I learned at BYU to be proud of the elements of my voice’s unique timbre, color, shape, and sound, and I had professors who encouraged me to strive for the top of the opera world. All my teachers have given me tremendous gifts.
Rachel Willis-Sorensen sang her way onto the international stage after graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in vocal performance and pedagogy in 2008. Although the New York Times lauded her “gleaming voice, capped with big top notes,” Willis-Sorensen wasn’t always appreciated for her vocal talents.
In an interview with BYU Magazine, Willis-Sorensen said that she was rejected by the lowest audition college choir when she first started her university studies. Coming into contact with the opera faculty at BYU represented a turning point in her career. Upon returning from an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Willis-Sorensen started receiving tutoring from Professor Darrell G. Babidge. In addition to teaching her technique, Babidge showed her that it was possible to thrive both as a singer in the opera world and as a Latter-day Saint.
BYU faculty weren’t the only ones to recognize her talents. Willis-Sorensen reached the semi-finals of the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council while still an undergraduate. She would go on to win it in 2010. After receiving her diploma, she competed and won the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers in Houston.
After shining at the 2011 Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna, Austria, Willis-Sorensen caught the attention of casting director Peter Katona who helped her audition for The Marriage of Figaro. Despite being less experienced than many of the other cast members, Willis-Sorensen won the role. In September 2014, Willis-Sorensen earned an unprecedented three awards including first-place female singer at Plácido Domingo’s annual Operalia competition in Los Angeles.
Willis-Sorensen is married to Rasmus Sorensen and the two have a 16-month-old daughter named Lydia. In June 2015, the Sorensens will be joined by twins.