Midwestern Voice in the Capital

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

During her six years at Butler—four as an undergraduate Arts Administration major and two earning her Master of Music Education— Ursula Kuhar ’05 MM ’07 often thought about moving to Washington, DC. 

In July, Kuhar took over as Executive Director of Washington Concert Opera, which specializes in performing seldom-heard operas. Kuhar calls it “one of the most revered companies in the country.” 

Getting to this point was a journey that began in Powell, Ohio, outside Columbus, where Kuhar had volunteered for her hometown symphony orchestra while in high school. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. After meeting with then-Associate Dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts Steve Roberson, she discovered the idea of Arts Administration as a major. 

Butler’s undergraduate program allowed Kuhar to explore all avenues of music, from business to teaching to performance. She was so taken with what she learned from Professor Michael Sells (“He’s still a huge mentor and guiding force in my life, and a great friend.”) that she wanted to keep studying with him. So she stayed for a master’s degree, taking voice lessons and performance-based classes from Sells, as well as music education classes with another favorite professor of hers, Penny Dimmick. 

Butler led to Indiana University, where Kuhar earned her Doctor of Music in Voice. Three days after graduation in 2011, she was hired by Sweet Briar College as Director and Assistant Professor of Arts Management. She spent four years there—and would have happily stayed longer—but on March 3, 2015, the faculty was assembled and told that the school would be closing on June 30. (That decision was rescinded in mid-June, but not until after Kuhar had accepted her position with Washington Concert Opera.) 

At Sweet Briar, Kuhar had quadrupled enrollment in the arts-management program, helped secure foundation and individual gifts, and “had a wonderful time” there. Now, she enjoys presenting “exquisite music” like Rossini’s Semiramide “to a group of devoted patrons.” 

“It’s a niche that people love,” Kuhar said. 

Plus, there’s the benefit of being in the nation’s capital. The location is head-turning, she said, “but I’m still a salt-of-the-earth, Midwest girl at the end of the day.”