Four years ago, Laurie Rubin, a mezzo with a dazzlingly rich voice and a rising star on the classical music scene, felt that she had to explain herself to people, because her music couldn’t answer the questions that audience members, fans and ordinary people she met in the street were hesitant to ask.
“Before they see me as Laurie Rubin, they see me as a blind person,” Rubin said last week in an telephone interview from her home on Oahu, where she and her partner Jennifer Taira moved after several years in the city. “I found myself always educating people. People in the street in New York City were very generous, always assuming I needed help. In the classical music industry there was so much discrimination, particularly in the opera world, where there was always the fear that I’d hurt myself on stage. I guess they thought I’d fall into the orchestra pit.”
At first she wanted to write a book, as told by her first guide dog, Mark, about her life as a singer blind from birth. She was work-shopping the book in a class at the JCC in Manhattan, and her classmates urged her to write the book in her own voice and tell more of her personal story. In the intervening four years she did just that, and the book is being published in October.
“Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl Without Sight” paints a portrait of a smart, self-possessed young woman, a proud and active Jew, an out lesbian and an enthusiastic performer of classical music uncompromising in both her personal and artistic integrity.
Her CD of the same title leavens that portrait beautifully with the dark rich tones of her singing voice. Its program ranges from the title piece, a tone poem by Bruce Adolphe set to Rubin’s own text, to lovely song selections from Rodrigo and Fauré, and a new piece by Israeli composer Noam Sivan. Put quite simply, Rubin is very much the real deal, a singer of poise, personality and astounding power.
After six years in New York, Rubin and Taira felt the need to decompress and relocated to Taira’s home state. Rubin still concertizes and travels to performances around the world, but a lot of her energies are devoted to a nonprofit, created and run by the two women and dedicated to teaching the arts by bringing world-class artists to Oahu to work with children.
“It was great to live in New York, but we were missing the feeling of giving back,” Rubin said. “New York is so saturated with the arts; there’s little comparable out here. There’s so many great kids here, but if you’re not in touch with other artists around the world, there’s a ceiling on what you can do.”
Rubin knows a lot about having others place a ceiling on your dreams. She hasn’t allowed that to happen to her, and she doesn’t want it to happen to other aspiring creators.
Laurie Rubin will be performing on Thursday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m., at Bargemusic (Fulton Ferry Landing;  0624-2083, www.Bargemusic.org). Her new memoir, “Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl Without Sight” is published by Seven Stories Press. The companion CD — also titled “Do You Dream in Color?” — is available on Bridge Records.
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