This Musical Woman Loves the Warmth of Louisville

Nov 16, 2018 | Passions

“I was surrounded by music all the time. That’s how I got my start,” says Barbara Lynne Jamison, the Kentucky Opera’s new general director.

She grew up in a musical family and took singing lessons, sang in church, and learned how to play the piano and cello. Barbara went on to earn  degrees in vocal performance and began a career as a classical soprano.

Although she is from the Ohio River area between West Virginia and Ohio, she says, “I lived in New York City longer than I lived anywhere in my life, so I feel as though I’m from New York because it’s where I spent most of my time. I started college in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Florida International University. Afterwards I went to the Manhattan School of Music and some doctoral studies at Boston University.”

One way Barbara says that music is important to our culture is that  “we learn meaning of words from how they’re presented to us through rhythm and melody; that’s universal to all languages. We’ve learned language through musical building blocks, which is why we express ourselves through music in so many heightened ways. We don’t say ‘Happy Birthday!’ over and over again to someone, we sing it. Not chanting — singing. It shows how the important things we all share are expressed through songs with melody and rhythm.”

Barbara is interested in the cognitive effects of music and how the opera can impact our city.  “I was taken by the [Kentucky Opera] board’s understanding of how important it was for this company to continue more deeply into community responsibility,” she says. “So often boards are thinking about the product on the stage and the quality of that, which is important, but it’s equally important for that product to be of a quality that the community can appreciate and resonates with them.”

She was also taken by the city. “When my husband and I visited the city we were really taken by the warmth of the community, how the people are so community centered and socially conscious as they care about each other,” Barbara says. “There are so many opportunities for people to get together. Togetherness is important, and I’m coordinating that to continue to connect people to an idea and one another through open hearts and minds.”