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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fairfield Soprano’s Faith Guides Midlife Metamorphosis

Fairfield Soprano’s Faith 
Guides Midlife Metamorphosis:
Lia Carter overcomes 
challenges, releases CD
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 5/25)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Fairfield soprano Lia Carter, 49, a working singer since the age of 10, has embraced that idea, enduring health challenges that have affected both her and her family, to recently release an inspiring CD that’s a testament to the power of faith.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Carter credits her parents as her earliest musical influences. “They were both music lovers,” she said. “My dad played recordings of a wide range of music from opera to mariachi bands, while mom and I would do duets on violin as a way to get me to practice.”

In fifth grade, for playdate fun, Carter and a parochial school pal would write musicals and plays. Their teacher got a letter from a professional theater company asking if she had any particularly gifted students she could recommend for an intern program. “That was my first professional theater job, a paid spot, in a production of ‘Huckleberry Finn’”, she said. “That sparked a lifelong love of musical theater.”

All through high school, Carter performed in school musicals, always singing, in such productions as “Camelot” and “Guys and Dolls.” While an experienced performer at that point, upon graduating, she decided to go to school for communications, at the University of Dayton. “I wasn’t sure I had it in me to be an actor,” she said. “I wasn’t very happy there, but got the lead role in ‘West Side Story.’ My advisor saw the performance and basically suggested I pursue a career in the arts.”

Carter returned to Cleveland, worked with her voice teacher and landed at New York University, enrolling in musical theater, with a voice concentration. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she auditioned for major theater roles. “Peter Millrose, a fellow NYU music major who saw me in a recital, connected me with a talent manager,” she said. “It led to a lot of work, both on and off Broadway, voicework for movie soundtracks and children’s books-on-tape recordings.”

In an off-Broadway show called “Etiquette”, Carter met her husband Carroll, they married and subsequently had three children. “I stopped auditioning at that point and, while still in New York, started taking solo singing work at churches.”

In Spring 1998, the family moved to the University area in Fairfield, and while adding two more children to their brood, Carter started looking for church singing work again. “The first singing job I landed – which I continue to do today as a soloist and section leader – was at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, under the direction of Sandra Murphy,” she said. “I sang Mozart’s ‘Alleluia’, which was appropriate for the church season of Easter.” It spurred Murphy to hire her for post-Easter services and soloist work going forward on a regular basis. At the same time, she started a studio in her home, to teach voice to children and adults.

In Summer 2005, her son Luke, 13 at the time, had come back from playing soccer in Europe and was suffering from a lot of pain in his back. “It turned out he had a spinal condition in which parts of his spine were missing – the opinion was that it was congenital,” she said. “We tried many different rehab strategies with him, to no relief. Then a cousin offered to sponsor Luke and me to go to Lourdes, France, to participate in the annual pilgrimage of the Knights and Dames of Malta, which is an international organization committed to works of charity for the sick and poor.”

Carter said, “The hope was that through faith and medical approaches, he might receive healing. I’m a very religious practicing Catholic and I was familiar with the story of Saint Bernadette uncovering a spring of healing waters in the Pyrenees, in Lourdes. When you have a child that’s suffering, you’re willing to consider any route and over we went in Spring 2006.”

The sponsoring group knew that Carter was a professional singer and, during the course of the pilgrimage, she was asked to sing at a cathedral mass. “As it was post-Easter, I once again sang ‘Alleluia’, to great reception. The pilgrimage culminated, Luke and I returned home and, miraculously, three weeks later, Luke was pain-free and went back to a normal teenager’s way of life.”

The Order of Malta asked Carter back the following year for the pilgrimmage, to serve as a soloist and member of their international choir, which she has continued to do every year since. At the same time, people in Lourdes began asking if she had a CD. “I would waive it off, not really thinking of myself as a recording artist, yet it planted a provocative seed.”

In Spring 2009, she returned to the idea of the CD, feeling it would be a necessary element of her professional development. “I called Peter Millrose, who by that time had established his own recording studio in New York, and we set a schedule to create a disk timed for release during the Spring 2010 pilgrimmage,” she said.

Re-enter the lemons. “That summer, I started developing what I knew to be Lyme Disease symptoms including fatigue, headaches and muscle weakness,” she said. “I didn’t test clearly positive for Lyme though and endured visits to many specialists. My symptoms worsened to the extent that, at a major rehearsal, I found myself unable to perform. I was literally unable to read the notes or understand the rhythms. I knew something was seriously wrong. I went back to the original doctor and insisted on being re-tested. Upon receiving a borderline positive result, I followed a course of oral antibiotics.”

Carter put the CD on hold and did the best she could to continue working. Ultimately, her condition was isolated as a case of Neurologic Lyme, which required an intravenous treatment with antibiotics for six weeks, a treatment she began the day she returned from the Lourdes pilgrimage in Spring 2010.

“I regained my strength and all my faculties and rehabilitated my body and voice,” she said. “In Fall 2010, my friend Peter attended a concert I performed at Norwalk Hospital and, afterwards, said it was time to get back on track with the CD. This past January, I started rehearsing with my accompanist and arranger, Fairfielder Barbara Mayer, and we recorded and released the CD, titled ‘Song of Devotion’, this past April. It’s a collection of sacred and secular songs for a journey of the spirit – inspirational music of all different styles from Broadway to classical.”

In reflection, Carter said, “My CD has been the fulfillment of a dream and perhaps the next step in my journey as a musician and recording artist. Music has so much power to heal and transform people. It has helped me overcome my challenges and hopefully my music will inspire others.”

For more information about Lia Carter and to order a copy of her CD, visit