Stephen Karr Named Opera Musical Director

Stephen Karr

The University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music is excited to welcome Stephen Karr as the new Opera Musical Director.

Karr is a compelling interpreter of opera and orchestral works, having appeared as guest conductor in recent seasons with Anchorage Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera. He has been on staff with opera companies across the United States, including Des Moines Metro Opera’s OPERA Iowa tour, the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera New Jersey and Palm Beach Opera.

“It is a tremendous privilege to welcome Stephen Karr to the School of Music. He has forged a dynamic and wide-ranging career rooted in exemplary musicianship and teaching. Stephen’s dedication to his craft and his collaborative spirit will serve as an inspiration to our opera program and our entire student body.” said Kevin Sanders, Director of the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.

His international appearances include the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman and an appointment as Cultural Envoy from the United States Department of State to Rotterdam. He was Associate Conductor with Long Beach Opera for the 2019 world-premiere production of The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis, which was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music, in addition to being scheduled to conduct The Lighthouse (Peter Maxwell Davies) and Frida (Robert X. Rodriguez) in the COVID-truncated 2020 season. He is a co-editor of the first modern performing edition of Joseph Bologne’s L’Amant Anonyme, which was premiered by LA Opera under James Conlon and has productions scheduled in the 2021-22 season at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Wolf Trap Opera, the Eastman School of Music, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Minnesota Opera.

In 2011, he co-founded Pacific Opera Project, for which he was music director until 2016. With POP, he led productions of Trouble in Tahiti, Così fan tutte, The Turn of the Screw, La Calisto (Los Angeles premiere), Ariadne auf Naxos and The Rake’s Progress, among many others. The LA Times praised his leadership of the Stravinsky as having kept orchestra, cast and chorus on “well-articulated rhythmic track.”

Karr’s repertoire spans nearly the entire history of opera, as well as significant masterpieces of the orchestral repertoire. He is pleased to begin the role of Assistant Professor of Music and Music Director of the opera program at the University of Memphis in the 2022-23 academic year. Previously, he has taught at Chapman University, Michigan State University, the University of Southern California and UCLA. His schooling includes degrees in organ performance from Mercer University under Robert Parris and Westminster Choir College under Stefan Engels, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA in orchestral conducting, where his major teacher was Neal Stulberg.

“I was impressed with the overall atmosphere when I visited for my audition, where there was a palpable sense that the School of Music is poised for major growth. I am excited to build relationships with the students and faculty, and I feel fortunate to join just as the beautiful new Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center is inaugurated,” said Karr. The School of Music looks forward to welcoming Karr to campus this fall.

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