Distinguished singer emphasizes overall wellness, relishes classroom teaching in addition to private lessons.
Soprano Katherine Jolly, a winner of the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals, has been named Associate Professor of Voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Her appointment begins with the fall 2019 semester.
Jolly arrives at Oberlin after serving for two years on the faculty of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and she began her teaching career at Saint Louis University. She earned grants from both institutions and was named a finalist for Saint Louis’ Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2017.
“Teaching has always been in my blood,” says Jolly, a native of California whose parents were college professors. She began teaching private voice lessons after earning her master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2001.
Jolly’s attraction to Oberlin includes the institution’s legacy of inclusion and social justice, as well as the nurturing atmosphere she steps into at the conservatory. “The dynamic in Oberlin’s voice department begins with the faculty,” she says. “There is an excitement you can just feel and an enthusiasm that I’m looking forward to being part of.”
At the core of Jolly’s approach to teaching is an emphasis on physical and mental well-being, principles instilled in her as a young dancer and through years of yoga and mindfulness studies—disciplines she explored early in her professional singing career to help cope with stress and stave off injury. She is also a certified yoga instructor.
As a performer, Jolly has enjoyed leading coloratura and soubrette roles with companies including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, New York City Opera, and American Lyric Theater. She has appeared with the Phoenix Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Northwest Florida Symphony, Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra, and Chamber Project St. Louis, among other groups. One of Jolly’s first professional roles was with Lyric Opera Cleveland under Jonathon Field, Oberlin’s longtime professor of opera theater.
Jolly’s principal teacher throughout her career has been Barbara Honn, with whom she studied while earning her master’s degree at CCM. She later returned to CCM for doctoral studies, earning a DMA in vocal pedagogy under Thomas Baresel in 2015. She has presented workshops on yoga, singing, and performance anxiety for the Voice Foundation, National Association of Teachers of Singing, the National Percussion Pedagogy Conference, the College Music Society, and the Mindfulness Institute and Know Your Voice workshop at the Jacobs School of Music. She is a frequent guest clinician with organizations including the Schmidt Foundation, Opera Theatre Saint Louis’ Spring Training program, NATS, and ArtsBridge.
Jolly has earned awards from organizations including the George London Foundation, Opera Theatre Saint Louis, and the McAllister Foundation.
Like many of her fellow faculty at Oberlin, Jolly looks forward to continuing her performance career while teaching. She is represented by Berger Artists Management. Her recording of new works by Evan Williams and Evan Mack will be released this year on the PARMA label.
“Prior to returning for my doctoral studies, I led master classes pretty much everywhere I went to sing. I found that those students stayed in my heart and I thought about them wherever I went,” she says. “I am blessed to have this balance at this point in my life where I feel fulfilled on both levels. I’m happy to be able to pay forward the wonderful teaching I have had throughout my life.”
In addition to maintaining a private studio, Jolly will teach a class on wellness for musicians, a course she developed while teaching at Indiana University.
“I think that there’s a new understanding that we are all humans and we can do our best work if we take care of ourselves and if we take care of each other, and I am happy to be teaching from that perspective,” says Jolly, who notes that classroom experiences at Oberlin will allow her to develop connections with the greatest possible number of students.
“We are thrilled to welcome Katherine to our voice faculty,” says Salvatore Champagne, chair of Oberlin’s Division of Vocal Studies. “It was immediately clear from Katherine’s technical expertise, enthusiasm, and generous spirit that she was an exceptional candidate. She perfectly complements the voice faculty in bringing a holistic approach to the training of young singers. We look forward to the many exciting ways in which Katherine will enhance the division’s mission moving forward.”
“I am really looking forward to joining this outstanding faculty,” Jolly says. “I have so many friends who went to Oberlin and are thriving as singers, musicians, and teachers. So to join such an illustrious faculty that is also such a warm group of people, I’m feeling very grateful and very excited to be a part of it.”