Faculty Profile: Choral Professor Kathy Saltzman Romey
Professor Kathy Saltzman Romey has been at the helm of choral activities at the University of Minnesota School of Music for 25 years.
You would be correct in assuming that keeping up with her is no small task. Over the years, she has become known for her inimitable musicianship, tireless dedication to her students, and a dizzying amount of ambitious musical partnerships.
Romey has been on the staff of the Oregon Bach Festival since 1984 and is principal chorus master of the Festival’s 54-voice professional Festival Choir, which she prepares for annual concerts, commissions, and recording projects. These events have included American and world premiere performances of major works by Tan Dun, Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sven David Sandström, and Mozart reconstructions by Robert Levin. She has assisted with ten recordings, including the Oregon Bach Festival’s 2001 Grammy Award-winning CD of Penderecki’s Credo under Helmuth Rilling, and the 2008 Grammy-nominated CD of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with Osmo Vänskä leading the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale.
As a guest conductor, chorus master, and clinician throughout the US and Europe, Romey has regularly prepared ensembles in partnership with the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart for special programs and tours in Germany, France, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, and the US. She has served on the faculty of the Junges Stuttgarter Bach Ensemble since 2010 and is chorus master to the Weimar Bach Cantata Academy, focusing on the study and presentation of cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach under the direction of artistic director Helmuth Rilling. She has also prepared programs with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, Netherlands Radio Choir, Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus, Grant Park Music Festival, and Teatro del Lago Festival. 2016 marked her third appearance as guest conductor with the Berkshire Choral Festival. This past March, she coordinated and prepared the University Chamber Singers, Minnesota Chorale, and Magnum Chorum for the world premiere of J.A.C. Redford’s newly-commissioned work Homing, presented with the Minnesota Orchestra at the 2017 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Minneapolis.
Romey was named 2002 Conductor of the Year by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, and in 2006 she received the Arthur “Red” Motley Award for exemplary teaching from the University of Minnesota. In 2014, she collaborated with Helmuth Rilling on his recent book entitled Messiah: Understanding and Performing Handel’s Masterpiece, published by Carus Verlag and released at the 2015 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association.
At the University of Minnesota, her students are keenly aware of her tremendous talent and their good fortune. Choral graduate student Ahmed Anzaldúa recently reflected on studying with Professor Romey, “She is such an incredible musician. She hears things in a group that I can’t. When she conducts and rehearses, she hears things before they happen.”
For Anzaldúa, it was important that he also stress how committed Professor Romey is to her students’ growth as musicians. “When you are in a lesson with her, she really listens to what you are saying. She is completely in the moment and thinking of ways she can help you. As a student, she will help you figure out what your role on earth as a musician is and will do everything to help you. She truly listens to who we are as individuals and what we want to do musically.”
We caught up with Romey to ask her a few questions about her 25th year at the U of M School of Music.
Tell us about your current and upcoming School of Music collaborations.
I’m working with graduate conducting program alumna Kelley Sundin, who currently works as a choirmaster, associate conductor, and voice teacher at the Choral Academy Dortmund (Germany), and is bringing sixty students, along with three other faculty members from the Choral Academy Dortmund to the U of M School of Music for an international residency from October 21–24. We’re also delighted to host the Choral Academy Dortmund’s prestigious Jugendkonzertchor (Youth Concert Choir).
As part of this residency, our combined choirs will learn German and American choral works and participate in master classes led by faculty from the U of M School of Music and the Choral Academy Dortmund. We’re excited to have nearly two hundred School of Music students interface with students
What are some of the highlights for the U of M choral program this coming year?
The University Chamber Singers, along with graduate student soloists, will present the seldom performed full-length version of Gioachino Rossini’s choral masterwork Petite messe solennelle (Little solemn mass) on April 13 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, featuring Professors Kyung Kim and Michael Kim performing the piano duo. This piece has the wonderful character and energy of Rossini in a sacred mass setting. We hope to also perform this program in the Duluth-Superior area at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where 2017 graduate Dr. Katherine Chan serves as interim director of choral activities.
Our current doctoral conducting students also have wonderful recital programs planned with music from Bach to Shostakovich to the present, and Professor Matthew Mehaffey will lead a choral festival experience for Minnesota high students in April. Professor Mehaffey, along with the University Singers and Chamber Singers, have done many clinics with high schools throughout greater Minnesota as part of our recent choral tours. We’re thrilled to bring these students to campus to further and deepen the connections we’ve made
on these tours.
Your annual concert WomanVoice is scheduled for this spring; how was this concert established?
Augsburg Professor Nancy Grundahl and I founded the WomanVoice concert program to bring together area collegiate women’s choruses once a year with a focus on themes relevant to women composers, visual artists, and authors. What’s amazing to me is that Nancy and I have been committed to this concert for almost 25 years. We have included local civic organizations and artists in WomanVoice as well; it’s truly a labor of love that is satisfying for
What are your favorite works to perform?
Choral masterworks have always been part of my passion. In May, I conducted performances of Monteverdi’s Vespero della Beata Vergine with Consortium Carissimi, a wonderful Twin Cities period instrument/vocal ensemble, which focuses on music of the Italian Baroque. At the University of Minnesota, the 2016 Bach St. Matthew Passion Project collaboration between the U of M School of Music and the Hochschule für Musik Detmold allowed us to study and perform one of the greatest sacred works of all time over an entire academic year. This in-depth experience challenged us to take a longer journey, examining life and art through the lens of a significant composer and his music. This is what I love about our work at the University of Minnesota! We have the opportunity to expose students to multiple voices, secular and sacred works of all periods and cultures in meaningful programs both on and off campus. These types of projects allow students to experience the world from so many different musical perspectives.
I also love working on new commissions and with living composers. It’s the larger choral symphonic works of contemporary composers that especially intrigue me. This November, as artistic director of the Minnesota Chorale, I will collaborate with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra on a program that includes the world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s Re-formation, a work that reimagines the Reformation for today, with quotes from Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 and Luther’s hymn. I am tremendously excited to participate in the presentation of a new work commemorating this historic anniversary.
Kathy Saltzman Romey is a professor of choral conducting.