Professor of Voice, Choral Conducting and Choral Music Karen Keating ’02, D.M.A., has announced her retirement from Shenandoah Conservatory at the end of the 2019/20 academic year. Keating began working at Shenandoah in 1989 and will retire after 30 years of dedicated service to its artistic and educational community.
During the academic year, Keating served as the director of Shenandoah Chorus and Cantus Singers. Her choirs have performed for Alice Parker, Chanticleer, Anonymous 4 and at American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) regional conventions. Shenandoah Chorus was invited to sing the world premiere of composer Stephen Melillo’s “Kakehashi: That We Might Live.” She travelled with her choir to Tokyo, Japan, to record Melillo’s piece with the Central Band of the Japan National Air Self Defense Force. Under her direction, Cantus Singers travelled to Salzburg, Austria, in December 2016 and May 2019. While there, they performed at the Mozarteum and sang with the Cathedral Choir. She has also been the music director/conductor for the conservatory’s innovative Opera Up Close series.
Karen Keating has worked tirelessly over the many years that she has been at Shenandoah Conservatory. Her outstanding commitment to her students and her musical contribution to this community will be sorely missed by all.
– Chair of Vocal/Choral Division, Director of Graduate Vocal Pedagogy Programs, Executive Director of the CCM Institute and Professor of Voice (Contralto) Kathryn Green, D.M.A.
At Shenandoah, Keating has been the accompanist for many faculty and student recitals as well as choirmaster for numerous opera productions, including the premiere of Russell Woolen’s “The Birthday of the Infanta,” which was performed at the Kennedy Center. She has participated as a performer and conductor for various recitals and concerts within the Bach-Handel Festival and Pulitzer Prize Composer Festival series.
Keating has been a musical director and conductor for Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT) since 1995 and has conducted a number of musicals including “The Sound of Music,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Producers,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” “Legally Blonde,” “South Pacific,” “Peter Pan,” “Crazy for You” and “Man of La Mancha.”
“I have a great story of our first meeting, which is still my most memorable moment of Karen,” said Professor Emeritus of Composition and Musical Theatre and Producing Artistic Director (retired) of Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre Thomas Albert, D.M.A.:
“It was late spring of 1989. SSMT had scheduled ‘West Side Story’ for the upcoming season, and I was to be music director. We were not too far away from the start of rehearsals, and I still hadn’t found a pianist who could carry both the rehearsal and performances of this incredibly difficult musical theatre masterpiece.
I was sitting in my office (then a repurposed practice room on the east side of Armstrong Hall), when a woman stopped at my door to chat. I’d never seen her before, and don’t remember how we got on the subject of summer theatre, but it came up that SSMT was looking for a pianist. She allowed that she was interested in a job with the summer theatre. I asked if she knew ‘West Side Story.’”
“Certainly, but I’ve never played it before,” said Keating.
I pulled out the piano-conductor score, and asked if she would mind reading a bit of the prologue. (“Reading” a bit of this show is, well…)
“Certainly, happy to.”
She sat down at the piano, and proceeded to play through the entire overture, in tempo, never missing a beat.
Thus I found a pianist for the season, a colleague and a dear friend.
Throughout her career, Keating has worked with many distinguished artists, including singers Julianne Baird, Werner Hollweg, Christopher Merritt and Barbara Bonney; organist Elisabeth Bigenzahn-Ullmann; conductors Vaclav Neumann, Hans Graf and Leopold Hager; and opera directors Lauren Flanigan, Edwin Cahill, Nic Muni, Michael Ehrman, and Neil Shicoff. Her two-piano arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” was performed by the choir of Trinity Wall Street under the baton of Julian Wachner and by Da Camera with Houston Chamber Choir under the direction of Robert Simpson.
She has also been in demand as a clinician and adjudicator for choral festivals throughout Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Keating acted as interim director of the Loudoun Chorale in fall 2016 and the Arts Chorale of Winchester in fall 2017. She was privileged to work again with the Arts Chorale in the spring of 2019, when she conducted Mozart’s “Great Mass in C Minor.”
Keating has performed with The Washington Chorus as the mezzo-soprano soloist on its concert tours to Germany, Austria and France. She has also collaborated with Associate Professor of Voice (Tenor) Michael Forest ’85, ’86 , M.M.Ed., and Associate Professor of Voice (Tenor) Byron Jones ’04, D.M.A., on two CD projects: “Behold that Star: A Collection of Christmas Spirituals” with Forest and “What Have You Done to My Heart,” a collection of French cabaret songs with Jones.
Keating earned a Bachelor of Music from James Madison University and has diplomas in organ performance and choral conducting from the University of Salzburg “Mozarteum.” She received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance from Shenandoah University and studied with Grammy Award-winner and Professor Emeritus of Choral Conducting Robert Shafer, M.M. While in Austria, Keating studied with several renowned conductors including Herbert von Karajan, Kurt Prestel, Walter Hagen-Groll and Nicholas Harnoncourt. She served as the director of the Robert Schollum Chor Hallein, as well as the accompanist and assistant director of the Salzburger Liedertafel.