MOT educator and composer Karen Vanderkloot DiChiera dies at 80 – Daily Tribune
Karen Vanderkloot DiChiera, educator, composer and co-founder of Michigan Opera Theater with her former husband David DiChiera, died on October 9.
She leaves behind two daughters and three grandchildren after many years battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Vanderkloot DiChiera started the Department of Education and Community Programs at Michigan Opera Theater, where she began a long trajectory of community impact and inclusion within the nonprofit, according to Andrea Scobie, director. of MOT education.
“Karen was not only the pioneer of an important and deeply impactful educational program, but she also established an ethic of inclusion to guide this work,” she says. “Karen recognized that all learners, children and adults, should be able to access and explore the arts in a personal and meaningful way. “
Vanderkloot DiChiera believed that everyone deserved the opportunity to engage in the arts.
“Karen recognized that all learners, children and adults alike, should be able to access and explore the arts in a personal and meaningful way,” Scobie continues.
Vanderkloot DiChiera has also helped other opera companies establish their educational programming, such as Opera Pacific and Dayton Opera.
In addition to her impact in education and awareness, Vanderkloot DiChiera was also a successful songwriter.
She studied composition in the early 1960s with Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan and with David DiChiera, who at the time was professor of music and composition at Oakland University. Throughout her career, she has composed the music for several children’s operas with librettist and friend Joan Hill, which are still performed today.
Vanderkloot DiChiera’s operas for young people all included different educational pillars, from ecology (Crisis in the Wetlands) to literacy (The Great Grammar Review) to Michigan history (Vigilance; The Cadillacs and their Great Adventure. Lakes; Nanabush).
As recently as 2018, MOT premiered a brand new production of Vanderkloot DiChiera’s opera Rumpelstiltskin, which she composed with David DiChiera. The opera has been performed to more than 15,000 children statewide.
The trailblazer suffered an accident in her early twenties that inspired a deep passion for access for children and adults with disabilities. In fact, she has helped many people create their own operas throughout her career. According to the MOT, Vanderkloot DiChiera formed the Detroit Committee on Disabilities, which led to the installation of ramps, guardrails and accessible toilets at Music Hall as well as the American Sign Language interpretation of the stage. main and community performance of MOT.
In addition to his educational work with the MOT and his opera compositions, Vanderkloot DiChiera has served on several boards of directors during his career and has volunteered for organizations whose missions have amplified his passion for education. arts, people with disabilities and youth engagement.
Vanderkloot DiChiera’s work has been recognized throughout his career with prestigious honors and awards, including the Variety Club of Detroit Heart Award, the Humanitarian Award from the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Michigan Governor’s Award for Arts Education, special recognition from the United Nations, and the Keewenaw Bay Tribal Council. It was also recognized by the United Nations during the International Year of Persons with Disabilities.
A public memorial will be held in honor of Vanderkloot DiChieria at a later date.
Sam White is a Michigan-based freelance writer. You can contact her at [email protected]