Faculty Profiles

Dawn Upshaw

Charles Franklin Kellogg and Grace E. Ramsey Kellogg Professor of the Arts and Humanities

Dawn Upshaw Joining a natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw is a generative and inspirational force not only on the concert stage, but in the classroom. She is the artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, a unique Master of Music degree program which she leads and which was conceived and designed by her. Having achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today, her ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience, along with the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles (Susanna, Ilia, Pamina, Despina, and Zerlina) as well as works by Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she began her career in 1984 and has made nearly 300 appearances, Dawn Upshaw has championed numerous new works created for her, including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison, the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera L’Amour de Loin and oratorio La Passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho, John Adams’s nativity oratorio El Niño, Osvaldo Golijov’s chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre, and Caroline Shaw’s chamber piece Narrow Sea. It says much about her sensibilities as an artist and colleague that she has been a favored partner of many leading musicians, including Gilbert Kalish, the Brentano Quartet, the Kronos Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, So Percussion, Maria Schneider, Richard Goode, James Levine, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

In her concert work and particularly through her work with composers, Dawn Upshaw has premiered more than 30 pieces in the past two decades. From Carnegie Hall to large and small venues throughout the world she regularly presents specially designed programs composed of song, contemporary works in many languages, and folk and popular music. She furthers this work through master classes and seminars with young musicians at major music festivals, conservatories, and liberal arts colleges. In addition to leading the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory of Music, she is Head of the Vocal Arts Program at the Tanglewood Music Center.

A five-time Grammy Award winner, Dawn Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki for Nonesuch Records. Her discography also includes full-length opera recordings of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Messiaen’s St. Francois d’Assise, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, John Adams’s El Niño, two volumes of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, a dozen recital recordings, and an acclaimed three-disc series of Osvaldo Golijov’s music for Deutsche Grammophon. Her most recent Grammy was the 2014 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy for Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks on the ArtistShare Label. She holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale, the Juilliard School, Allegheny College, and her alma maters, Illinois Wesleyan University and the Manhattan School of Music. She began her career as a 1984 winner of the Young Concert Artists Auditions and the 1985 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program. Ms. Upshaw has recorded extensively for the Nonesuch label. She may also be heard on Angel/EMI, BMG, Deutsche Grammophon, London, Sony Classical, Telarc, and on Erato and Teldec in the Warner Classics Family of labels.