On a high note

It’s not every day that a PSU alum is the “question” on Jeopardy and the answer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But Audrey Luna (‘01) made history. Two years ago, the singer hit the highest note ever sung at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (an A above high C) while performing “The Exterminating Angel.” “It was surreal to hear my name on television as part of a historical fact,” Luna says. “At the time, I didn’t realize it was a record high note at the Met, but their archivist confirmed it.”

With such a powerful voice, it would be easy to think that music runs in her family, but that’s not the case. Luna’s mother was a K-5 teacher in the Salem,-Ore. area who recognized that her daughter sang on key by the tender age of two. Luna loved to be in the spotlight, and her mother enrolled her in community theaters and arranged for voice, dance, piano, violin, and flute lessons. In the end, Luna gravitated toward singing as a career. “Ballet was too regimented, and the flute and violin felt too strict,” Luna recalls. “There was so much more freedom in singing. I could really create my own style.”

Other than her mother, Luna’s biggest influences have been her teachers from high school, at PSU, and in her master’s program. “So many of my teachers had trust in me and believed in me even before I believed in myself,” she says. “Ruth Dobson at PSU really stuck with me, and to have all these teachers rooting for me was amazing.”

For many years, Luna picked up everything by ear. A shift happened during her master’s program, however, when she was cast as the lead in Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande. “The opera was so complex that I knew I finally had to learn to read sheet music,” she laughs. The role also sparked her interest in modern music and, in later competitions, Luna always added a complicated modern music piece to her repertoire.

Over the past decade, Luna has sung music so new that, occasionally, the piece is only half written. “Some of the roles I premier are evolving, and composers will bounce ideas off me,” Luna describes. “Performing these extremely complicated pieces makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and that brings me satisfaction and a lot of joy.”

Luna travels for work approximately 10 months of the year. When she’s home in Hawaii with her husband and two dogs, Luna snorkels daily and hikes on the weekends. Before heading to perform in Vienna, Germany and Ireland, she will make a brief stop in Portland to sing with the Portland Concert Opera. Luna’s leveraging her time in town to offer a Master Class and recital at PSU. “I’m super excited to teach a Master Class at my alma mater,” Luna says. Her recital includes one of Luna’s favorite composers, Debussy. “It’s some of the most complicated, rhythmic music out there, which is music I really love to sing.”