Allegheny voice instructor wins Grand Prize

Christina Bryson, Junior Editor

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Diane Kalinowski, Allegheny College voice instructor, won one of two grand prizes in the LaDue Professional Recital Competition at the Rochester Lyric Opera on Jan. 19. Kalinowski and the other grand prize recipient will perform music of their choice in a joint recital at the Baptist Temple in Rochester, N.Y., on April 12.

Kalinowski began teaching voice lessons at Allegheny in the fall of 2011, but began her singing career much earlier.

“It’s sort of just been a way of life for me. I’ve been singing since I could talk apparently. I grew up on a dairy farm. My parents are farmers. I have two older brothers and they’re tracker pullers. So, I had no exposure to opera and definitely no exposure to music. But my mom would say all the time that I sort of came out of the womb singing and I always just was really fascinated by music,” said Kalinowski.

Her first exposure to trained music began in the first grade with the school play “Of Mice and Mozart.”

“My poor mother with three kids, and we were all very close in age, she was milking cows three times a day, dealing with a farm and I come home crying, just hysterical, telling her I’m so far behind because I’m seven and Mozart was six when he wrote his first note,” said Kalinowski. “So my mother is sitting here thinking ‘Oh my god what is this? Where did this come from?’ So she got me into piano lessons and from there I was always singing.”

Kalinowski has experienced a variety of musical genres, from country, musicals, classical and even dabbling in blues.

“It was actually about a year ago where I subbed for a Blues band in a bar and it was the scariest thing ever,” said Kalinowski, “but I’m really glad I did it because it was an awesome experience.”

Kalinowski describes her experience with singing as something that always came natural.

“It’s one of those things like asking Michael Jordan why he plays basketball. I’ve always been able to sing and to build on that craft it feels like a waste not to I guess,” said Kalinowski. “I’ve definitely never had a problem, when I was in school, deciding what I wanted to be. I was always very focused and always knew I had to do something with music. It was never a choice it was sort of something that was already decided which makes it kind of easy actually.”

Kalinowski grew up in Cochranton and began studying with Vicki Jamison, voice instructor at Allegheny College, when she was 13. From there, Kalinowski studied voice performance at Mercyhurst University in Erie and then got her master’s degree at the University of Kansas while simultaneously apprenticing at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

In addition to her singing career, Kalinowski maintained office jobs to support her ‘singing addiction.’

“I moved around quite a bit, did a lot of professional and unprofessional singing. I did all sorts of stuff,” said Kalinowski. “One of the things I did was a lot of real-estate law in Washington D.C. when I lived there and I decided if I’m just working here to pay my rent, I might as well be close to my family and working to pay my rent.”

Currently, Kalinowski works at Steptoe & Johnson, a law firm in Meadville, in addition to being a voice instructor at Allegheny and a private voice instructor on the weekends.

“I’ve been working there for about five years now as a legal secretary, paralegal and I really enjoy that work. It sort of satisfies the nerd proof-reading side of me,” she said.

But Kalinowski really loves being able to teach Allegheny students.

“This is just like the sprinkles on the cake because I get to come here every Friday and teach kids who are just so inspired to sing. That’s my treat. That’s my way to start the weekend.

“All of them (the students) have extraordinary instruments when they come in the door so it’s really a privilege to work here,” said Kalinowski. “I’ve actually taught other places but the kids here are so, so smart and so motivated and that’s the hugest difference for me wanting to teach here. I absolutely love it. The kids are willing to work and it’s fun to work with them.”

Kalinowski often stresses to her students the importance of the voice and its role in the body.

“We can’t see the voice so that’s one of the things that’s so elusive about it, that you can’t take your voice home and put it in a case at the end of the day and go out and party and not feel the effects the next day.

“Your instrument is your whole body from toe to head and people don’t often think of that. Like if you told a runner they’re only using their legs. Anybody who’s tried to run knows that’s not true,” she said.

When she first auditioned for the LaDue Professional Recital Competition, Kalinowski did not know the winners would perform in a recital at a later date.

“I actually didn’t realize when I signed up to do the competition that you get to do a recital. I was just going to keep myself active singing. So when they called me and said that I won and I found out that I get to do a recital too, I was pretty excited about that.”

The three songs Kalinowski sang at the competition, and will also perform at the recital, include “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka, a Czech opera, “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music and “Come Scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

“I’d like to just continue doing what I’m doing and build up my teaching study, but I’m missing that performance chunk of the pie and that’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever be happy if I don’t try to fulfill that,” said Kalinowski.

Kalinowski plans to continue to participate in competitions, roles and other forms of concert works in the following years.

from Rusalka, a Czech opera, “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music and “Come Scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

“I’d like to just continue doing what I’m doing and build up my teaching study, but I’m missing that performance chunk of the pie and that’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever be happy if I don’t try to fulfill that,” said Kalinowski.

Kalinowski plans to continue to participate in competitions, roles and other forms of concert works in the following years.

“For me at this stage of the game I really only audition for things I feel compelled to audition for. I try to do at least five a year to keep myself fresh. Maybe when I’m 40 I’ll reevaluate,” she said.

Still loving the performance aspect, Kalinowski credits her singing career to Vicki and Ward Jamison.

“It’s very rare that you can come back to a teacher and feel like you can still learn things,” said Kalinowski. “I trust their ears more than anyone else’s because I know they’re always honest with me. To me they’re my musical parents, so it’s just fortunate to be able to work with people like that.”

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLEGHENY.EDU Diane Kalinowski, Allegheny College, voice instructor won one of two grand prizes at a recital competition.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLEGHENY.EDU
Diane Kalinowski, Allegheny College, voice instructor won one of two grand prizes at a recital competition.

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