BM, Luther College

Co-chair, Department of Music Performance. Mezzo-soprano. Karen Brunssen is President of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing). Previously she served as President-Elect of NATS, was Program Chair for the 2016 54th NATS National Conference in Chicago, was a NATS Intern Master Teacher in 2013, was governor of NATS Central Region from 2013 to 2016 where she expanded their activities to include an annual conference along with student auditions. She was invited to be a member of the esteemed American Academy of Teachers of Singing in 2013, was president of the Chicago Singing Teachers Guild, and vice president and president of Chicago Chapter NATS where she started the annual vocal competition. 

Karen is a frequent vocal clinician, master teacher, panelist, adjudicator and presenter, most recently at the 2018 NATS National Conference, 2017 International Congress of Voice Teachers in Stockholm, Sweden, the 2017 National Collegiate Choral Organization, 2018 NATSAA finals adjudicator in New York City, NSA Finals in 2015 and 2017, presentations at the NATS National Conferences 2012 and 2014, the 2011 and 2012 NATS Workshops, the 2015 ACDA National Conference, 2016 ACDA Central Region Conference, Northwest Region NATS Conference, West Central Region NATS, Central Region NATS, Missouri District NATS, Ohio Buckeye, Chicago, Tennessee, and Wisconsin NATS Chapters, Classical Singer Conferences, Association of Teachers of Singing in England, Opera America, and Chorus America. She was a keynote presenter for the International Symposium on Singing and Song at the University of Newfoundland in 2015 and presented at the Podium2016-Choral Canada. Presentations are often based on her newly published book, "The Evolving Singing Voice: Changes Across the Lifespan” published by Plural Publishing and released June 15, 2018. It chronicles changes in respiration, vibration and resonance, and the impact on realistic, age appropriate expectations for vocal development throughout a lifetime of singing. 

Since 2008 Karen has done numerous teaching residencies at Cambridge University involving 19 of the colleges and returns regularly to teach at the Zürcher Sing-Akadmie in Zurich, Switzerland. She has taught at the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy, the Castleton Music Festival, and Dorian Opera Theatre. 

Her singing career has spanned over 30 years including solo appearances with Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis, National, San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee, Netherlands Radio, Halle, and Mexico City Symphony Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, Music of the Baroque, Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Opera Theatre, Carmel Bach Festival, Prague Autumn Festival, Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Aspen Music Festival, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. Recordings include Telemann's Day of Judgment, Mozart's Mass in C Minor, and Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 with Music of the Baroque, John Philip Sousa's Desiree, and others on Decca and Vox MMG. 

Students of Karen’s have gone on to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, (Todd Wilander in 2000, and Madison Leonard in 2018, Ryan Belongie semi-finalist in 2009), Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, McAllister Competition, Oratorio Society of New York, Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation, Loren L. Zachary Society Auditions, and more. They have sung professionally and in young artist programs with the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Merola Opera and Adler Fellowship Programs with San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Santa Fe, Chautauqua, Des Moines Metro Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera, Wolf Trap, Aspen Music Festival, and Sarasota Opera, as well as concert, opera, recital, and oratorio throughout the United States and Europe. Others have performed on and off Broadway and with national music theater tours, and are teaching privately and at colleges and universities throughout the United States. 

Karen attended Luther College, and did graduate work at the Yale School of Music and Kent State University. In 2013 she was presented the Weston Noble Award by Luther College. She is a Consultant Editor with Plural Publishing. 


Voice student wins first prize in NATS auditions

June 25, 2018

NATS conference features Northwestern faculty and alumni

July 14, 2016

Four Bienen students receive 2016 Luminarts Fellowships

April 18, 2016

Marilyn Horne leads vocal master class

April 7, 2016

Kennedy Center 2016 Photo Album

March 4, 2016

Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble to perform at ACDA conference

February 23, 2016

Bienen soprano receives first place, $10,000 prize at prestigious opera competition

February 18, 2016

Bienen soprano Madison Leonard wins first place in Houston Grand Opera competition

February 8, 2016

Bienen Students Showcased at Kennedy Center Feb. 16

February 2, 2016

Bienen School of Music Students to Perform at Kennedy Center

April 9, 2013

See All News