I was an Arts and Information Desk intern at National Public Radio during the winter/spring of 2011.
As part of the internship program, I was involved in a project called Intern Edition, a web-based radio and multimedia program. I created a culture blog called Much Media and produced original reporting.
In my featured story, The High Drama and Hard Work of a Life in Opera I profiled man named Kenneth Kellogg, an opera singer who participated in the Washington National Opera’s (WNO) Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, a two year artist-in-residence program.
Kenneth Kellogg knows what it is like to be a count, a corporal, a doctor, a philosopher and a king*. He does not lead a life of political intrigue, though he is familiar with several foreign languages and the feeling of having thousands of eyes watching his every move.
Kenneth Kellogg is an opera singer.
Kellogg has been singing all his life. His mother used to say, “My baby’s going to be the next Luther Vandross.” As a kid, when the church choirs his friends belonged to didn’t have parts for his bass singing voice, he wasn’t deterred. In school he found he had an affinity for the opera. “I simply love to do it. And when you do what you love to do, opportunity…comes from that.”
He holds both a masters in voice performance and a specialist degree from the University of Michigan. He was a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and he was awarded the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship. Having earned these impressive bonafides, the 32-year-old Washington, D.C native has come home to be a participant in the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera.
He first came to the Opera’s artist-in-residence program this past January and will perform and perfect his craft over the next two years. He will have the opportunity to work with and learn from pre-eminent artists in the field, including program founder and the Opera’s general director, Plácido Domingo.
Kellogg doesn’t know what his day will look like until the morning of. His hours are filled with learning new music and languages as varied as Japanese and Italian, as well as coaching sessions with principal coach Ken Weiss, or fellow young artists, like pianist Robert Mollicone. But in his down time, Kellogg plays basketball with his friends, and hits the gym, listening to Bruno Mars, Drake and Cee-Lo Green on his iPod.
Discouragement is something that is par for the course when one has a career in the performing arts. Kellogg says he feels it the most because of how close he is to his work. “Being a singer is a very personal thing…because we are giving…so much of ourselves to a performance.”
A multi-faceted man, music is one of Kellogg’s many talents. He paints and draws and has had experience teaching pre-school, a vocation that he could imagine taking on when his career in opera draws to a close. “Yes, I could see myself doing other things. Do I want to do other things, no. Not until I’m done with my passion and my love for music. I won’t do those other things until I feel like I can’t do this anymore.” Kellogg is just getting started.
*Un Ballo in Maschera, Verdi , Count Ribbing, Washington National Opera 2010; La Fille du regiment, Donizetti, Corporal, San Francisco Opera 2009, La Traviata, Verdi, Dr. Grenvil, San Francisco Opera 2009; La Bohème, Puccini, Colline, San Francisco Opera 2008; The Little Prince, Portman, King, San Francisco Opera
Kellog is pictured far left, playing Count Ribbing in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Cynthia Hanna, right, is pictured performing the role of the PAGE in WNO’s production of “Salome,” an opera by Richard Strauss. Photos by: Scott Suchman, courtesy of the WNO.