Kirk Severtson (Professor of Music) is an opera conductor, vocal coach, and pianist in the Department of Voice & Opera at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD). Previously, he was Professor of Music at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, where he taught for eighteen years, serving as musical director of the Crane Opera Ensemble, coaching singers and pianists, and teaching classes in art song repertoire and accompanying. He is a frequent guest coach and masterclass technician at universities across the country.
A regular member of the music staff at The Dallas Opera for over ten years, his professional operatic activity also includes numerous productions at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Atlanta Opera, and Opera Saratoga, among others. Other professional activities include conducting/music directing at the Brancaleoni International Music Festival (Italy), the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and coaching at Opera Viva (Verona, Italy), the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, Opera North (NH), the Opera Theater of Lucca (Italy), Cincinnati Opera outreach, the Rising Star Singers festival, Dorian Opera Theater, and the Aspen Music Festival.
Numerous productions that he has conducted have received national awards, including first-place awards from The American Prize, the National Opera Association, and the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival for productions at the University of Michigan, the Manhattan School of Music, and SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
A strong proponent of new works, Severtson has conducted or coached over twenty productions or workshops of 21st-century operas. He was the founding music director of the Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize, which commissions and fosters new operas focused on social themes relevant to diversity and inclusion, and led the commissioning of Tom Cipullo’s opera MAYO, which included developmental workshops and conducting the world premiere. He has also served on the music staff for four notable world premieres with The Dallas Opera: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer), GREAT SCOTT (Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally), BECOMING SANTA CLAUS (Mark Adamo), and EVEREST (Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer).
His administrative experience includes over fifteen years in leadership positions with the National Opera Association, including as Executive Director since 2020, and as a member of the Steering Committee of OPERA America’s Professional Development Network. He currently serves as Coordinator of Opera Activities at the University of Michigan, and previously 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, at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
Severtson holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati (D.M.A. and M.M., both in piano performance) and Luther College (B.A. with majors in music, math, and computer science), which awarded him the Weston H. Noble Award in 2022.
University of Cincinnati, D.M.A. and M.M. in piano performance
Luther College, B.A. with majors in music, math, and computer science