Class Year: 1975
Major at MC: Double Major: Art (Painting/Art History) & Music (Piano Performance)
Senior Thesis Title/Topic: “15th c. Illuminated Music Manuscripts and 13th c. Byzantine Icons-Research & Replication”
Current Town/City of Residence: Richmond, VA
Occupation: University professor, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and Artistic Director of VCU Opera
Family: Husband-Dr. Roland Karnatz of Melbourne, Australia
Q: Describe your career path since graduating from MC.
A: After graduation I began graduate studies at Boston University’s School of Music, where I completed two MMus degrees: one in Piano Performance and one in Vocal Coaching/Vocal Accompanying. I also completed a Performer’s Certificate at the Franz Schubert-Institut in Vienna, Austria. After my graduate degrees, I remained at BU for another year, working as Coach for the opera department and Staff Accompanist and also serving as Principal Coach and Chorusmaster for Boston Concert Opera. I then moved to Richmond and began working at VCU, where I oversee the opera program, teach Voice Masterclass weekly, History of the Art Song, and serve as departmental Vocal Coach for the upperclass voice majors.
Along the way, I endeavored to keep myself professionally fresh to the best of my ability (academia can be rather insular if one is not careful) by undertaking some international work. For example, I teamed up with a fantastic soprano and we applied to the USIA in Washington, D.C., for a program called Artistic Ambassadors. We were selected along with 10 other duos nationwide and were assigned a 3-week tour of the north and east coasts of South America. These 16 concerts and masterclasses were sponsored by the foreign embassies of Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. How much we learned from this adventure! In addition, I was also invited by a mezzo-soprano to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica, performing and presenting masterclasses. These events were sponsored by Coca-Cola International and the Costa Rican Cultural Center.
For one summer I worked at the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy, and then for 14 summers, I worked in Rome, Italy, for the Operafestival di Roma as Principal Coach. Shortly before its founder passed away, I was asked to serve as Artistic Director, a post that I accepted for the last six of those years. What an amazing blessing those experiences were! I also taught for two summers at The Santa Fe Opera, where I presented lecture classes on the repertoire presented that season.
Q: Describe your job or a typical day “in the office.”
A: Not too exciting, honestly, except that I love my students! Well, I arrive at 9 a.m. typically and complete administrative deskwork for ½ hour or so. Then I begin teaching private lessons and opera coachings all day long. In-between lessons, I may have a class to teach. Opera Theatre is always at the end of the day. The average day is 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, we often have recitals or dress rehearsals for student recitals from our own studios or others for which we serve as grader.
Q: What has been your most exciting/enjoyable professional experience to date?
A: Working in Rome and producing three productions each summer with a large group of singers from across the USA and Canada together with a fabulous full-time professional Italian orchestra – AND our students here at VCU. Honestly, I could not be more fortunate. These students at VCU are jewels. It has been enormously gratifying to make the long journey from freshman to senior with each one of them. I often see these students in class or one-on-one maybe 5 times a week, so in this context, one gets to know them deeply as people.
Q: Professionally or personally, what’s still on your “bucket list”?
A: Spend a month in some Tuscan or Umbrian village in a rental farmhouse just to rest, read and cook! Also, I’d love to spend more time in my husband’s country, Australia!
Q: How did your MC experience prepare you for your vocation and/or life?
A: In my estimation, Maryville College’s standards at that time were extremely high across the board. The bar was set high, and the students rose to the challenge. In particular, I felt the music history, music theory and art history courses were outstanding and quite demanding. The curriculum was so beautifully balanced across the disciplines (science, philosophy, languages, etc.), which afforded everyone necessary ‘breadth’ for life’s challenges. In addition to the academic and outstanding performance preparation, the spiritual component of our education was invaluable.
Q: What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?
A: Cook and entertain. My husband is an avid gardener, and we also have chickens and bees! So, we are able to prepare many dishes from our own backyard. He also loves to cook, and we frequently have friendly battles over who ‘gets’ to cook dinner each night!
Q: What’s your best memory from your years as a student at MC?
A: Well, of course – the Concert Choir with Harry Harter was huge! But also, the ‘J Term’ course with Professor Victor Schoen when we spent 10 days in NYC at the MET with all sorts of backstage experiences and in-depth study beforehand.
Q: Complete this sentence: I’m glad Maryville College still has:
A: … such an outstanding choir director in Stacey Wilner, who is an astonishingly gifted and dedicated teacher and administrator for the Choral Program. The students with whom we worked this ‘J Term’ were every bit as driven and positive and motivated as I recall from the ‘old days’…….