Person of interest: Katy Williams, soprano extraordinaire


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It's getting to the point that it's unusual if soprano Katy Williams hasn't sung with a Pittsburgh music group.

She is Fiddlesticks the Cat's partner in the Pittsburgh Symphony's children's concerts, but also has sung Mahler in its subscription concerts and Marvin with the Pops. She has soloed with and sung in choruses of the Pittsburgh Opera, Civic Light Opera, Mendelssohn Choir, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Pittsburgh Concert Chorale and River City Brass.

Mrs. Williams of Mt. Lebanon recently starred in Quantum Theatre's "Ainamadar," and sang at the dedication of the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College. She is a regular solo presence at services of both Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon. In a world in which singers have to spread themselves thin to make a living, she is a case study in being an entrepreneurial musician. Did we mention she teaches at Point Park University and Washington & Jefferson College, and that she also sings Broadway tunes? We managed to catch her between gigs for a peek into her life.


When did you first decide to be a professional singer, and when did you know it would actually happen?

I always knew I would be a musician. I come from generations of music teachers and performers, so it's in my blood. I am still amazed that I am asked to sing for concerts, operas and recitals.

What is it like to move among so many different styles of music?

I enjoy being able to sing early baroque, flip to the fireworks of Mozart and Handel, get messy with contemporary 21st-century Osvaldo Golijov and then bring it home with a good, fat, juicy Rodgers and Hammerstein. I have lots of insanely talented friends to help me figure it out. They are my lifeline!

A guilty pleasure of mine:

Moio's Italian Pastry Shop's freshly filled while you wait cannolis (in Monroeville). Oh, and coconut macaroons!

What is one thing about singing that you wish didn't have to be?

Two words: Lycra spandex. When you are up in front of a crowd, you have to attend to every bit of your appearance. It takes so long to get myself together, I almost forget that I have to sing! At least men get to wear suits and tuxes. Let's face it, every man looks great in a tux! I do enjoy gown shopping, though. Wait! Can I add that to the guilty pleasure category?

Dead composer whom you would have loved to meet:

George Gershwin. I envy his creativity in composing so many memorable songs. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he was composing "Fascinating Rhythm" or "Rhapsody in Blue." I would love to witness that kind of creativity.

Three things always in your refrigerator:

Muenster cheese, apples and pickles. Wait! I have teenagers -- Meat!

Your favorite spot in Pittsburgh:

Bravo Franco restaurant right across from the Heinz Hall stage door. I do so many gigs Downtown with Fiddlesticks, Pittsburgh Opera and Mendelssohn Choir that it is my best option for good food, and it has the best-looking bartender in town.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:

It was from Robert Page (the Paul Mellon University Professor of Music and director of Choral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University). I was a junior at CMU. I was a BFA in performance but was trying to add a minor and was struggling with the course load. He sat me down and told me to choose one or the other because I was being crappy at both. He demoted me to soprano 2 in choir. My lyric coloratura blood boiled! Choose the one thing you are best at and do it! But a close second is that before I went to college, my mother told me to marry rich. I've been happily married to him (Richard Williams) for almost 19 years.

Can't live without ...

That's easy; my family.

music


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