Teira Ila has carried different names in her 20 years—a child of Papua, New Guinea until she was five, as well as that of a singing and dancing Christian missionary most of her life.
Now she has another name and it’s a big one—The Voice of the San Juans. Competing against 36 others, over a period of a month, Teira, (pronounced Tayra), with her powerful mezzo soprano voice, commanded the stage at the Pavilion, Saturday, Sept. 10. Reminiscent of Jennifer Hudson, Teira displayed her talent and professionalism and rose to the final four.
She was chosen by a vote of the four judges as well as the audience, using their Smart phones to vote for the four finalists. Teira was awarded $1,000 from the competition sponsor, Altrusa International of Montrose.
She spoke of her background. “My parents were involved in Christian missions from the time I was born until a few years ago,” she said. “They worked with YWAM, Youth with a Mission. Their main ministry was performing arts—they would dance, they would sing. That’s how they would minister or reach out to people.” They lived in Papua until Teira was five when they moved to the U.S.
Music was always a large part of her life and if she had not been gifted with a tremendous voice, it’s likely that she would have been singing anyway. But she did have the talent. “Every summer since I was nine or ten, my parents would take teams of youngsters overseas for four to five week trips,” she said. “They would teach them dancing and singing with a mission to reach out to young people.”
She wasn’t comfortable singing in front of people until she was around 12. Her father was doing a chapel service at the school she was attending at the time. “He kept asking me to sing and I wouldn’t do it,” she recalled. “But one of my friends was going to sing on the stage and I said I’d go with her.” It’s very tempting to say, and the rest is history…
She has a composure and maturity you might not expect to see in a Montrose 20-year-old. But some can be attributed to the experience gained in traveling to 11 countries since she was nine.
Interestingly, South Korea was her favorite. “You know it’s one of the most scary countries to go to because its culture is so different from ours,” she observed. “With all that’s on them and with how strict the culture is, they are the most welcoming people. They absolutely loved having us there.”
Her talent has been nurtured with voice lessons from middle school on. She took an introductory year of voice from piano teacher Maggie Cleve. Then Allyson Crosby, a Montrose voice teacher, coached her in the following years. Crosby has given private lessons for 20 years and taught K-12 music and choir in Ouray. She is presently teaching elementary music in Olathe and and soon will be teaching at the Oak Grove school in Montrose. Crosby was also Teira’s coach for The Voice of the San Juans competition. “We did a lot of work leading up to it,” said Teira, “so winning was kind of a fun ending to that.”
As to college, Teira says she thought of pursuing a music degree, but it didn’t resonate for her. “There was just nothing that I was super passionate about that I wanted to go to school for,” she said.
“My heart is really in doing Christian mission work. I had the opportunity to do a performing arts school, a five-month course in Australia and South Africa right after high school. It was through the same organization my parents used to be a part of. We did a lot of children’s work, teaching them songs and dances. That’s sort of where my passion lies.”
She has worked at the Stone House restaurant in Montrose since she was 16, working her way up from busser to hostess and now, server.
So with Teira Ila, it’s all about the heart and the voice or the voice and the heart. She would love a career in the performing arts, using that magnificent gift of her voice. But if that doesn’t happen she says she would continue to work and do missions.
But there is no doubt that whatever she puts her heart into, there will be joy in that endeavor.