Associate Professor, Voice, Director of Samford Opera
School of the Arts
Division of Music, Vocal and Choral
Dr. Kristin Kenning moved to Birmingham from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked as a freelance vocalist and stage director. She previously taught voice at Luther College, Iowa, and opera workshop at the University of Minnesota. A soprano, she has a diverse background of experience performing in opera, musical theater, jazz, and concert settings. Recent roles include Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Poppea in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Rose in Street Scene, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Kenning has performed throughout the Midwest and in New York, Europe, and South Africa – including a recital of art song and musical theater in Zyrardów, Poland, and a Midwest tour of Paul Schoenfield’s Camp Songs. She performs regularly as a church musician. Her voice teachers include Elizabeth Mannion and Jane Giering De Haan.
As Director of Opera at Samford, Kenning is passionate about teaching acting to young singers through opera workshop and opera productions. Recent Samford Opera productions include The Marriage of Figaro, On The Town, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Pirates of Penzance, Hansel and Gretel, Trouble in Tahiti, and The Telephone. Samford Opera Workshop competes in the National Opera Association's Collegiate Scenes Competition - winning 2nd place in both 2015 (Greensboro) and 2016 (Indianapolis), and performing as a finalist in 2017 (Santa Barbara). As a freelance stage director, productions include Naughty Marietta, The Desert Song, and Die Fledermaus for The Birmingham Music Club, Mlle. Modiste and The Vagabond King for Minnesota's Skylark Opera, The Match Girl’s Gift on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, and the premiere of Christopher Gable’s opera The Ladysmith Story at the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis. She has directed shows for many theaters and festivals in Minneapolis, including: Theatre Unbound, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Artsmosis, and the Minneapolis Short Film Festival. She is a champion of new work and is invited to direct often for the Atlanta Opera’s 24-Hour Opera Project – winning the competition in 2013 with composer Evan Mack’s Beach and Moan and in 2016 with composer Liam Wade's The Stranger the Better. Scholarly activities include serving on the National Opera Association’s Research Committee and working as a research associate for ‘The Future of Opera’ study within the international research project ‘Sustainable Futures for Musical Cultures.’ Their research, led by Dr. John Drummond, University of Otago, New Zealand, looks at ways in which Western Opera is able to sustain itself, grow and flourish in the contemporary world.
Special interests include Polish art song and new American opera. Upcoming projects include directing Hansel and Gretel and workshopping the newly commissioned Ghosts of Gatsby for Samford Opera, creating an evening of staged operetta hits for The Birmingham Music Club, and touring a recital of Bucchino, Bolcom, Sondheim, and Gershwin with pianist John Robertson.
Degrees and Certifications
- Bachelor of Music, Western Michigan University
- Master of Music, University of Minnesota
- Doctor of Musical Arts, University of Minnesota
- Musical Theatre
Awards and Honors
- International Research Grant, Poland, University of Minnesota
- American Finalist at the International Czech Music Competition
- Honorable Mention at Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Minneapolis, MN
- First Place in Thursday Musical Advanced Voice Competition, Saint Paul, MN
- Presidential Scholar in Music, Western Michigan University
- Presser Music Award, Western Michigan University
- Downbeat Awards, Gold Company, Western Michigan University
- First Place, Robert Schumann Choral Competition, Zwickau, Germany