Balancing Family and a Music Career
by Catherine Kasch
It began some twenty eight years ago in vocal performance class at the University of Colorado. A look, a glance from one of the most handsome young men (tenor, Donald Kasch) I’d encountered in the music school. We caught each other’s eye in that class and then again in choir practice where a certain soprano grimaced and contorted her face toward the noble goal of choral enthusiasm. Both watching in awe and amusement at the event this young singer made out of producing sound, we then realized that both of us were spellbound by this show and giggled across the room at one another.
After a couple of weeks of dating I knew down deep inside this would be the man that I was supposed to spend my life with. I was a sophomore vocal performance major, he a freshman. Yea, I know, babies. But we both finished our respective degrees and married shortly after graduation without a clue as to where this career path would lead. We both had big dreams of singing stardom, I knew in my heart that teaching would always be a large part of what I wanted to accomplish. Three months after graduation, we took a family trip to Chicago and stopped by Northwestern to grab a brochure. The kind woman in the office, finding out my husband was a tenor (I being a lyric coloratura not nearly as compelling!) convinced him to run upstairs and sing for the dean who just happened to be working in his office over the summer. A week later, he received news of a generous scholarship to attend graduate school in a week and a half. Packing up our U-Haul, old Volkswagen with 250,000 miles on the odometer and what little money we had, we ventured to this amazingly large and intimidating city. Upon our arrival into this mecca of the arts, we set about doing every gig we could find to support ourselves in music. We were immensely proud the day we added up all the church jobs, synagogue jobs, local television singing job, voice teaching, small symphony gigs, shows, etc. and it totaled to $1,000 a month! We had made it! Big time!
Through our Chicago journey, Don was accepted into the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, I expanded my teaching career and kept singing on a local level. After awhile, our long time goal of having a family became more tempting and a topic of discussion. We’d ALWAYS known we wanted a family, but how to do it successfully? Is there ever a “right” time, a “wrong” time? We wanted to give ourselves a good five years of being the two of us and becoming more financially viable.
We took the baby “plunge” while Don was in the Opera Center. I remember Don singing a small role in an opera in which Pavarotti was the leading tenor. Don came back from the hospital to rehearsal and Pavarotti asked in his Italian accent “What you have?” Don replied, “a girl!”, to which the great Pavarotti responded ,”a that’s nice…I have three!”.
For two years we lived in Chicago with our sweet little girl, Megan. Then Don’s career began to gain its momentum. Most of his work was in Europe, some in the states, so we made the decision to place all of our belongings in storage and the three of us embark on the traveling circuit together. At Megan’s age, she was perfectly content to be with her parents and make best friends with whoever was in the sandbox at the park that day.
This lifestyle of living out of seven suitcases lasted for two years. Then, we realized or daughter needed a home base. We settled back in the Chicago area. After four years we had our second child, Max, then a year and half later our son Miles. We talked and discussed career and family boundaries. We decided that for every day Don was gone or away, he needed to be home a day. This was still a challenge, but one we thought was a fair compromise and important for the health of our family and marriage.
I took several years off from my career to be with my children when they were very young, I felt that important for me to do. It was a challenge. I lived the life of a single parent for half the year. Many sleepless nights I paced and longed for sleep when one boy would have an ear infection, no sooner get over it and then the next boy caught the same thing. We were never all apart from each other for more than two months. Financially, we were fortunate that Don started his career at the international level. If his work had been centered regionally, this six month arrangement may have been quite difficult.
Our children became use to this lifestyle and we strove to “accentuate the positive”. “Just think”, we say, “Dad may be gone for a month, but then he is home for a month and can go to school events, be home in the day, etc. So really, you probably get to see him more time cumulatively than a lot of kids get to see their dads!” “And….what about all the kids whose dads are in the military and gone for a year or more?” Did it make the separations easier? Maybe not, but it kept our attitude toward them more positive and isn’t that the important thing? We all have challenges and obstacles in life. There are trade-offs with success in any area. We were fortunate to live the dream.
The other plus my children have experienced is travel. We haven’t been to Disneyland, but we’ve been to Paris, Italy, Australia (twice), Germany, the Nederland’s and many other great countries as a family. We all still miss Dad when he’s gone, but it is part of the fiber of what makes our family unique, as every family is unique. There are ups and downs in any family or marriage, but commitment and love are choices we make every day. I am thankful for my family and would not trade them for any other. I have been active in my career again for the past 15 years, my daughter is married and in her graduate degree program in early childhood education, my sons are active 17 and 19 year olds making their way into manhood…but not in music! Don will be travelling 10 months this year for the first time, as last year’s economy hit his scheduled productions hard. But we are thankful for the work, being a part of this wonderful profession AND our family.
Catherine Kasch, soprano, holds a bachelor of music from the University of Colorado where she studied with acclaimed teachers, pedagogues and authors Dr. Barbara Doscher and Dr Berton Coffin. She holds a master of music, as well as a post-master’s artist’s certificate, from Northwestern University, Evanston. Ms Kasch has completed all levels of study at the Contemporary Music Institute with renowned master teacher Jeanne Lovetri and has, herself, taught master classes at Northwestern College, Minnesota, the Sydney Conservatory of Music in Australia, the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Den Haag as well as with the International Opera Studio in Amsterdam. She has served as a guest teacher with the Perry Mansfield Institute in Steamboat Springs. Before joining the faculty at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, she was on the voice faculty at the University of Colorado. Previous teaching includes Triton College and the College of Lake County in Illinois.
In the Chicago area she performed with the Chicago Heights Symphony, North Shore Symphony, Bravura Opera Works and Chicago Light Opera Works. She recorded extensively with the Harold Flammer Series and Hope Publishing under the direction of John Wilson and sang, for six years, with the WTTW ‘Chicago Sunday Evening Club’ television program.
A former Miss Colorado in the 1978 Miss America Scholarship Pageant, Ms.Kasch performed extensively throughout the state of Colorado in that capacity. She has been a greater Denver area soprano soloist, having sung Bach’s St.John and St.Matthew Passions, the Messiah, the Vivaldi Gloria and Schubert’s Mass in C. She has performed works by David Amram, conducted by the composer, has appeared with Gabriel’s Dinner Theater as well as with the Colorado Summer Music Festival.
Equally at home with traditional classical training and the technical demands of both ‘legitimate’ and modern musical theater, Ms Kasch continues to study extensively to thoroughly present all lines of technique in both her studio work and in her capacity as undergraduate and graduate teacher of vocal pedagogy at the Lamont School of Music. Ms Kasch remains the central technical force throughout the career of her husband, tenor, Donald Kasch.