Maureen McKay performing as Gretel at the Portland Opera. Photography by Cory Weaver.
Maureen McKay, alumna of Columbus State University, will make her debut at The Metropolitan Opera on December 28 in the leading role of Gretel in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
“The Met is the pinnacle opera house in the world. It is like winning a gold medal in the Olympics,” said Joseph Golden, CSU director of opera and McKay’s former professor. “She has joined the first rank of opera singers in the world.”
McKay credits her professors and experience at CSU with helping her to achieve the high honor.
She says that CSU provided her with the musical, dancing and acting skills needed to excel in today’s world of opera, and she recognizes the program’s unique offering of real world experiences like singing with a live orchestra and working with guest directors from other institutions.
“At CSU, I received four years of quality stage time with an orchestra and extensive attention from my teachers. You just don’t find that in every undergrad program,” said McKay.
Among the professors that McKay recognizes as influential on her career are Betty Anne Diaz and Joseph Golden.
“Mr. Golden took a lot of care in coaching me on how to sing with an orchestra and conductor, what repertoire to consider and the fundamentals of stage deportment,” said McKay. “Mrs. Diaz was my piano teacher and worked closely with me on honing the skills of the art song recital from both sides of the keyboard.”
Shirley Brumbaugh, who is now retired from teaching, also stands out as a mentor to McKay. Brumbaugh encouraged McKay to participate in summer activities like study abroad trips and performing in the College Light Opera Company in Massachusetts, which McKay says helped her discover a career in opera. McKay also credits Brumbaugh with helping her build the foundation of her vocal technique.
“I feel really blessed that I had all of these people who saw something in me, even when I didn’t see it in myself,” said McKay. “When I inevitably go into teaching, I will pull from these experiences. They are the teachers that I would want to be.”
McKay says that she would eventually like to teach, but she is currently focusing on her upcoming performances. Although she is not ready to enter academia just yet, she is already inspiring others with her accomplishments.
“Schwob School of Music students are already saying, ‘Gee! If she can do it, then I can too!” said Golden. “They see that someone who walked these halls has gone on to the ultimate place in their career.”
McKay lives with her husband and fellow CSU alumni, Jesse Tennyson, and their son in Greenwich, Conn. She has performed internationally with the Choirs and Orchestras of Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova and of Santa Cecilia in Rome, Komische Oper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Saito Kinen Festival, The Cleveland Orchestra, San Diego Opera, Washington National Opera and Seattle Opera.
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