The Secret lives of our Profs – ni

Stacey Day

“You have to dream big, and then throughout life you will find you will eventually come around to your dreams,” began Professor Karen Leigh-Post, Associate Professor of Music. Starting at age four 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 says blushing.
Throughout high school, she was in all three of the singing ensembles her school supported, and did 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!” While her family was generally supportive of her then-current plan to enter music education, when asked about her parent’s initial reaction to the possibility of majoring in performance, Professor 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, Professor 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 became a Choral Education and Vocal Performance double-major. Despite her major, she also discovered her passion for one-on-one, personal instruction through her relationships with professors. When she wasn’t working, singing, or at rehersals for the school opera, Professor Leigh-Post reveals that she often used to ride her bike to Highview Park and made frequent use of the rentable tents from Student Union.
After Lawrence, Professor Leigh-Post spent fifteen years performing as a single mother. She recalls moving to New York city with her four 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 the whole while holding down five additional jobs.
All the stress and hard work proved worthwhile however, when she held her first full-time singing job in Europe at the age of 35, with her younger daughter one year old, fulfilling a long-term dream of singing in Europe by exactly that age. From here, it was all uphill with an illustrious career, performing in theaters in Europe and across the United States, earning rave reviews from the New York Times and other publications.
However, her original love of teaching and desire to emulate her Lawrentian-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.
Now, she is in the process of hopefully publishing a study she undertook in the fall entitled, “Cognitive and Kinesthetic Awareness,” studying the relation between singing and body movement. In this way, she has ironically come back to physical therapy of sorts, 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.