Solita Hanna, 28, mostly learned her craft by watching YouTube videos.
When social workers at the Transitional Living Community asked the women residents there to share their talents, they weren’t expecting Solita Hanna to stand up and belt out “Nacht und Träume,” a classical Franz Schubert song, in impeccable German.
Twenty-eight-year-old Solita had come to the community through a homeless shelter, just one of many she had passed through over the course of her adult life. “We had no idea this young lady could sing,” Adrienne Terry, the program director for the center, told the New York Times. “She just blew us all away and brought tears to our eyes.”
It was in San Francisco, thanks to generous donation, that Solita had developed her passion for opera under the guidance of an instructor. But other than this brief period of formal education, Solita largely learned her craft through watching YouTube videos. Having suffered from severe mental illness her entire life, Solita has found music to be a constant and reliable source of solace in her unpredictable life.
When she arrived in New York, Solita was fortunately referred to the Transitional Living Community, where she has access not only to food and shelter but also to a counselor and a psychiatrist. “I had never heard of mental health shelters until now,” Hanna says.
Though she says she is far from being a professional opera singer, Solita hopes to continue developing her talents, and for now the shelter encourages her to perform at local events and fundraisers.