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SALT LAKE CITY — As a Mormon Tabernacle Choir member, Leisa Higbee prepares to perform in front of millions of people each conference weekend, and she looks back at her incredible journey of getting where she is today with great humility and gratitude.
At the age of 8, Higbee recalled watching general conference with her family on their black and white television.
“I don’t remember what was said during the conference or who spoke, but what I do remember is the beautiful music that touched my very soul in a way that the spoken word (at that time) didn’t,” Higbee said. It moved me so deeply, that I remember saying to my parents that when I got older, I was going to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I actually visualized myself singing with the choir. At this tender age, I couldn’t think of a more noble, or wonderful goal — singing to make other people feel what I had felt that day,”.
As time went on her love for music remained constant, but her dream to be a part of the choir seemed to become less of a reality.
After two failed marriages, Higbee became a single mother raising her four sons — the oldest having Down syndrome. Life was challenging and she found herself in a deep depression.
“It was difficult to see any light in what seemed like a smothering darkness,” Higbee said. “Music had always played a very important role in my life, and had blessed me in so many ways, but the music in my heart was gone.”
After years of struggle, her challenges became her motivation. Needing to support her children financially, but also being charged with the task of taking care of her special-needs son, the mother of four opened up a salon in her home. It was this endeavor that allowed her opportunities to do hair and makeup for different companies around the U.S.
She was able to meet many people including Bill Cosby, and even styled David Archuleta's hair.
After years of putting her dream of singing in the choir on the back burner, Higbee's desire was rekindled.
“As the light kept getting brighter and brighter in my soul, the music of my heart began to emerge once again. I then revisited my little girl dream of auditioning to become a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Higbee said.
Being only a few years below the audition cut-off age off 55 and with a mandatory retirement age of 60, she knew she needed to make her audition count.
“I took two years to prepare, spiritually, vocally and intellectually. My journey felt much like I would imagine a caterpillar breaking out of its cocoon would feel like. I felt whole and free and saw the world with 'new eyes.' "
After a rigorous audition process, Higbee received a letter informing her that she made it. Within the letter she was called to serve as a “Musical Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” And with that letter she came full circle, achieving her childhood goal of singing to help teach others in a way that the spoken word may not.
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "Writer Arianne Brown," or visit her blogs, timetofititin.com or thestoriesofyourlife.wordpress.com.