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“Your professors really make you feel like you have a voice. ... Be a voice: that’s what Columbia has taught me.”
Seated in a red dress in the piano lounge on the second floor of Lerner Hall is Rebekah Lowin CC ’14, a professional singer and actress labelled “one of the most promising [young singers]” by Stephen Holden of The New York Times in his review of the New York Cabaret Convention at Lincoln Center last year.
Fresh off the subway that brought her uptown from Martha Stewart Living, where she is currently an editorial intern, she is not short on energy or cheer as she reminisces about the many experiences she has had since entering Columbia. A creative writing major, founder of Columbia’s photography magazine Halcyon and a member of the Columbia Musical Theatre Society, the Columbia University Photography Society and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Rebekah’s diverse interests have not always pointed to singing as a career path. The decision to pursue music professionally was a sudden one: in a phone call to her mother during the winter of her junior year, Lowin said, “I’m going to try to be a professional singer.”
Lowin was no stranger to the stage. She had previously performed in several of Columbia’s musicals, sung in Columbia’s premier co-ed a cappella group Nonsequitur during her first three years at Columbia, and participated in the Varsity Show during her freshman and sophomore years. This was the first time, however, that she began to entertain the possibility of fashioning a career out of her passion for singing and the stage.
“I began reaching out to Columbia alums, to students, to anyone I knew who was involved in musical theater to see what steps I should take to get started,” Lowin says. “I had a lot to catch up on!” She also submitted her resume to the The Callback, a singing competition hosted by 54 Below, a premier supper club in the heart of New York’s theater district, and was quickly chosen to compete.
After three rounds in front of a panel of Broadway-related judges, Lowin emerged as the winner. The prize: her very own cabaret show at 54 Below, which took place during the fall semester of her senior year. Lowin describes cabaret as “an evening of musical theater taken out of context; an intimate night of song that you can make very personal.”
The daughter of a retired Broadway performer, Lowin grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. She describes herself as being much too shy to sing as a child. “I carried this introversion with me to Columbia,” she says. But once immersed in Columbia’s Core Curriculum and focused on creative writing, Lowin discovered that her classes had become powerful sources for a newfound self-confidence: “Being in small discussion-based classes taught me so much about expressing myself,” she says. “Your professors really make you feel like you have a voice. I’ve changed so much since high school. Be a voice: that’s what Columbia has taught me.”
With just as much passion for writing — specifically the personal essay — as for music, Lowin has long struggled with deciding where to focus her energy. “I have two great loves — and even more than that. Human beings are multifaceted, but I fell into this trap of thinking that you have to be one thing or another thing. I kept thinking, ‘Can I call myself a singer?’”
Throughout her time at Columbia, however, Lowin began to notice a change in her outlook. She credits the vibrancy of New York City and of Columbia for teaching her that “you should allow yourself to do everything that you love.”
Lowin has even discovered opportunities in her music for a synthesis of her two great passions. Discussing her show at 54 Below, she says, “In cabaret, you tell a story. Everything is scripted — I get to set the scene. Cabaret allows me to be the singer and the writer.”
Since her debut at 54 Below, Lowin has performed another solo show at the Cosmopolitan Club, and in group shows and musicals at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, the Laurie Beechman Theatre and the 42nd Street Signature Theatre. The graduating senior, who is thrilled by the idea of engaging in her two passions simultaneously, plans to continue auditioning for as many singing and acting opportunities as she can while also pursuing a career in writing and publishing, with hopes of also working for a magazine based in New York City. “The greatest gift that Columbia has given me is freedom,” Lowin says.
“And because I’m a writer,” she jokes, “I will call this next part my thesis: You build your own world here, and it’s entirely up to you how you build it.”
Watch a video from Rebekah Lowin’s performance at 54 Below.
Sally Whalen CC ’17, from Spokane, Washington, is a student web editor for the Columbia College website.
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