Lizzo is one of today’s most popular performers, known for ability to rap, sing, act, as well as being a classically trained flautist, the vivacious singer has shown herself to be a multi-talented performer, who isn’t afraid to take risks. Despite her seemingly meteoric rise to the top of the charts, many people do not know about Lizzo’s long climb to the top and how she became famous.
Lizzo’s original claim to fame was as a flute player. The songstress was so skilled with the instrument that she had a scholarship to the University of Houston to study music, long before she ever dreamed of being a singer or an actress.
Read more about Lizzo’s musical background, the tragic loss that changed the course of her future, and how she spent a decade making music before she became a superstar.
Bona Fide Band Geek
Lizzo was born in Detroit, but her family relocated to Houston, Texas before she started middle school. Though Lizzo grew up surrounded by music, her first love was not actually singing, but playing flute.
Lizzo began playing the flute at school in Houston where she fell in love with the woodwind instrument. Speaking of her dedication to the flute, she said, “I remember in the fifth grade, I just wanted to be really good. I was, like, ‘I want to be really good at the flute. Everybody else is so bad.’ And it was so hard to be good at it. It’s a very difficult instrument. I became, like, obsessed with being good.”
The singer proudly considers herself a “band geek,” and Lizzo attended band camp, where she practiced learning to play songs by ear, in addition to reading the sheet music for the pieces she performed. Lizzo joined the marching band at Alief Elsik High School and began studying with the principal flautist at the prestigious Houston Ballet during her junior year.
By the time she graduated high school, Lizzo had decided to pursue music as a career. She attended the University of Houston on a scholarship where she majored in classical flute performance. While in college, she was also a member of the Spirit of Houston Marching Band.
Lizzo had big dreams for her post-college life, with a plan to move to Paris to further hone her skills, then join a symphony. Speaking of the derailed plans, the singer said, “I was going to study flute at the Paris Conservatory, and I was going to really just, you know, wait in line for that first chair. I saw a life of concert black and Boston Pops and traveling the world. And when that didn’t pan out for me, I was very depressed. I was very sad.”
Tragedy and a New Trajectory
Tragically Lizzo’s father passed away in 2009, during Lizzo’s junior year at the University of Houston. Unable to come to terms with his passing, Lizzo dropped out of college, describing herself as depressed and without purpose.
Without her scholarship, money was tight and Lizzo dealt with bouts of homelessness, living out of her car, for a period of time following dropping out of school. Eventually Lizzo moved to Minneapolis to pursue her career as a performer, leaving her old life behind.
Lizzo paid her dues in Minnesota, where she released her first solo album without a record deal. Though her success was mainly local, Lizzo toured the country, and then headed to perform in the U.K., where she caught the attention of record executives.
Lizzo’s star rose rapidly over the next few years after she signed a deal with Atlantic Records and she rose to international fame with the release of her third studio album, Cuz I Love You, in 2019. The album was well-received by critics and fans alike, and was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.
You can see Lizzo discuss her meteoric rise to superstar over the past year in the YouTube video below.
Though it is Lizzo’s talent and passion that launched her career, she’s never forgotten her first passion of flute playing. She routinely plays flute during her live performances and though it might not be the symphony, thousands of fans are still getting to see her fame-making skills up close and personal.