Student Spotlight: Amy Kuckelman
Amy Kuckelman grew up with an inclination toward music.
From an early age, she could hear a song on the radio and then play it on the piano. She initially wanted to be a songwriter and musician, obsessed with classic popular music from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.
But when it came time to choose a college, she wasn’t sure what direction to take.
“I never felt that my path was set out in high school,” she said. “Some students knew that they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. I didn’t know where I fit in. And since I didn’t go to a performing arts high school, everything wasn’t planned out. Today I’m grateful for that, because I feel like a more well-rounded person.”
Kuckelman knew College of DuPage would be a good stepping stone toward a four-year school, although it took a year to determine what she wanted to pursue.
“I decided it would be beneficial to take classical voice lessons, because improving my technique would help me have a longer career,” she said. “That’s when I began to really like being a classical singer. Then I took part in an opera workshop at COD that was awesome, because I got to sing opera and perform scenes opposite actual opera artists. People don’t realize that in opera we are just as much actors as singers.”
Although adopted, Kuckelman learned that her birth parents were both trained as opera singers, which made her choice of career almost feel like fate. After earning her Associate in Fine Arts – Music degree from College of DuPage and singing the national anthem with a fellow classmate during Commencement, Kuckelman transferred to Roosevelt University. She was happy to be in Chicago but soon discovered that she wanted to push herself even harder.
After one year Kuckelman transferred to the Manhattan School of Music, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Voice. During her senior year, she landed the lead role in the school’s production of Lehar’s opera “The Land of Smiles.”
Recently Kuckelman returned to Chicago to be with family when her father passed away.
“I decided I really needed to stay here, and I thought about not singing anymore,” she said. “With singing and the arts, you have to make yourself vulnerable when performing and I didn’t want to go there.”
After some time away from music, Kuckelman saw an audition notice for Lyric Opera’s production of “The King and I” and thought it would be fun to do. Cast in the ensemble, she was asked to audition for “Jason and the Argonauts.” She not only landed that role but also a second one in “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.”
“I went into the second audition thinking it was for one show and I got two,” she said. “I cried when I received that email.”
Her association with Lyric Opera continues, with appearances in the recent “My Fair Lady” and two upcoming shows: as Sally Smith in the children’s outreach production of “Scorpion Sting,” and as Lucy in “Fellow Travelers.”
Kuckelman is now thinking about what her future may hold.
“New York is a tough city, and it’s nice to come home and recollect my thoughts,” she said. “Ideally, I would like to sing for a long time, but a lot of singers and artists get bogged down by the grind because they push themselves too hard. I know there’s more to life than the pressure of making something of myself. I want to experience life, listen to other people’s stories and learn from them. I’d like to tell people’s stories and ultimately just love what I do.”
Kuckelman is thankful that College of DuPage provided a forgiving atmosphere in which to learn.
“Because of the environment that people like Professor Lee Kesselman created, students had the opportunity to make mistakes and think creatively without the pressure to be perfect all the time,” she said. “COD has so much talent, and when you’re working with musicians who love what they do, it makes a difference. And I could take other classes, like anthropology, photography, drawing and art history, which makes it all come together. It was completely worth it to go to College of DuPage.”
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