Before graduating from Division Avenue High School, Levittown-native Kathryn Wieckhorst would never have guessed her vocal talent would someday land her center stage, performing in such world-renowned venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Festival of the Aegean in Greece and Festival Junger Künstler in Bayreuth, Germany.
She first realized her love of music in fourth grade when she decided to try her hands at performing cello. “Funny enough, I wanted to play something I didn’t have to put my mouth on,” Wieckhorst said, jokingly.
Unlike many of her friends at the time, Wieckhorst wasn’t listening to any of the pop music hits. Instead, she would ride her bike over to the Levittown Public Library to rent CDs of classical composers.
This story originally appeared in the May 23, 2014 edition of the Levittown Tribune.
“[Classical music] moves you in a way that popular music doesn’t,” she said. “The instruments… the colors it creates.”
In high school, Wieckhorst would put down the cello after one of her teachers had heard her sing. From there she went on to be selected for the All-State choir by the New York State School Music Association.
However, it wasn’t until Wieckhorst attended Hofstra University that she would discover her true passion–opera.
“Opera itself is an art form that combines all human emotion,” Wieckhorst said. “To create these characters… to be on stage and act as somebody else… to give that character depth and respect as you would yourself.”
While at school, she would play the Sorceress in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Blanche in Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, Micaela in Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.
After earning her Bachelor’s from Hofstra, Wieckhorst went on to join the choir at the Cathedral of St. Patrick’s in New York City and would later earn her Master’s in Voice and Opera from Queens College.
Taking an opportunity to spend two months overseas, Wieckhorst would perform the Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece; and would later travel to Germany, where she would meet her fiancé. She said she hopes to go back to Germany in the fall, where she will audition for a fest contract.
Today, Wieckhorst is an unsigned freelance artist who currently lives at home with her mother in Levittown. Although balancing work and her singing career can be quite difficult at times, she said, she never lets it get in the way of her dream.
“There really is nothing else like [performing] that I could imagine myself doing,” she said. “It’s something that I am doing, even when I am working.”
There were even times, Wieckhorst said, when she would work 3-4 different jobs around the same time in order to pursue her passion for opera.
“The good thing about a freelance schedule is that things are kind of all over the place,” Wieckhorst said.
During her time off-stage, Wieckhorst said she enjoys volunteering for a cat rescue in New York City. She also enjoys working with the Opera Collective, a group aimed towards making opera accessible and affordable to the public; and the Bronx Opera Company, which has been working with Bronx Public Schools since 1995, to introduce students throughout the borough to opera.
For the past four months, Wieckhorst has been working with the Bronx Opera Company’s arts education program—which not only brings students to the opera, but brings opera to the students with special performances throughout several schools in the borough.
“I find [teaching kids] makes me want to sing even more,” Wieckhorst explained. “Kids want to sing in a pure and innocent way.”
It was through her work with the Bronx Opera Company that Wieckhorst returned to the John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra, over the weekend, as the understudy for the role of “Violetta” in Verdi’s La Traviata.
“My advice to anybody,” Wieckhorst concluded, “No matter what you’re following, what you’re pursuing… be in the moment and let things fall where they may.”