An Artist in Voice & Paint


Rina Lucas combines her artistic vocal and painting skills into a fascinating new career. We asked Rina seven questions to help us know how she keeps up with her artistic balancing act of a career:

1. What led you to where you are today?

I have been painting since my youth, and am mostly self-taught, but have had some important mentors along the way including Michael Farrar, Anne Way Bernard, and my uncle James Fleshman. Though I always had an aptitude for music and art, I was not encouraged in that direction, and instead went into the sciences.

I received a master’s degree in physical therapy and practiced for several years in different settings.  Unfortunately, I suffered a serious back injury requiring surgery and a grueling recovery that eventually led me to the decision to reinvent myself professionally.

Although I sang in church choirs and as a soloist as a young adult and some cantorial singing of prayers in Hebrew because of my Jewish heritage, my formal training and professional singing did not come until much later in life.

At 39, I began studying classical voice with Professor Patrica Clevenger of Roanoke College in Virginia and have been studying with various professors since that time for 8 years.

2. Do your other activities detract from your preparation time for performing great music or do they bolster you and fill in important life experiences that contribute to your vocal performance?

It is at times challenging to be both a visual and vocal artist as well as a poet!  I try to find a way for those artistic expressions to work in concert, enhancing each other.  However, my husband of 24 years, John, often reminds me to rest for it is during those times when some of the best ideas are born.

We enjoy hiking, camping in our RV with our two pups, Ariel and Eli, looking for Sand Dollars along the shore, and growing Pap Lucas’s heirloom tomatoes.  Vocal rest is quite important, but so is emotional and physical rest from performance.  I am learning it is as important as the work itself.

3. In 2019 where did you perform and what performances are scheduled?

My debut with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra as the soloist for Handel’s Messiah was in December 2018, and this high-profile performance was made possible due to relationships I had made while singing in a professional choir here in Charleston called “Lowcountry Voices” led by Maestros Nathan L. Nelson and Sandra Barnhardt.

I recently performed Mozart’s “Alleluia” and Scutte’s “Here I Am Lord” for Mercer University School of Medicine Commencement in Macon, Ga for more than 1,000.

I’m booked as a guest visual and vocal artist at the Piccolo Spoleto 2019 Show and exhibiting a large original oil of the venue entitled “Sounds of Mt. Zion AME.” and I will be singing Mozart, Bridge, Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” in Hebrew, and some jazz including two arrangements of my own.

I also have my own Piccolo Spoleto production in June at Providence Church in Charleston, SC and on the roster for Small Opera Company who does pop up Opera performances around Charleston, SC.

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4. How lucrative were the gigs? What was the range of compensation, expenses covered?

Compensation for recent performances for 2018-2019 have ranged from $100 to $500 for both my accompanist Arshak Sirunyan and myself per gig depending on the venue.  Sometimes a salary is paid, and other times a cut of the ticket sales is offered.  When we have traveled to perform we have had our lodging and meals covered.  Our hosts have been extremely gracious and are enthusiastic for us to return.

For one “spec” show I will make 20% of all that is brought in from ticket sales.  Tickets are $15, and we expect a packed house.

For my own Piccolo Spoleto show I’m paid $350 plus expenses like programs and venue fee.  We are not charging tickets but will accept a suggested donation of $20 per person.

Pop up Opera gigs for small companies usually pay $100.

For weddings and other local special events, I usually make $250 to $300.

5. Do you sing for free? Why or why not.

At this point in my career I rarely perform for free, but for special friends or charitable organizations who have done much to help me along my path I am more than willing.  For instance, I will not charge my former Professor of Voice, Sandra Barnhardt, to sing at her recital as a guest artist.  She is an expert in African American Spirituals and the Associate Director of Lowcountry Voices.  I owe her so much for all she invested in my development as a vocalist in multiple genres.

6. Did these performances lead to future gigs with that company or other performances? If so, how did you get them to reengage you or refer you to other gigs?

The performance with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra was my “big break”, and it came about because of positive impressions I had made with the Choir Master at Mt. Zion AME Church, Alphonso Brown.  I had performed solos with Lowcountry Voices, a diverse professional choir committed to preserving African American music, and I had a solo recital/art exhibit at Mt. Zion AME, so when Maestro Ken Lam was looking for Soprano Soloist for Handel, I was hand-picked by Choir Master Alphonso Brown to audition.

It was some luck mixed with blessing, but also required much hard work on my part as I had never sung Handel’s Messiah before, even as part of a chorus.  I studied with Dr. Jill Terhaar Lewis of Charleston Southern University in order to properly prepare and was able to give a very successful performance even while battling the onset of a serious upper respiratory illness.  Dr. Lewis took me to several NATS Master Classes to perform, and I even won first place for my category for a state competition in Spartanburg, SC at Converse College.  I continue to study with Dr. Lewis.

7. What’s next in your grand adventure of life?

I am still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do.  Though I sing multiple genres, I truly enjoy and seem to be excelling at classical music.  I dream of singing at the Met one day, but also releasing a jazz cd with my colleague Arshak.  It is a blessing to have flexibility as an artist.  I do hope to continue producing local shows that feature both my visual and vocal art.  I love to come up with interesting poetic ideas of how to tie it all together.  My studio here in Charleston is called Staff & Palette, and our website is almost ready  It’s an exciting time!

Thank you for taking time to interview me!  I am honored and hope my answers to your questions were helpful.

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at