Minnechaug alumna realizes dream of becoming opera director

May 13, 2020 | Sarah Heinonen

WILBRAHAM – Wilbraham native and graduate of Minnechaug Regional High School, Jen Stephenson, has always had a passion for teaching music. Recently, that passion and drive led her to a prestigious position as Director of Opera at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Stephenson called the position, “a dream come true.”

She explained, “My sister is the chorus teacher at Wilbraham Middle School. She was older than me and we were always going to her piano recitals. I just always saw myself following in that path.”

Stephenson taught voice and piano lessons throughout her academic career and followed the path toward teaching choir. She obtained a dual master’s degree in choral teaching and vocal performance, but while working toward her doctorate, she found herself more drawn to solo vocal performance and became heavily involved with her universitys opera program.

“Opera puts together all the things I like, like the costumes and sets and the history. There’s choral singing and solo, so it was a synthesis of all my interests,” Stephenson said.

While Stephenson is already the director of opera and chair of the music department at Tabor College in Kansas, she said the position at Baylor feels like the next step in her career.

“Baylor is a great school. Their music program is one of the best in the country,” Stephenson told Reminder Publishing.

Beyond the opportunity to advance her career, Stephenson said, the position will bring she and her husband closer to his family in Texas.

“Something I’m really passionate about is helping young people find their place in the world,” Stephenson said. Music, she said, is not such “a straight and narrow career path. Students need professional guidance in mentorship.”

Stephenson has advice for high school students with musical interests.

“If there are people who are in choir or band and want to make it a career, there are a lot of jobs out there. The career won’t look the same [many other industries] but it is a viable career,” she said.

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