Korff School welcomes guest artist, alumna Beacom

· 6 min read

Korff School welcomes guest artist, alumna Beacom

Karen Hughes Beacom
Karen Hughes Beacom

Karen Hughes Beacom — director of music at Little Stone Church, founder and artistic director of the Soo Opera Theatre and a University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumna — will be a guest artist in the Glenn Korff School of Music Feb. 9-12.

She will present a guest recital titled “Sing to Love!” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in Kimball Recital Hall. The concert is free and open to the public. The concert will also be live webcast. Click here the day of the performance for the link.

“I will basically be performing my all-time favorites—Puccini, Verdi, Kern, Bernstein, Schumann,” Beacom said. “I live in the world of opera and Broadway, so mixing these two genres is often my go-to programming for recitals. With Valentine’s Day so close to our performance date, we figured a love theme would suit. My favorite romantic roles are Mimi in ‘La Boheme,’ Cio-Cio San in ‘Madama Butterfly’ and Violetta in ‘La Traviata,’ so I am including selections from these three. We’ll begin with love at its best (Schumann’s ‘Widmung’) and love at first sight (‘Mi chiamano Mimi’) and go through some of the not-so-good times (‘West Side Story’ and ‘Traviata’) and end with a toast (‘Die Fledermaus’) in “Sing to Love!” Joining me will be Suna and Thomas Gunther, and we will be collaborating with UNL pianist Michael Cotton.”

In addition, Beacom will do a master class and Q&A session with students in the Korff School and will host auditions/interviews for a new summer internship her opera company is launching this year. The master class and Q&A session are 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. Feb. 10 and will be accessible to the public via Zoom here (passcode: 764330).

“This is our first effort to have a national search for apprentice artists,” Beacom said. “For over 10 years, we have had the makings of this program with local singers participating in a week-long workshop, master classes, performing an annual vocal gala, and performing small roles and chorus in the main-stage opera.”

Soo Opera Theatre is establishing a Young Artist Program for the first time in its 15-year production history. Young artists will be selected by audition from major universities, including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The selected artists will have the opportunity to sing solo with the orchestra in an aria showcase concert, perform a main role in a young artist opera production, take part in outreach performances and master classes, and understudy industry professionals in the main-stage opera, “La Boheme.” The program will run for three weeks in late July and early August.

“We are very excited to expand these offerings in our next steps to becoming an official apprentice artist program to university students and aspiring singers,” Beacom said. “We also take pride in offering these performing opportunities to local adults and talented amateur singers. The relationships made between our local contingent and our guest artists is one facet of our program that is unique and special.”

Suna Gunther, assistant professor of music in voice in the Korff School, directed the summer opera and vocal workshop at Soo Opera for the past two seasons.

“I am thrilled that Karen will be back at UNL to work with our students and perform for our audiences,” Gunther said. “Karen is an inspiration in so many ways — as a fabulous professional opera singer, harpist, pianist and organist, as an expressive stage actress, as the artistic director of Soo Theatre and as a highly experienced teacher. She is an amazing example to our students how many different career paths are available to them, and how to achieve excellence on those paths. Her visit will not only give our students broader lessons to take with them to the practice room, but tangible real-world opportunities in the form of young artist auditions — an essential stepping-stone for any aspiring opera singer’s portfolio.”

Beacom looks forward to working with students during her visit.

“Working with the next generation is a way to pay it forward and to keep our art form alive,” she said. “We need to keep the flame burning and pass the torch when it’s time. Without the training that I received from my mentors and teachers and all of the master classes and experiences they provided, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It will be an honor to work with the students at my alma mater, and I hope I can pass on some of the wisdom that was bestowed upon me. When Suna was hired at UNL, I was over the moon. I am very much looking forward to hearing great singers from the School of Music.”

Beacom received her Master of Music in vocal performance from Nebraska in 2000 after studying voice in New York City under Metropolitan Opera singer Ariel Bybee. She also received her Bachelor of Music degree in harp performance from DePauw University.

“I came to UNL when Ariel Bybee was hired as an artist-in-residence,” Beacom said. “I was a musical theater student at AMDA in New York City, and Ariel had just retired from a 20-year career as a mezzo-soprano at the MET and was my assigned teacher. The timing couldn’t have been better for me. I was still in need of really securing a solid vocal technique, and I had majored in harp performance in undergraduate so I needed to ‘catch up.’ I was awarded a full-tuition graduate assistantship at UNL to begin my master’s in voice and headed out of Brooklyn in a U-Haul and came to Nebraska sight unseen.”

While at Nebraska, she performed in the premiere of “O Pioneers!” by Tyler White and directed by William Shomos.

“Having a role tailored to your voice is an unforgettable experience,” Beacom said. “And to tie it into Nebraska history and culture was pretty great. Another unforgettable experience was the cameo appearance in the Act 2 party scene of ‘Die Fledermaus’ by the Cornhusker Marching Band mid-opera.”

She is the director of music at Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island in Michigan, as well as the founder and artistic director of the Soo Opera Theatre in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which is heading into its 16th season. In addition to her private vocal studio, she also taught music at Lake Superior State University for 15 years.

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