Westborough opera singer shares passion for music through performing and teaching

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By Mary Pritchard, Contributing Writer

Karen Amlaw Music instructors
Karen Amlaw Music instructors – (l to r) Owner/Director Karen Amlaw (piano, voice, Kids on Keys); Stan Schertzer (piano); Edilio Bermudez (bass, guitar, ukulele, violin); and Leslie Leedberg (voice/Intro to Singing). Missing is Silvia Irving (voice)
Photo/submitted

Westborough – When asked what led her to becoming an opera singer, Karen Amlaw responded that for her, opportunities always seem to come out of less than ideal situations. 

“As a kid, I always sang,” she said. “My mom liked quiet, easy listening music in our home – not loud – so singing couldn’t really be the first choice for me because it was loud. I played violin and piano.

“With the Worcester Public Schools, I was able to travel and make recordings with the chorus – opportunities that wouldn’t typically be expected for fourth through sixth grade chorus students. I remember walking into Mechanics Hall and looking around thinking ‘this is what people have been telling me… take it to the concert hall,’” she added. 

 

Singing in church  

As she was set to enter middle school, the state of Massachusetts also adopted the tax initiative, Proposition 2-1/2. 

“There was worry about arts being taken away and because I was playing violin in the orchestra and solos went to students focused on singing, I decided to go to church to sing,” Amlaw recalled, where she found more opportunities to sing. 

“I attended my first rehearsal and was asked to arrive early the following week – they wanted me to sing a solo. We were performing full-fledged shows at church,” she said. “An anonymous church member made a donation to the church specifically earmarked for me to take voice lessons anywhere I wanted.”

 

College, a career…and a return to music 

Amlaw went on to college and studied psychology, music, and personnel management at the University Of Rochester Eastman School Of Music. After earning her degree, she was working in restaurant management in New York. 

“When 9/11 happened, I hadn’t been singing solo for 11 or 12 years.  I joined a church choir as a hobby with rehearsal every Thursday and church every Sunday,” she said. “Within a month I was asked to be the soprano soloist for a Mozart Mass.” 

Soon she had commitments every night with various choruses. About a year later she attended her first opera workshop. 

 

Karen Amlaw Music 

In addition to her own performing career, she now owns and operates Karen Amlaw Music (KAM) in Westborough. Amlaw and her staff of instructors, who are performers as well as educators, teach group and private lessons in bass, guitar, ukulele, violin, piano and voice for students from “ages 4 – 400.”

Continuing her lifelong passion for sharing and teaching music, Karen’s days are busy with KAM students currently learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And recently she was notified that she was selected as semi-finalist in the 2021 American Prize Competition – opera & operetta, professional division.

“Teaching kids has always been part of my life. People have asked me how I’m getting through the pandemic… I’m singing… it might be in my living room, but I’m singing, also my cat, and the kids on the screen; my students.”

For more information about Karen Amlaw Music click here.