There are great singers, and then there are great singers who break the mold, pushing both the musical and organizational boundaries of their craft. American mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen impressively demonstrates her affiliation with the latter group on CURRENTS IN TIME, once more employing her formidable talents as both a 21st-century vocalist and impresaria to shine a light on a varied array of contemporary composers.
Today, Megan is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to explore her musical inspirations growing up, unique teaching experiences, and more.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
I was recently teaching one of my workshops on Creative Placemaking and Community Engagement and was explaining to the group of students what people mean when they say public, private, non-profit, and community sectors. I made this long list of examples to go along with each sector. I started laughing while sharing the list of examples because, as I explained to the students, it occurred to me while I was talking that I had done some sort of performance or musical experience in each one of the examples. When you ask about “most unusual performance”, so many of those leapt to mind. I remember spending a whole day singing on a city bus route as part of a “Every day, Everywhere art” initiative. I sang for hours for people in the midst of their day-to-day life — students going home after school, workers leaving their offices downtown, families riding to the park down the street, and more. I have so many more examples of unusual performances and each one of them taught me something unique and invaluable about what it means to be a musician in community.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
As a musician who toured frequently (before the pandemic), I prided myself on finding inspiration and fascinating things to do anywhere I would go. Need a recommendation for a wine bar in Fort Wayne IN? Want an awesome spot to hike outside of Las Vegas? Care for an off-the-beaten path tour in North Carolina or even Rhode Island? I’m your gal. Also, after being displaced from my house last year after Hurricane Ida, I became even more grateful for soft places to land and do my work. If it got to be 100% in my choosing, I would absolutely select a cabin (with a piano!) in the Berkshires. I love it there and feel fueled as a creative artist anytime I spend time in those beautiful surroundings.
Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?
Bernadette Peters is the first performer I remember being absolutely enamored with. I think we had a VHS of the PBS American Playhouse airing of the Original Broadway Cast of Into the Woods. I was obsessed with her voice and her acting and the whole show. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
Alongside singing, I’ve studied and performed on viola and piano for most of my life; I even took harp lessons for a while! If this were a magic wand situation, I think I would love to be so proficient on piano (especially playing by ear) that I could play in my own girl band with my sisters. It would be such a fun way to spend time with both of them!
What is your guilty pleasure?
Hahahaha — I was just telling someone the other day, I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures” because I feel no guilt about the things that bring me pleasure. HA! Some of the things that have been really pleasurable over the summer have been a serious deep dive into 90s playlists, Murdick Fudge from Mackinac Island, brand new taper candles to elevate my weeknight dinners, TSA pre-check, trips to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico not too far away from New Orleans, reading lots of fiction with my new library card, and delicious coffee from my new french press.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
As previously mentioned, Bernadette Peters was a huge influence at an impressionable age. My dad was a theater teacher at the time and I thought that it was possible to have a life in the arts, especially arts education. There was a short detour into an interest in meteorology (hello Midwestern tornadoes!) But, it was really my high school voice teacher who unlocked the door for me. She asked, “what do you want to do in college?” And I answered, “music education” because I thought being a high school choir teacher was the bee’s knees (and surely it is for all of the awesome people who have that as their calling.) She responded, “have you ever thought about performing?” In full diva dramatics, I asked, “Oh wow, do you think I could??” That was it. I was bitten and it would not let me go. To this day, I just keep finding ways to be a professional musician and to also unlock the door for others who have that same passion and desire.