It’s one of those “Westport connections” stories.
Terry Eldh — a conservatory-trained singer — was invited to perform at the wedding of 2 friends from Staples High School: fellow cheerleader Karen Waltrip and football star Dan Bennewitz.
Karen’s father Bill — the president and CEO of Pan American Airlines — introduced Terry to the secretary of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. The non-profit provides grants to opera singers on the brink of international careers.
Terry did not get one. But the secretary introduced her to Larry Stayer, James Levine’s right-hand man at the Metropolitan Opera.
He did not hire her. But he offered encouragement.
“Get your technique together,” Stayer told Terry. “You can make this a career.”
His positive feedback changed her life.
She left her job on Wall Street — hey, singers have to pay the bills — and landed a summer workshop role as Susanna in “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Terry was on her way.
Until then, her life had unfolded in typical fashion — typical for a multi-faceted Westporter, anyway.
Her parents moved here in the middle of her sophomore year. “Staples was the perfect place for me,” Terry says. She sang with the elite Orphenians, starred in Players’ “Wizard of Oz,” and captained the cheerleading team.
She spent the summer before senior year in Turkey, as an American Field Service exchange student.
Terry then studied music, business and French at the University of Connecticut. She did a junior year abroad, at the University of Rouens. On a whim, she auditioned for the conservatory there. She got in — and won first prize at the year-end competition.
“I was just there for fun!” she marvels.
Terry then spent a year at the Manhattan School of Music. But when they wanted her to commit to 4 more years of vocal classes, she joined the “real world” of temping, then institutional sales for a boutique brokerage firm.
After “Figaro” and 3 apprenticeships, she began landing roles.
In the late 1980s, friends were hired for Broadway shows that required classical techniques: “Les Miserables,” “Miss Saigon,” “Phantom of the Opera.”
The actors’ union was stronger than the opera singers’. Health insurance was better. And long-running shows “allow you to have a life,” Terry says.
She went to a Broadway “cattle call” auditions, then 2 callbacks.
Several months passed. In the fall of 1991, director Hal Prince invited her to sing for him.
Soon, she was covering Carlotta.
She stayed with “Phantom” for 8 years.
After Broadway, Terry did many things: corporate seminar facilitation, legal temping, church singing. Her sight reading skills landed her work at Alice Tully and Carnegie Halls. She sang locally at the Levitt Pavilion, too.
She does not know where the next turn of her life path came from, but she explored healing.
An introductory Reiki course intrigued her. She studied to the master level, and beyond.
More than 2 decades ago, she heard about “sound healing”: using instruments, music, tones and other sonic vibrations to balance and heal the body, mind and spirit. Over the years, she became a sound healer.
When COVID struck, Terry was working at GE Capital. With stress levels high at the beginning of the pandemic, the head of their wellness program invited her to livestream a sound meditation for the entire division.
She took a quick course in how to livestream effectively.
Over 100 employees tuned it. Feedback was excellent.
Terry realized she could fill an important need. She created an LLC for SoulOSoaring, and set up a website.
A year ago, Terry retired from GE. She’s now a full-time sound healer, with a Southport studio.
She offers in-person and online sound meditations (“baths”) for individuals, groups and corporations.
She trains people who want to use alchemy crystal singing bowls. She sells the bowls too, for personal use or gifts.
Sound healing “slows down brain waves,” Terry explains. “You get to a meditative state, closer to your subconscious, so healing can take place.”
Many clients are already wellness practitioners. They want to add sound healing to their modalities, or do it exclusively.
Others are curious. They soon become believers, Terry says.
“This is my path,” she says. “I’m so drawn to it. I’m following the bread crumbs in front of me.”
(Click here for Terry Eldh’s website. On May 10, Terry will be part of the 6 p.m. “Self-Checkout” monthly mindfulness series at the Westport Library. Click here for more details.)
(When Staples graduates forge new paths, “06880” is there. Please click here to help us tell their stories. Thank you!)
Yet again, Dan, you’ve found and featured a gem of a human being. Terry’s heart and work are so pure: I’m so glad she found this path, and that you helped by sharing it.
This woman can do anything–and well. Thanks for showcasing her talents.
OK I really must comment about Terry! You can all see that she is gorgeous. You can listen to her and be amazed at her musical talent. But what I need to add is that you couldn’t find a nicer sweeter person. Every where she goes she brings ☀️ sunshine. I met Terry on my first day of Staples High School. It was HER first day too! We became fast friends. She sang at my wedding like an angel. Terry also has a wonderful family – and loads of friends. Dan – thanks for this terrific article about a truly fantastic person.