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Portrait of an Artist: Leah Reis-Dennis

LRD: Probably whatever I can get, because in the music industry, everyone’s a beggar, and beggars can’t be choosers. I would prefer to do something like Adele or Amy Winehouse because they are my prototypes—but of course without the Amy Winehouse crazy drug issues. The Broadway musical scene is really changing because it used to be dominated by jazz-hand types of musicals, but now [that there are] all these new modern rock musicals like “American Idiot” and “Spring Awakening,” I think there is a greater opportunity to be cast as someone who doesn’t fit the ‘Broadway baby’ profile, someone with a more rock or soul kind of voice. I’m hopeful that that could pan out.

THC: Tell me about your upcoming performance during Arts First.

LRD: It will be my first time striking out on my own in the soul genre. I’ll be singing covers: some Adele, “Killing Me Softly” by Lauryn Hill [and featuring the Fujees], and others from the modern soul rock genre. I think my voice naturally tends towards jazz; I grew up listening to jazz, so whatever I do is infused with that. It will be really interesting since I’m so used to singing jazz with groups. I don’t know what the reception will be like as a soloist. Most of my experience singing as a soloist has been in high school musical theater or with jazz combos, but I’m really excited and hope people enjoy it.

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THC: You lead Harvard Students for Choice. How do you balance your political activism with singing?

LRD: Everyone here at Harvard is busy and so I find that there’s time for both. I don’t know if these are two things that I’ll eventually be able to fuse, but in the ultimate fantasy world, if I were to become a famous singer, I would definitely continue to be an advocate for reproductive justice. It’s never something that I could abandon because I think that women’s rights and women’s health are so crucial, and I will continue to stand up for that, whether it’s writing blogs or going to protests, no matter where I end up.

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