Karen Kennedy

Title/Position: Associate Professor, Director of Choral Studies


What would you say are the outstanding highlights of your professional life?
I have had the good fortune to conduct concerts in some of the world’s most renowned venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, and several of Europe’s greatest cathedrals. However, some of my fondest memories come from my work with All-State Choirs across the country. Seeing a group of high school singers from every possible background in the same room, giving their time to become a single choir is truly where my heart lives.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young musician?
Aristotle had it right: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Not every rehearsal or performance reaches the pinnacle of excellence, nor should it.  It is striving that helps us grow as artists and as people.

Describe the perfect performance, either as a participant or as a listener.

Regardless of whether I’m on the podium or in the audience, the best performances always generate an addictive combination of physical exhilaration and emotional exhaustion.

Why did you choose music as a career?
When I was a student, I spent every hour of class looking forward to my one hour of choir and my weekly piano lessons.  When I discovered that I could spend all day—every day—immersed in music by becoming a professional musician, all other options paled in comparison.

What do you hope to pass on to your students?
I hope my students will always remain students. My favorite people will always be the life-long learners who take delight in the opportunity to evolve, expanding their knowledge long after their formal educations are complete.

Short Biography:
Praised by the San Francisco Classical Voice for her “wizardry with voices” and named by the Honolulu Star Bulletin as “ . . . a popular and charismatic leader,” Karen Kennedy is currently the Director of Choral Studies at the University of Miami where she oversees a vibrant DMA and MM program in choral conducting. Previous to her appointment in Miami, she held positions as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, Artistic Director of the Honolulu Symphony Chorus, and Director of Choral Studies at Towson University.

In addition to her work in academics, Dr. Kennedy regularly enjoys leading festival performances, recently in notable venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Canterbury Cathedral in England, and multiple venues in Austria. Upcoming engagements include a return to Carnegie Hall, a musical tour of Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague, and high school and collegiate all-state choirs throughout the country.  Off the podium, Dr. Kennedy is passionate about leading workshops on innovative rehearsal technique, vocal pedagogy and the choral classroom, and music literacy, garnering invitations nationally and internationally for teaching residencies at established festivals and retreats.

Equally at home working with orchestra, Dr. Kennedy has conducted fine ensembles including the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, the New England Chamber Orchestra, the Miami Symphony, the Boca Raton Philharmonic, and the Symphony of the Americas.  She has prepared choruses for a wide range of events, from performances on MTV to collaborations with the Cleveland Orchestra.  NAXOS will release 2 recordings with her ensembles in spring of 2017, joining her featured choir performance on the Latin Grammy-winning album Loco de Amor.

Dr. Kennedy has received numerous awards for teaching, including the University of Hawai`i Chancellor’s Citation for Meritorious Teaching, Arizona State University’s Manzanita “Top Prof” Award, Butler University’s Faculty Distinction Award, and is a two-time recipient of the Lawrence Township Schools Superintendent’s Award.  She is a past-president of the Hawai’i Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), founding member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO), a past Repertoire and Standards Chair for Collegiate Choirs in ACDA’s Eastern Division, and maintains an active student ACDA chapter at the University of Miami. 

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  • Karen Kennedy
  • Phone: 305-284-6367
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  • Office Location: PLF North 129

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