Kendra Colton ’83

  • Associate Professor of Voice

Areas of Study


  • BM, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, 1983
  • MM in voice, University of Cincinnati, 1985
  • MM in piano, University of Cincinnati, 1985
  • Additional studies at the Konservatorium und Musik Hochschule, Zürich, Switzerland, and the Hochschule für Musik, Vienna, Austria


Noted soprano soloist Kendra Colton has performed with the Boston, Indianapolis, Houston, National, Pittsburgh and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras; the Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

The 1983 Oberlin graduate originally trained as a pianist. She didn’t start studying voice until her second year at Oberlin. She is adept at a wide range of repertoire, and has developed a niche in oratorio and sacred works from Bach to Brahms, has given acclaimed performances of Handel and Mozart operas, and is recognized for her interpretation of contemporary chamber music and championing of little-known works written in the last century. 

In 2013, Colton joined forces with longtime collaborator and former Oberlin classmate Kayo Iwama to record the remarkable set of songs by Welsh composer Andy Vores in Oberlin’s Clonick Hall and recording studio. Iwama is associate director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Their collaboration led to the recording, The Reckless Heart (2015) on the Oberlin Music label.

She has performed oratorio, opera and orchestral works that have included Mozart’s Il Re Pastore (Aminta) for Boston Lyric Opera and Handel’s Tolomeo (Seleuce) at the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany.

Performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, and Christmas Oratorio; Handel’s Messiah, Solomon, and Saul oratorios; Mass in C Minor and Requiem by Mozart; and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.

  • Oberlin Conservatory Excellence in Teaching Award (2019-20)
  • Naumberg Competition, Concert Artists Guild, Young Concert Artists (Finalist)
  • Alfredo Kraus International Singing Concours (Second Place)
  • New York Metropolitan Opera Auditions (First Place, Milwaukee and Cincinnati)
  • National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Auditions (Third Place, National Finals)

A partial listing of premiere performances include the following:

  • World premieres of John Harbison’s Aria (Song for a Rainy Day)
  • Andy Vores’ Uncertainty is Beautiful and The Reckless Heart
  • Mass for a Sacred Place by Stephen Paulus
  • Martin Boykan’s Sea Gardens.

  • Lukas Foss Griffelkin, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Chandos)
  • J.S. Bach Cantata arias, BSO oboist Wayne Rapier (Boston Records)
  • J.S. Bach St. John Passion, Emmanuel Music (Koch)
  • J.S. Bach Cantatas BWV 133, 76, Emmanuel Music (Koch)
  • Tomiko Kojibah Transmigration of the Soul, Santa Fe Chamber Music (Stereophile)
  • Joseph Marx He Brought Me Roses, 25 Lieder, Laura Ward, pianist
  • Le Charme, 24 chansons by Fauré, Debussy, Poulenc, and Chausson, Laura Ward, pianist
  • The Reckless Heart, Kendra Colton, soprano and Kayo Iwama, piano; Boston Celebrity Series, Oberlin Music label 

  • Boston University
  • Walnut Hill School for the performing arts
  • Phillips Exeter Academy
  • Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Spring 2024

Principal Private Study - Voice — PVST 002
Secondary Private Study - Voice — PVST 052
Chamber Music — APST 800
Contemporary Chamber Music — APST 805

Fall 2024

Principal Private Study - Voice — PVST 002
Secondary Private Study - Voice — PVST 052
Chamber Music — APST 800


Voice Professor Kendra Colton Premieres John Harbison Work

January 9, 2023

Oberlin voice professor and soprano Kendra Colton '83 has sung the music of John Harbison for some 25 years, including her 2020 album Late Air (Oberlin Music label) that includes music representing three decades of his writing. The two reunited for recent world premieres of Harbison's 2022 song cycle Winter Journey, based on three poems from Louise Glück’s recent collection, Winter Recipes from the Collective. Written in two different formats—one for voice with piano and another for voice with small ensemble—Colton performed the first version at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in September 2022 with pianist Kayo Iwama '83. The second version was created for the 50th anniversary season of Boston's Collage New Music ensemble and was performed in October at Elizabeth Parks Killian Hall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

View the MIT performance.


Summer in San Francisco

October 5, 2022

Oberlin’s Vocal Studies students are often encouraged to seek out summer enrichment opportunities. These experiences add to Oberlin’s training and allow students to explore potential roles and repertoire while expanding their network. SongFest, an art song program in California, has been a regular choice for many Oberlin vocal students. This program offers master classes, concerts, daily lessons, and coachings.