For many high school students, getting through their four years can feel like the hardest feat to accomplish. But for Durango High School senior Lyric Rodriguez, her experience includes overcoming extreme odds to pursue her love for singing.
Rodriguez has always had a passion for singing and wants to pursue that dream after graduation by attending the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. But for now, she has her sights set on singing at the Sydney Opera House this summer as part of the Honors Performance Series. To receive such an honor, she was selected by the group after performing in an audition.
The Honors Performance Series brings together talented student performers from around the world. Selected performers have the opportunity to learn under master conductors and work with elite musicians.
After being selected, Rodriguez realized that she needed $3,000 to attend the trip. Determined to go, she started saving money earned from her job at Durango Treasures but knows she won’t be able to afford the trip on her own. She’s started fundraising by accepting cash donations through Venmo, Cash App and her GoFundMe page.
It’s been a chaotic year for Rodriguez. An unfortunate event kept her from singing in the school choir’s performance at Carnegie Hall in March.
While on the trip she suffered a brain aneurysm while walking around Times Square in New York City. Luckily, La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith was on the trip with his son and tracked down an ambulance to help her.
When Rodriguez woke up, she was in the hospital with an oxygen mask strapped to her face and no memory of what happened.
“I really had no clue what happened and I traumatized everybody in my choir because they had no idea, either,” she said.
She later found out the aneurysm was a result of a seizure caused by cavernomas in her brain. She said the seizures were hereditary in her family but was shocked that it happened to her at such a young age.
Rodriguez said the incident made her take a step back and realize how much stress she was putting on herself with school work, commitments to school clubs and her music.
“I have to be very careful with stress and I can’t do too many things at once,” she said. “But that’s always what I do. I’m in five clubs at the school, I’m in dance and in a band. I don’t want to stop just because of my health condition.”
Months after the incident, she still worries about having another brain aneurysm but won’t let it stop her from pursuing her passions. She said there have been times at school where she’s felt symptoms of a seizure and it scared her.
She said it’s been strange to cope with because at times it doesn’t feel like the incident was real.
“I’m a big over-thinker,” she said. “Sometimes, I ask myself, what if I’m still in the hospital? Or what if I’m currently having like a dream right now or in a coma?”
Rodriguez has been in choir since she was in kindergarten. Her dad often jokes that she could sing before she could talk. It wasn’t until she sang at a family reunion when she was 5 and her family realized she had a gift.
She said singing at the Sydney Opera House is a special opportunity that not every singer gets. She has a payment plan with the Honors Performance Series where she pays $400 per month to go toward her ultimate goal of $3,000. So far, she has been able to make her first payment by herself.
She’s even made posters to hang in downtown businesses to support her cause.
“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get some donations through the community and I’m also working as hard as I can,” Rodriguez said.
Candles made by Rodriguez will also be sold at Durango Treasures to provide additional funding.
She said it has been a struggle to figure out how to pay for the trip herself. She turns 18 this month and has thought about taking out a loan. But she learned in her personal finance class it isn’t ideal to take out a loan while in high school.
“My parents are low-income. My dad lives in Portland and helps out as much as he can and my grandma lives here but it’s hard to balance costs,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want to rely on them for everything because being a teenager is expensive.”
If she succeeds in her fundraising efforts, she will perform at the Sydney Opera House from July 31 through Aug. 5. The performance will get her one step closer to pursuing her dream of attending the Tisch School of the Arts.
She has thought of other career paths and wants to study business, law or music production in college if singing doesn’t work out. She said she would like to work in the music industry in whatever way she can.
“I’m just like asking if there’s anybody in the community that's ever been in my situation before or would like to help me be able to get this goal to kind of retry performing at a famous place,” Rodriguez said.
Donations can be made to Rodriguez through any of the applications connected to her Linktree landing page, www.linktr.ee/lyricrodriguez.