KATY MAGAZINE l AUGUST 2019
By Jennifer Miko
Meet Katy’s Nicole Heaston Lane – wife, mother of two teenagers, volunteer, and critically acclaimed opera singer. Nicole travels the globe performing in prestigious venues, while reminding her family that home is where the heart is.
Destined for Greatness
Nicole’s vocal training began in her Chicago church choir.
“I started singing my very first solo and “I had to sing a high note,” Nicole recalls. “I used to roll my eyes to the top of my head and everyone would tell me to stop doing that, it was like I was looking for my high note.”
Her mother, a professional piano player, enrolled her in piano lessons, but Nicole admits she wasn’t very good. Luckily her instructor noticed Nicole liked to sing while playing the piano and encouraged her mom to sign her up for other choirs, outside of church.
“She put me in the Chicago Children’s Choir and I was really nervous because I thought everyone in the choir was so much better than I was,” says Nicole. “I heard them rehearsing but my mother was like, ‘No, you can do this, you’re going to audition.’ It turned out to be life-changing for me.”
Nicole says the joy of singing inspired her, as well as the women in her church choir. “We had such strong ladies singing in the choir in my church and I loved to just hear them sing it down,” says Nicole. “But it wasn’t something I thought I could do until I actually started doing it.”
Reaching for Higher Notes
Nicole attended Kenwood Academy public high school in Chicago and was influenced by Dr. Lena McLin, the music director there. She convinced Nicole to move from second alto to soprano and told her she was an opera singer.
“I said black people don’t sing opera, and she said, 'Yes, they do,' and she pointed to the back of her classroom to a row and pictures of William Warfield and Leontyne Price and Shirley Verrett,” remembers Nicole. “She said, 'Those are black opera singers and you can be one of them.'”
Nicole went on to graduate from the University of Akron (Ohio) and complete her graduate degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She was then invited to join the Houston Opera Studio, the apprenticeship program of the Houston Grand Opera. Her first professional role was Juliette in Romeo and Juliette at the Houston Grand Opera.
Creating Impressive Characters
Over the years, Nicole has performed operas in Spanish, French, English, German, and Italian. When she gets the score for an opera, she highlights her parts and translates the words into English. She works with vocal coach Richard Bado in Houston to learn to sing the music correctly, then she adds the text and meaning later.
Once onsite, Nicole’s transformation into character continues with elaborate costumes, wigs and makeup.
Nicole admits being a victim of a wardrobe malfunction and getting her heels caught up in a long cloak. She’s even fallen in a scene and bruised her knees. But she said she always stayed in character and pretended her stumble, or fall, was part of the scene.
“Performing in an opera is like being in sports,” Nicole says, “because you have to be in shape and be able to sin