Since her graduation 37 years ago, Wendy White Aftab ’75 has headlined concerts and recordings alongside luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta.
Her mezzo-soprano voice has soared above legendary symphony orchestras and filled the greatest opera houses in the world. To this day Wendy holds close the lessons she learned as a voice major in the Wheaton College Conservatory.
While at Wheaton, Wendy used to sing for a broadcast called Telephone Request, which aired on WMBI in Chicago. “People would call in and ask for their favorite piece to be sung live on the air. Many times it was a piece that I didn’t know, and I would have to sight read it on the air,” Wendy laughed. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so terrible!’ But in actuality, God had given that opportunity to teach me to stay calm in all circumstances. And it taught me so much about what my future would be like.”
Wendy’s hopes for the future were challenged when a woman called the show one night and asked about Wendy’s plans after graduation. “By that point I knew that I was going to go into opera. She started telling me why this was just so terrible, that I should only be singing Christian music, and that I wasn’t walking with Christ.” Wendy responded to that caller the same way she responds to critics today. “When God says to go into the world and preach the Gospel, it is in every field that we are called to be. God gifted me in the opera field, and he has given me so many opportunities to speak his name and to be a reflection of what Christ is—in me, through me—so that people see there is a difference in someone who knows Christ. When I walk out on that stage, I know that God has surrounded me, I’m protected, and that he has given me this opportunity to let that light shine.“
Wendy hopes the next generation of Wheaton students, including her daughter, Alyssa Aftab ’12, will hold onto the lessons they have learned here as well. “When you go out into the world, your foundation has to be within. You have to know who you are. You have to understand what Christ’s gifts are within you and how you’re going to utilize them for Him in the life and career that you have chosen. You don’t have to be quiet.”