Illinois State University voice professor and acclaimed soprano Michelle Vought has performed in countless venues all over the world—in opera houses, concert halls, and the cabaret.
This week, she added Wrigley Field to that list.
Vought sang the national anthem and “God Bless America” on Sunday (Mother’s Day), May 8, before the Cubs-Nationals game. Vought was there not just as a singer but as a two-time cancer survivor, the opening act for Advocate Health Care’s #PinkOut day at Wrigley Field to honor breast cancer survivors and raise awareness. Roughly one in eight women develop the disease during their lifetime.
Vought admits to being a little nervous about performing in front of 41,000 fans.
“It was a little daunting to look out into the stands,” said Vought, who joined the faculty at Illinois State’s School of Music in 1997. “I thought I better just put it in gear and let ‘er rip.”
And that she did. Watch her full rendition of the national anthem on YouTube to see what we mean.
“I’ve received a ton of comments on Facebook and emails and texts. There are lots of people commenting and affirming my performance, which makes me feel like a million bucks,” said Vought.
Vought has built an international reputation performing with orchestras and opera companies throughout the U.S. and Europe, and producing and performing acclaimed solo shows. Concert tours and teaching engagements in recent years have taken her to Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Brazil. She’s performed at hockey and football games, but never baseball.
She’s also a full professor at Illinois State, sharing her vast global experience with students. One-on-one lessons allow Vought to give individualized attention to her students as they develop proper classical vocal technique.
Beating cancer twice
Vought’s Wrigley Field performance was hardly the first time she’s lent her voice to the fight against cancer, a disease she herself has fought twice—sarcoma in 1988, and breast cancer in 2014.
The soprano has headlined benefit concerts across the U.S., raising over $10,600 for the American Cancer Society and individual cancer patients. It was that unique pairing of talent and volunteerism that helped put her on Advocate’s radar in 2015, when she was featured as an inspiring local breast cancer survivor in a video produced by the health care provider.
Vought started those benefit concerts one year after her first diagnosis.
“When you have something like cancer, you feel powerless against this disease,” Vought said. “You feel like you want to find some control and power, so you use your talent to do something. Well, I sing, so I did my first concert and raised money. It made me feel mobilized, like I was doing something.”
The voice professor was one of thousands of cancer survivors and their family members wearing pink at Wrigley Field on May 8. The bleachers at the friendly confines were truly a #PinkOut.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 8, 2016
“It was pretty thrilling to see that sea of pink,” Vought said. “It meant a lot to me. It made me feel grateful and humbled. Grateful to have another birthday. Grateful that cancer research and treatment have evolved as much as they have.”
Vought also shared her message to women facing their own breast cancer diagnosis:
“There are a lot of survivors out there, and knowledge is power,” she said. “As soon as you find out what’s going on in your body, you can start to take control and participate actively in your own healing process. Don’t be afraid, and know there is somebody out there to hold your hand and walk with you.”
Learn more about Vought and listen to performances at MichelleVought.com.
Eric Jome contributed to this story. Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.