferring to UCI, Lopez quickly connected with a community that supported her talents as an opera singer, her diversity, and her disabilities.

“Having a community makes the world feel a little less intimidating and leaves room for inspiration,” Lopez said. “A supportive community who can empathize and understand your experiences is important.”

During her years at UCI, Lopez served as a College Advisory Committee ambassador at the Los Angeles Opera. This immersive student volunteer program provided her with valuable real-world experiences and community engagement opportunities. She coordinated learning workshops for her classmates so they could have access to tech rehearsals and other behind-the-scenes operations.

Her work resulted in the opera hiring her prior to graduation as its community engagement associate overseeing the community educator program. Through this role, Lopez collaborates with the Opera League of Los Angeles to provide opera accessibility and education to the L.A. community.

Lopez attributes part of her student success to the vital financial assistance she received at UCI. In 2020, she was awarded the Dr. Lorna Carlin M.D. Scholarship from the Disability Services Center, whose mission is to empower students to maximize their abilities and to create a culture of inclusion. This includes learning that utilizes principles of universal design and diversity, which benefit all student populations.

Lopez notes that no matter your social background or physical abilities, there are different ways to achieve your goals.

“I hope to show my community there is no one way of becoming the person you want to be, and to remember that life is all about adapting and finding your own way of getting things done.”

Read more about Leslie’s story.

Creating A Brilliant Future

Leslie Lopez’s opportunities were possible because of philanthropic contributions to UCI. Donations help the university’s Disability Services Center to enhance and provide the most positive experience for all students in an inclusive environment. The funding empowers students like Lopez to maximize their abilities to thrive in today’s global community.

Learn more about the Brilliant Future campaign and how individuals and corporations can partner with UCI for world-changing impact.