Running Start Spotlights

Lindsay Kesselman

December Interview

Lindsay Kesselman, Alum, BM '06
How would you describe your professional identity in a sentence?
I am a soprano who specializes in collaborating with composers to create new, dramatically-inspired works for the voice. 
Can you summarize your current entrepreneurial projects in a sentence or two?
I regularly spearhead commissioning projects with a diverse array of composers as a solo artist and in my capacity as resident soprano with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. I am also my own agent, so I spend a great deal of time and energy cultivating and seeking out performance opportunities. In addition, I have a trio with a clarinetist and pianist called HAVEN which actively tours across North America and has recorded two cds so far on the Fleur de Son Classics label. I am also a founding member of HOWL, an ensemble which performs new music within a theatrical context. Our membership consists of a composer, a poet, a stage director, a lighting designer, a percussionist, and myself, so it's a unique kind of ensemble! 
How has your career, project, or initiative been growing and developing since you graduated? Since last year? What are your next steps as you go forward?
When I graduated with a double major in music education and voice performance from MSU in 2006 I knew I wanted to be a performer, so I went on for an M.M. in voice at Rice University. During my time there, I developed a specific love of contemporary music, chamber music, and concert work and decided to actively pursue those avenues. When I finished my degree, I moved to a small town in Ohio to be with my fiancé and launched my singing career from there! There weren't a ton of local opportunities, which turned out to be a good thing because it helped me be proactive in seeking out ensembles, conductors, and composers across the country instead of just in my own backyard. I started singing oratorio, gave regular recitals, and was hired by composers to premiere new pieces of music. Since then, I've been so fortunate to develop several meaningful and long-lasting relationships with composers who I admire and respect deeply. It is incredibly satisfying to get to know their work intimately, and through the creation of multiple pieces over a span of years. I was also very fortunate to go on tour with the Philip Glass Ensemble for a new production of Einstein on the Beach, which traveled all over the world and lasted for 2 and 1/2 years. Moving forward, I hope to continue to spend as much of my professional time as possible singing music I love by composers I believe in and helping as many new audiences feel a connection to classical music as I can. Since last year, I also have begun singing regularly with wind ensembles, which is something I really enjoy and there are several new projects on the horizon! 
How has the College of Music prepared you to embark on your career?
I loved my time at MSU and learned so much from so many people! I had a ton of teaching and performing experiences, which helped me grow and develop and also helped me clarify my priorities as a musician. I had a wide variety of singing experiences, which allowed me to become well-rounded and well-versed in a variety of styles....I sang in Chorale, Women's Chamber Ensemble, State Singers, a graduate conducting lab choir, and lots of other ensembles created for recitals. I gave 3 recitals, performed with Musique 21 and sang roles in Cosi fan tutte, Nine, and A Rake's Progress. I opened up so much as a singer and a performer while at MSU and continue to be so grateful for the many opportunities that were given to me. 
What do you think are the most important skills to have as a 21st century  musician?
Be a strong, independent musician, no matter what instrument you play. Be flexible and open to many different kinds of experiences. Be open to leadership opportunities and think of yourself as an arts advocate, a teacher, and an emissary for classical music, in addition to a performer. I believe that everyone loves classical music, but we have to share it with them in ways that are compelling and accessible so that they will be convinced and keep coming back! 

What words of wisdom do you have for prospective MSU students?

For me, MSU was the perfect place to pursue my undergraduate degree. I was able to spread my wings and experiment, as a performer, as a teacher, as a musician. At so many schools that kind of freedom is only available to graduate students, and it absolutely made me the person I am today!