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Faculty & Staff Profiles

Kirk Severtson

Clinical Professor of Music, Voice


Kirk Severtson joined the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) voice department in 2019 to serve as vocal coach and conductor for the opera program. Previously, from 2001–19, he taught at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, where as professor of music he served as musical director of the Crane Opera Ensemble, coached singers and pianists, and taught classes in art song repertoire and accompanying. At SUNY Potsdam, numerous performances of the Crane Opera Ensemble under his musical direction garnered first-place awards from the National Opera Association and The American Prize, as well as honors from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival. His professional operatic activity has included serving on the music staff for numerous recent productions at The Dallas Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Atlanta Opera, and Opera Saratoga, among others.

A strong proponent of new works, he was the founding music director for the Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize, which commissions and fosters new operas focused on social themes relevant to diversity and inclusion; he was music director and conductor for the most recent four-year cycle, which culminated in a November 2018 premiere of Tom Cipullo’s work Mayo. He also served on the music staff for three notable world premieres in Dallas: Great Scott by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally, and Becoming Santa Claus by Mark Adamo, and Everest by Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer.

Other professional activities include conducting at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and coaching at Opera Viva (Verona, Italy), the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, Opera North (NH), the Opera Theater of Lucca (Italy), the Cincinnati Opera outreach program, the Rising Star Singers festival, Dorian Opera Theater, and as a Vocal Chamber Music Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival.

A versatile collaborative artist, he appears frequently as pianist and harpsichordist in song and chamber music recitals and was principal keyboardist with the Orchestra of Northern New York for many years. At the Crane School of Music, he served six years as chair of the Music Performance Department as well as a one-year external interim chair for the Department of Theory, History, and Composition. He is actively involved with the National Opera Association, serving as associate executive director and webmaster. He holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati (DMA and MM, both in piano performance) and Luther College (BA with majors in music, math, and computer science).

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