Kristin Lewis ’99 has been a student of music for as long as she could remember. Now an internationally known opera singer, Lewis has graced the stage of performance halls all over the world including New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome and Tokyo. Based in Vienna, Austria, the Little Rock native has a long list of prestigious awards which now includes Distinguished Alumni awardee of the University of Central Arkansas.
“It is an amazing honor,” Lewis said. “I am so fortunate to have graduated from the University of Central Arkansas. It was such a well rounding experience for me, providing me with a firm foundation: from working with Dr. Martha Antolik who was my voice teacher to how the music department was perfect for my level of development and progression.”
Lewis comes from a family of musicians, studied piano and grew up singing in the church choir. It was a constant backdrop for her life, but it wasn’t something she originally considered as a profession. Her life aspiration was to “affect the lives of others in a positive way.” She started as an English major at UCA and considered law, teaching and psychology as areas of study but felt none were a good fit.
“I had a revelation one day that music had always been a constant throughout my life,” Lewis said. “It was like a lightbulb moment that there isn’t something outside of myself I should pursue – rather the thing that has been there all along, which was music.”
Lewis was enrolled in a voice class for nonmajors and was part of the UCA Concert Choir. Her instructor, the late Don Collins, referred her to Antolik.
“He [Collins] indicated she needed to be in private study as she had an unusually beautiful voice,” Antolik said.
Antolik coached Lewis through several auditions and competitions. Even when she did not win, Antolik says Lewis had a “supreme dedication to the vocal art” accompanied by a pursuit of excellence, perseverance and hard work. That is what led to her success and living her dream of affecting the lives of others in a positive way.
Lewis is a lyrico-spinto soprano, and one of the things she loves most about performing is the storytelling within an opera.
“Every role I play is my favorite because they’re all so different,” Lewis said. “What makes them so interesting is that there is a different arc of emotion with each one, and putting my own experiences and personality into the role is challenging and rewarding.”
In 2014, she created the Kristin Lewis Foundation, which encourages the pursuit of musical endeavors. The foundation helps young talented singers discover and appreciate opera and musical cultures through education, performance and experiences.
“It happened from this very profound moment of gratefulness,” Lewis said. “I recognized that I am so blessed from having been so well supported on my own journey. With everything I’ve received in my life and career, it felt like the natural next step – a charge to give back.”
The foundation is designed to offer scholarships and other resources to young emerging artists studying at American colleges and universities. Lewis says many artists who came from her scholarship program are doing very well now. She maintains a relationship with many past recipients. This year she plans to expand the scholarship program internationally.
“I never allow myself to forget how extraordinary it is to be able to sing in the greatest opera houses in the world and be able to affect the lives of others on this scale. It’s amazing. For my alma mater to recognize me in this way brings tears to my eyes. It means the world to me; I am grateful.”