Master Class

Saturday, October 29

7:30 PM

Karen Brunssen & Natalia Rivera


Karen Brunssen, mezzo soprano, Associate Professor, Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University, Co-Chair of Music Performance. Her singing career has spanned over 30 years. Recent engagements included Bach Cantata 94, Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony with Northwestern University, European tour of Verdi’s, Requiem, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, and Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit. She has presented and done master classes for the 2012 NATS Convention, 2011 and 2012 NATS National Workshops in Milwaukee and Memphis, numerous NATS Chapters, American Choral Directors Association, Classical Singer Convention, Association of Teachers of Singing (England), Opera America, and Chorus America. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 she did unique teaching residencies at Cambridge University. She has taught at the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy, the Zürcher Sing-Akademie in Switzerland, the Castleton Festival and was honored to be a Master Teacher for the 2013 NATS Internship Program. In fall, 2013, she was inducted into the distinguished American Academy of Teachers of Singing, and was presented the Weston Noble Award from Luther College.

 Natalia Rivera is an assistant teaching professor; vocal coach/accompanist at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory.  Pursuing a career that embraces song recitals, chamber music, and opera, she achieved early success at the age of fourteen when she won the Jesus Maria San Roma Concerto Competition in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and performed as soloist with the Puerto Rico Symphony. She had previously spent five years studying in Naples, Italy with the Director of the Piano Department of the Conservatory of Naples, Nunzio Zappulla. She completed successfully the fifth year placement examinations in piano and solfeggio at the age of thirteen.

Ms. Rivera earned a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from the New England Conservatory and the Master of Collaborative Arts degree from the University of Minnesota. She continued her studies in the Professional Studies program at the Juilliard School of Music where she accompanied in the studios of Marlena Malas, Edward Zambara and Dorothy Delay. Ms. Rivera’s teachers include Jeffery Kahane, Veronica Jochum, Brian Zeger, Margo Garrett, and Samuel Sanders. She has also served as an accompanist in the masterclasses of John Wussman, Graham Johnson, Yo-Yo Ma, Regine Crespin, Craig Ruttenberg, Michael Eliason, Robert Merrill, Thomas Hampson, Simon Estes, Denyce Graves, Phyllis Curtain, Anna Moffo, and Pamel Frank. 

 In the summer of 1992 Ms. Rivera received a full scholarship to study with Martin Katz at the Music Academy of the West summer festival. She was also one of four vocal coaches chosen to participate in the Merola Opera Program of San Francisco Opera. During her two summers as an apprentice opera coach she was awarded the Jan Popper Memorial Award and the Otto Guth Memorial Vocal Coach Award. 

 As a vocal coach and pianist, Ms. Rivera has collaborated at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, and members of the Vienna Philharmonic; with the San Francisco Opera; the Santiago Opera in Chile; and the Bellas Artes Opera of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has performed recitals throughout the United States including duo piano performances with pianist, Maria Rivera. She has also performed recitals in Italy, Austria, Japan, and at the prestigious Alice Tully Hall in New York. 

 Ms. Rivera was Instructor of Piano and Music Director of the Opera Workshop at Vassar College; Assistant Opera Coach at the Mannes Conservatory of Music; Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching and Accompanying at Florida State University and Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching at the Ohio University School of Music. She has also served on the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.