Megan Ihnen is a “new music force of nature.” The act of live performance is integral to Ihnen’s work and her performances thrive on elaborate sound worlds and fully-developed dramatic interpretations. Through narrative and non-narrative musical storytelling, she explores the subjects of memory, nostalgia, the perception of time, and relationships. Whether through chamber music, staged recitals, opera, or large ensemble soloist work, she emphasizes the full range of vocal sounds, timbres, colors, and uses that characterize the 21st century voice.
Ihnen is a prolific new music vocalist who has appeared with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Latitude49, Great Noise Ensemble, Stone Mason Projects, Rhymes With Opera, SONAR new music, and more. She has sung with many outstanding performers including Nadia Shpachenko, Michael Hall, Gregory Oakes, Nick Zoulek, and Hillary LaBonte, as well as premiered the work of Mara Gibson, Griffin Candey, Garrett Schumann, Christian Carey, Alan Theisen, Anna Brake, D. Edward Davis, and more.
A gifted narrative and non-narrative musical storyteller, Ihnen’s performance work explores the depths of memory, nostalgia, the perception of time, and complex relationships. Ihnen’s interpretations of modern and contemporary repertoire have garnered growing acclaim. She is particularly recognized as an excellent recitalist. Her This World of Yes program of contemporary music for voice and saxophone with Alan Theisen explores the themes of pathways, choices, and duality through the work of contemporary composers such as Jessica Rudman, Michael Young, and Michelle McQuade Dewhirst. This World of Yes has been performed across the United States including appearances in Kansas City, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC, Detroit, and Baltimore. With performances in Washington DC, Baltimore, Colorado Springs, and Kansas City, Ihnen has worked with violinist Martha Morrison Muehleisen and Rome Prize winner video artist Karen Yasinsky to take audiences on a profound journey through György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments through video and sound. Finally, Ihnen’s Single Words She Once Loved is a performance that centers around the ideas and effects of memory, dementia, and time. It is a deeply personal exploration of the dueling forces of “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” and “God gave us memories so that we may have roses in winter.” Single Words She Once Loved features compositions by David Smooke, Ryan Keebaugh, Daniel Felsenfeld, Jeffrey Mumford, and more.
Ihnen has enjoyed performing as part of Tuesdays at Monk Space, Access Contemporary Music Thirsty Ears Festival, NEXTET, Ethos NewSound, 6:30 Concert Series, International U.S. Navy Saxophone Symposium, SPLICE Festival, Oh My Ears, Second Sunday Concert Series at Boston Sculptors Gallery, Winifred M. Kelley Music Series at Salisbury House, and more. She has appeared with Zeitgeist New Music, ÆPEX Contemporary Performance, Detroit New Music “Strange Beautiful Music Marathon,” Omaha Under the Radar Festival, Works and Process at the Guggenheim Series, Notes on Fiction Series at the Center for Fiction, New Music Gathering, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, American Opera Theater, Vivre Musicale, UCCS Music/Peak Frequency Creative Arts Collective, Harford Community College Sunday Afternoon Concert Series, and Silver Finch Arts Collective.
In the spring of 2017, Ihnen undertook a fundraising project for her first album, Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless. She commissioned over 25 diverse composers from the United States and abroad to write brief, wordless lullabies for mezzo-soprano. Ihnen has also had recordings on Navona Records, Hoot/Wisdom Recordings, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN Fall 2015 Mixtape, and the CarpeDM Seize Des Moines “Music Mix: Volume III” which was featured at the 2016 SXSW Festival.
As a chamber musician, Ihnen is proud to have trained at the following summer festivals: impuls International Ensemble and Composers Academy for Contemporary Music, Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP), Fresh Inc Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, and MusicX.
Her devotion to the proliferation of new music extends beyond the commissioning and performing of music to teaching, workshopping, and mentoring of emerging artists in the field. She also works to increase the visibility and influence of new music through writing on the subject for multiple online and print publications. As a curator, she selected 20 songs for mezzo-soprano and piano for the NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music. Mezzo-Soprano, Vol. 1 includes works by: Michael Betteridge, Mark Buller, Stephen DeCesare, Douglas Fisk, Matt Frey, Jodi Goble, Ricky Ian Gordon, Cara Haxo, Cameron Lam, Cecilia Livingston, Shona Mackay, Tony Manfredonia, Nicole Murphy, Eric Pazdziora, Frances Pollock, Julia Seeholzer, Alan Thiesen, Dennis Tobenski, Moe Touizrar, and Ed Windels.
Ihnen was honored to receive a Phyllis Bryn-Julson Award for Commitment to and Performance of 20th/21st Century Music in 2009 and a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Classical Music: Solo Performance in 2014. She was an accomplished violist and drama student before pursuing degrees in music and vocal performance from Augustana University and the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Ihnen has been a board member for Baltimore Concert Opera and HOWL performing arts ensemble.
Ihnen is a devoted teacher who recently shepherded studios at Drake University Community School of Music, Southwestern Community College School for Music Vocations, and Graceland University before taking on communications roles at Nief-Norf, Live Music Project, and New Music USA. She has also been a resident faculty artist for the UMKC Summer Composition Workshop and the Mostly Modern Festival. In addition to UMKC, Ihnen has presented her popular masterclasses, workshops, and lectures at Bowling Green State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Music Gathering, Iowa Thespian Festival, UNCG Greensboro, and Florida Atlantic University. She was also a Visiting Artist for Louisiana State University for the 2018-2019 academic year.
In addition to being an avid podcast listener, Ihnen enjoys drinking good coffee, joking around with her sisters, tweeting about contemporary poetry, and watching Law & Order. She has grand dreams that one day her dog, Hunter, will be the best dog in the neighborhood. She lives in New Orleans LA and out of her suitcase equally.