Story: Lombardy keeps value of life’s gifts close to heart

Lombardy keeps value of life’s gifts close to heart

JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2006 11:00 pm
Lisa Lombardy said she had a few false starts in her life.
A surprising revelation from a vocalist and violinist with such poise and grace that she’s admired by many. Lombardy grew up in Billings, singing with her two sisters, Barbara and Sonja. When she graduated from Billings Senior High in 1971, she enrolled at Eastern Montana College to study theater and music with hopes of teaching and performing on the side.

But she quit school, turned off by the prospect of teaching, and eventually she earned a nursing degree at Montana State University. There were years when she didn’t pick up her violin and didn’t sing on a stage when she was starting her nursing career in Billings.

Now, she’s doing it all – teaching voice; singing soprano in Saturday night’s Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale concert; playing violin in the BSO when she’s not singing; and preparing for a leading role in the upcoming opera “Cosi fan Tutte.”
Lombardy is comfortable with Mozart’s “Requiem,” having performed it in 1991 with the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. She prepared to sing it with the Bozeman Symphony in 1987, but was involved in a traffic accident the day before the performance and was forced to cancel.

“I didn’t have my seatbelt on and the impact of the accident pushed me into the windshield. At the time, I was more worried about not being able to sing ‘The Requiem,’ than I was concerned about becoming a quadriplegic,” Lombardy said.

Lombardy made a full recovery and was lucky to get a second chance at performing “The Requiem.” Now she’s ready to sing it again and hopes the audience will be drawn to the poignancy of the work.

“It is the last thing Mozart wrote and he didn’t live to finish it,” Lombardy said. “There is just so much in it; we all have to face our own mortality. It draws out our emotions. I hope the audience can get the depth of what is going on in the music.”

While she practiced the piece, Lombardy said she kept in mind that she will be performing it with three other vocalists and must “be sensitive to how they’ll be doing it.” The vocalists will rehearse for the first time together today and Lombardy said it’s essential that each vocalist is fully prepared.

Lombardy first auditioned to perform violin with the BSO in the 1970s when George Perkins was at the helm and later auditioned with Uri Barnea. She now plays violin under the direction of Anne Harrigan in an orchestra that she said has evolved since the 1970s.

“We have such a rich culture for the arts here. We have so many things going on and the level of talent has risen.”

And one of her most promising students, Chris Johnson, is finding his own way in the world of performing arts. For a woman who thought she never wanted to teach, Lombardy said she finds great satisfaction in seeing Johnson grow as a vocalist.
“”It’s so interesting how life flushes its way out,” Lombardy said.