Secret lives of our profs

Stacey Day

“You have to dream big, and then throughout life you will find you will eventually come around to your dreams,” began Karen Leigh-Post, associate professor of music and teacher of voice.
Starting at age 4 when she joined the cherub choir at her church, Leigh-Post took advantage of every opportunity that came her way in the fine arts in her community, from musicals, to plays, to choirs and more. “I was always an actress,” she said, blushing.
Throughout high school, she was in all three of the singing ensembles her school supported, and she participated in every musical. At a ninth-grade job fair, she took a career aptitude test that suggested she become either a mechanic or a physical therapist. However, music and acting consumed her life so much she could think of doing nothing else. “It was just what I did!” commented Leigh-Post.
While her family was generally supportive of her then-current plan to enter music education, her parents were less enthusiastic about a major in performance. Leigh-Post exclaimed, “I can’t even tell you what my dad said! It wouldn’t be politically correct!”
Prior to college visits, she dabbled with the idea of going into music therapy, but at the school where she was interested in pursuing that route, she walked in to find her interviewer slobbering drunk. While appalled at the time, Leigh-Post now looks back with a smile, calling the incident “divine intervention.”
Having eliminated all schools with inebriated interviewers, she decided to attend Lawrence University, where “everything fell into place.”
Here she majored in choral education and vocal performance. She also discovered her passion for one-on-one, personal instruction through her relationships with professors.
When she was not working, singing or at rehearsals for the school opera, Leigh-Post revealed that she often used to ride her bike to Highview Park and made frequent use of the rentable tents from the student union.
After Lawrence, Leigh-Post spent 15 years performing as a single mother. She recalls moving to New York City with her 4-year-old, describing how all their earthly possessions were stuffed into her car, leaving barely enough room for the two of them: “I could hardly even get out because of the bikes tied onto the side of the car!”
Once she finally got herself settled after “literally fighting for an apartment,” she proceeded to pursue her doctorate at Rutgers University while raising one child, giving birth to another in her final year of study, and somehow holding down five additional jobs.
All the stress and hard work proved worthwhile, however. Her younger daughter was 1 year old when Leigh-Post found her first full-time singing job in Europe at the age of 35, fulfilling a long-term dream of singing in Europe by exactly that age.
The hardest parts seemingly over, Leigh-Post enjoyed an illustrious career, performing in theaters in Europe and across the United States and earning rave reviews from The New York Times and other publications.
However, her original love of teaching and desire to emulate her Lawrence professors’ examples eventually led her to a crossroads in 1995. An offer of a steady job in the Metropolitan Opera House chorus came into conflict with an offer to move to Appleton and teach at Lawrence.
Although she happily chose to join our faculty in ’96, she spent the next few years flying back to keep singing obligations at the Met, and even found time to perform in a Broadway show in Hamburg while teaching.
Currently, Leigh-Post is in the process of publishing a study she undertook in the fall, “Cognitive and Kinesthetic Awareness,” in which she studied the relationship between singing and body movement. Ironically, in this way Leigh-Post has almost come back to physical therapy, showing once again how all her dreams seem to have eventually come true in her life.
A great favorite of students, she loves Lawrence right back, praising the “liberal arts approach and the intellectual curiosity this place fosters,” and her youngest daughter is even considering attending.

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