Karen Brunssen, mezzo-soprano, is Co-chair of the Department of Music Performance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is currently the Immediate Past-President of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) and served as President and President-Elect from 2016-2020. She was Program Chair for the 2016 54th NATS National Conference in Chicago, was a NATS Intern Master Teacher in 2013, was governor of NATS Central Region from 2013 to 2016 where she expanded activities to include an annual conference along with student auditions. She has been a member of the esteemed American Academy of Teachers of Singing since 2013, was president of the Chicago Singing Teachers Guild, and vice president and president of Chicago Chapter NATS where she started the annual vocal competition. She is author of The Evolving Singing Voice: Changes Across the Lifespan published in 2018 by Plural Publishing. It chronicles changes in respiration, vibration and resonance, and the impact on realistic, age appropriate expectations for vocal development throughout a lifetime of singing.
Karen is a frequent vocal clinician, master teacher, panelist, adjudicator and presenter around the world. Most recently at the 2020 Online Eurovox Conference for the European Voice Teachers Association, the 2020 Classical Singer Virtual Conference, 2020 Classical Singer Music China Competition, NATS National Student Auditions annually, 2020 and 2018 NATSAA Competitions, 2019 teaching residency for Shallaway Youth Choir in New Foundland, 2018 NATS National Conference, 2017 International Congress of Voice Teachers in Stockholm, Sweden, the 2017 National Collegiate Choral Organization, a keynote presenter for the International Symposium on Singing and Song at the University of Newfoundland in 2015 and presented at the Podium2016-Choral Canada, 2018 NATSAA finals adjudicator in New York City, NSA Finals in 2015 and 2017, presentations at the NATS National Conferences in 2020, 2018, 2014, 2012, NATS Winter Workshops, the 2019 and 2015 ACDA National Conferences, 2016 ACDA Central Region Conference, Northwest Region NATS Conference, West Central Region NATS, Central Region NATS, Missouri District NATS, Ohio Buckeye, Chicago, Tennessee, and Wisconsin NATS Chapters, Classical Singer Conferences, Association of Teachers of Singing in England, Opera America, and Chorus America.
Karen has done many teaching residencies at Cambridge University involving many of the colleges including Kings, Clare, Jesus, St. John’s, Pembroke, and more. She returned regularly for residencies with the Zürcher Sing-Akadmie in Zurich, Switzerland, taught at the Brancaleoni International Music Festival, the Atlantic Music Festival, the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy, Castleton Music Festival, and Dorian Opera Theatre.
Her singing career has spanned over 30 years including solo appearances with Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis, National, San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee, Netherlands Radio, Halle, and Mexico City Symphony Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, Music of the Baroque, Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Opera Theatre, Carmel Bach Festival, Prague Autumn Festival, Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Aspen Music Festival, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. Recordings include Telemann’s Day of Judgment, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with Music of the Baroque, John Philip Sousa’s Desiree, and others on Decca and Vox MMG.
Students of Karen’s have gone on to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, (Todd Wilander in 2000, and Madison Leonard in 2018, Ryan Belongie semi-finalist in 2009), Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, McAllister Competition, Oratorio Society of New York, Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation, Loren L. Zachary Society Auditions, and more. They have sung professionally and in young artist programs with the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Merola Opera and Adler Fellowship Programs with San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Santa Fe, Chautauqua, Des Moines Metro Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera, Wolf Trap, Aspen Music Festival, and Sarasota Opera, as well as concert, opera, recital, and oratorio throughout the United States and Europe. Others have performed on and off Broadway and with national music theater tours and are teaching privately and at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Karen attended Luther College, and did graduate work at the Yale School of Music and Kent State University. In 2013 she was presented the Weston Noble Award by Luther College. She is a Consultant Editor with Plural Publishing.