Performing at the Kennedy Center was “absolutely wonderful,” said Christopher Kenney ’14. His last performance was with Patti LuPone, Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard at the Washington National Opera gala, which raised $1 million for the company's educational programs.
After the Hawley, Minn., native graduated from Concordia with a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance, he took first place in a competition and won a scholarship to grad school at the University of Kentucky School of Music. At the end of graduate school, he didn’t receive any major offers so he decided to spend a year of study at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
It was through contacts in Philly that Kenney auditioned for the Washington National Opera in D.C. In addition to a three-month apprenticeship in Santa Fe, N.M., he performed for nine months with the WNO in its Young Artist Program.
Kenney was fortunate to take part in multiple performances during his time in Washington, including the main stage and some of the smaller stages in the Kennedy Center. He also performed at multiple events and historical places. By request, he sang at the Lincoln Theatre for the Frederick Douglass 200th birthday celebration, as well as at multiple events and parties in donors’ homes who are patrons and trustees of the WNO.
One of the main stage roles he had the opportunity to perform was in “The Barber of Seville” as Figaro, a role he was anxious to play.
“Honestly, I had my most fun playing Figaro because that is a role that I long wanted and having the opportunity to get to do that is stellar,” Kenney said. “I also got to work with some very talented colleagues and friends that have become very close friends of mine, so that was a wonderful opportunity.”
Though there is a lot of role prep and working with coaches, Kenney said he’s having quite a bit of fun.
“One of the things that people forget in general is if you quit having fun it becomes work,” he said. “I’m not saying you don’t have to work at it, but it was a ton of fun.”
Out of hundreds of applicants from around the world, Kenney was accepted into one of six coveted spots in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s prestigious Ryan Opera Center professional artist development program. He signed a one-year contract with the expectation to stay two or possibly three years.
After that, the sky is the limit. Literally. An avid licensed pilot in his spare time, he’s considering getting into aerobatics and instructing.
“There are really so many opportunities out there in life that I’m excited to find them all and I’m really lucky to have the ability and the chance to explore all of my passions in music and aviation,” he said.
Kenney’s new apartment in Lincoln Park, Ill., has a gorgeous view overlooking Lake Michigan. It’s his sixth place in five years, but it’s part of the job. Living in Chicago, however, will make it a little easier to get back to the Fargo-Moorhead area and visit family and friends.
“Living in different cities can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage,” he said. “It’s hard to settle down and find your roots. Most people my age are thinking about buying houses and staying in one place.”
Although, he did find his roots in a way. He is adopted and was able to reconnect with his biological family in Pennsylvania, something he said wouldn’t have happened had he not gone to Washington.
Before the season starts at Lyric, he’ll be traveling for a concert he was invited to do in Seattle in June. To catch his upcoming performances for the season, visit Lyric Opera.
“I’d love to come back to Concordia and sing with the choir again, so you could put that bug in Dr. Clausen’s ear,” Kenney added.