Music I Am #26 – Kirsten Volness, composer-performer-teacher





The moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician:

I asked my parents for piano lessons at age 4 and was immediately hooked, so I feel like I’ve always known that I wanted to be a musician. Choosing music as a career path came later, with lots of support from family, friends, mentors, and a solid foundation of resilience.

An important skill for a career in music that does not have anything to do with an instrument or making music:

Time management and self-care are very important skills for musicians. Often, as a freelancer, I have to set my own boundaries regarding when I’m working and when I’m not, to manage the pace of my work and adapt to various obstacles that may arise along the way to a project’s fruition. I have found that resisting capitalistic definitions of “success” are key to finding a balance.

Two ways you stay motivated:

I go to concerts or other artistic events and find inspiration in what other people are doing! Deadlines are usually the real motivation though!

Latest Project:

Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War





What inspired it:

“Letters…” is a chamber opera created and performed by an all female/nonbinary team that tells the story of women’s experiences in World War I in their own words. Six singers and string quintet present 21 vignettes written by women from around the world during one of the most catastrophic conflicts in history, which continue to resonate meaningfully today.

Who’s on it:


The American Opera Project commissioned, developed, and premiered it in Brooklyn. Librettists Susan Werbe and Kate Holland, stage direction by Kate Bergstrom, music direction by Mila Henry, design by Sara Brown, Stefania Bulbarella, An-Lin Dauber, and Masha Tsimring, featuring the Opera Cowgirls.

How do you discover new music?

Concerts, various internet radio stations (college, community radio, new music shows), and recommendations from friends

One living and one dead musician that deserves more attention:

Living: Arooj Aftab — I think she’s actually gained quite a bit of notoriety at this point, but when I discovered her music a few years ago, I was totally enraptured.

Dead: Cesária Évora — She is a Cape Verdean legend and had an international career starting in the 80s. May her incredible voice and legacy live on!

Where can we find you online?


Upcoming Event you’d like to share?

Verdant Vibes Album Benefit Show with spoken word artist Christopher Johnson – LINK

June 4, 2023 at 7:30 pm

Grant Recital Hall, Brown University
1 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence, RI
$25–40 suggested donation (notaflof)

Includes free digital download when album is released!

  • ​Amanda Feery — On Shuffle
  • ​Matt Frey — Lean
  • Christopher Johnson — TBD
  • Scott Lee — Engine Trouble
  • ​​Kirsten Volness — for Anna Atkins
  • Roseminna Watson — Lullabies for Icarus
  • Evan Williams —  GRIME

We’re recording our first album at Machines with Magnets and are playing this concert to raise funds to cover production and distribution costs. Please join us—we appreciate your support!!

Soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke

Mezzo-soprano Caitlin McKechney

Left to right: Jessica Sandidge, soprano; Tharanga Goonetilleke, soprano; Maria Maxfield, soprano; Caitlin McKechney, mezzo-soprano; Tesia Kwarteng, mezzo-soprano; Sarah Beckham-Turner, soprano

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