Caroline Kouma – Talented Soprano Makes Duluth Her Home
ARTIST PROFILE SERIES
Caroline Kouma has been sharing her tremendous talents as a captivating singer from her first productions in Casper, Wyoming, where she grew up, to Duluth today. Caroline has been described as “a versatile artist equally at home on the operatic stage and within the tapestry of an ensemble.”
“I’ve been singing and making music since before I remember! I have three older siblings, and our family is quite musical. So they all sang with me and taught me little bits on the piano,” Caroline said. “I started taking piano lessons in second grade, and then was cast in my first musical the following year, when I played Gretl in The Sound of Music at Casper College. From that point on, I was hooked! Some of my happiest memories are from singing with the Casper Children’s Chorale through my childhood.”
She explained that when she was in high school, she focused on music and performance, including in high school theatre, playing piano in jazz band and violin in orchestra, and singing in both the concert and jazz choirs.
After high school, she went to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska. “When I got to college I could no longer keep up with the violin, but I continued to play piano in jazz band (and accompanied the jazz choir). As a vocal performance major with a theatre minor, I did a lot of singing!”
She earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Theatre in 2008. Caroline did not immediately pursue a performance career and instead turned to arts administration, working as the Office and Box Office Manager for Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I had been teaching voice and piano lessons and volunteering with a local organization to teach English as a foreign language, and I found that I really loved teaching,” she said.
“This, paired with a great desire to experience life in another part of the world, led me to apply for the Peace Corps. I served in Azerbaijan from 2010-2012 and worked as a co-teacher with local English teachers in a community school, and this experience was life-changing to say the least!”
While in Azerbaijan, Caroline also worked on a national leadership camp for girls and several arts camps, including one she created in her host community.
She went back to grad school in 2017 and received a Master of Music in Vocal Performance in 2019 from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“After graduating, I’d hoped to continue teaching English online to support myself and then spend some time in Europe traveling, studying, auditioning, and singing. Sadly, the pandemic put an end to this plan after several wonderful months of travel that included time spent studying with a fantastic teacher in Berlin (Janet Williams), choral concerts in the UK and Germany, and a competition in Spain.”
Caroline explained that she wound up in Duluth thanks to an offer from her brother “to land here and sort myself out ‘for a few weeks’ while we saw what would happen in the course of the pandemic.”
She added, “I quickly fell in love with this place for the abundance of natural beauty and was impressed with this community’s love and care for the arts, so I decided to stay. Currently, I work in the front of house at Vikre Distillery while I continue to rebuild a growing performance career after the great pandemic pause.”
“I have had many wonderful mentors over the years, but I still credit Marcia Patton as my first and one of my strongest musical mentors. Mrs. Patton was my director in Casper Children’s Chorale, as well as my choir teacher in high school,” said Caroline.
“I learned so much of what I know from her. Not only did she teach me about many of the basics of music, she also taught me about dedication, commitment, consistency, expression, and hard work. I have the greatest respect for music teachers in our schools, and I hope they know the lifelong impact they can make on their students!”
Award Winning Soprano
Caroline was the recipient of the Gary Jones Memorial and Opera Omaha Guild awards at the Nebraska district Metropolitan Opera auditions and was named District Winner in 2014-15.
She was a 2017 graduate winner of the BGSU Concerto Competition and took first place awards at Ohio NATS (2018) and the Marjorie Conrad Art Song competition (2018).
Other awards include being a finalist in the Opera at Florham Vocal Competition in New Jersey (2018), Harold Haugh Light Opera Competition in Michigan (2019), and the Compostela Lírica in Santiago de Compostela, Spain (2019).
On the Stage
“Whether in an opera, musical, or play, I’ve always loved being backstage just before a show is about to begin and hearing the chatter of the audience on the other side of the curtain. There is a something so special about the energy in that moment, just before stepping onstage to tell a story. Music making and storytelling are so crucial to the human experience, and I’ve always loved the feeling that no one in the room, audience or performer, is quite the same after a performance.”
Caroline said, “My first major opera role was Fiordiligi in Cosí fan tutte, so this will always stand out as one of my favorite roles that I have ever performed. It is such a fun opera with the most exceptionally beautiful music, and singing Mozart feels like taking a luxurious bubble bath!”
“I also loved singing Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance with Little LOON (Lyric Opera of the North) last winter,” she added. “I had so much fun with this character and getting to perform for young people and introduce them to opera is beyond fulfilling.”
“In musical theatre, I loved playing Meg in Little Women at the Duluth Playhouse last Christmas, as this was one of my favorite stories as a child. And getting to perform on the NorShor stage is such a treat – what a wonderful theatre! “
Caroline will be playing the role of Sister Sophia in the Playhouse production of The Sound of Music in December. She also sings with Twin Ports Choral Project and will be performing with another musical organization, Borealis, this fall as well.
“I am very happy with the opportunities in and around Duluth! This is a community that really ‘punches above its weight’ considering the size of the city,” she noted. “Of course, things are still picking back up after the great pandemic pause, but it has been exciting to have a fully booked calendar this fall, all with performance projects on my own front door.”
Speed Dating Tonight! with LOON
“I love performing with LOON, as it is a company that really feels like a family. I feel so fortunate to work with a professional company putting on productions of the highest caliber, right here at home!” stated Caroline.
“I was so excited when I found out I would be participating in Speed Dating Tonight! with LOON. Not only is it just the most fun opera, it touches on the universal truth of all of us seeking genuine human connection. It is a flexible opera that can be tailored to the group of people in the production, which makes it especially interesting.”
“Audience members will find themselves laughing one minute and crying the next as they see relatable, human experiences in the characters on stage. It can be fun for audience members to guess if any of the characters at the speed dating event find love in the end!”
INFORMATION ON SPEED DATING TONIGHT! (provided by LOON)
Speed Dating Tonight! is a contemporary genre-bending opera in one act, with a story centered around the activity of speed dating. With over one hundred twenty productions since its 2013 premiere, Speed Dating Tonight! by Michael Ching, based on a concept by Dean Anthony, is one of the most popular operas of the 21st century.
Part of the magic of Speed Dating Tonight! is that no two productions are exactly alike. What will LOON's production team and professional singers do with this one? You have two chances to find out.
What: Speed Dating Tonight! Sung in English with English supertitles.
Where: Clyde Iron Works, 2920 W Michigan Street, Duluth, MN 55806
When: Sunday, October 22 at 4:00 pm & Monday, October 23 at 7:00 pm. Two performances only.
Tickets: General Seating $32; Reserved Table Seating $45. Students with valid student ID $12. Buy tickets and find more information at loonopera.org or by calling 218-464-0922.