About

Biography

Noelle McMurtry (DMA, PKL) has established herself as a versatile vocalist, researcher, concert curator, and musicologist, who employs her interdisciplinary background in service of inclusive storytelling. She engages with genre bending music-theater projects that explore diverse feminist perspectives to question and recontextualize the canon. Over the past decade, Noelle has interpreted vocal repertoire spanning the medieval era until today in art song, opera, new music, and early music genres.

In May 2023, Noelle received a Doctor in Musical Arts (DMA) in Voice with a joint Master’s in Musicology from Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She was elected to the Epsilon Omicron Chapter of the Society of Pi Kappa Lambda in recognition of her musical and academic achievements. Noelle was also awarded the George Castelle Memorial Award in Voice and the Irving Lowens Endowed Memorial Prize in Musicology.

Noelle’s approach to her musical projects centers around a single question: what contributions by historic and living women creators in classical music can we uncover? Through archival research, scholarship, and performance, Noelle brings historically overlooked vocal repertoire to audiences. By engaging with narratives around the “forgotten” women of classical music, Noelle creates a performance environment where the voices of women from the past joyously mingle with women from the present.

As a proponent of building community through collaboration, Noelle is supported in this ongoing work by musicians, scholars, and granting arts organizations, who recognize the urgent need for a classical music landscape that centers the vocal repertoire of women composers. Reviving the missing chapters of music history, Noelle invites a communal reimagining of what we, as musicians and audiences, have been told about women creators in classical music.

Noelle’s research focuses on the song repertoire of 19th-century European and North American women composers, as well as philosophies of embodied vocal performance in classical music. In 2020, she was awarded the Presser Graduate Award from The Presser Foundation to pursue archival research in Berlin, Munich, and Karlsruhe for her DMA lecture recital on the published Lieder of German composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). In July 2022, Noelle launched She Is Song, a blog and Substack newsletter to further share her research and writing about the song contributions of women composers in classical music. Since 2018, Noelle has also employed her skills as an arts administrator, researcher, dramaturg, and collaborative producer with The Pleiades Project (NYC), MUSE Festial (NYC), IN Series (DC), and Boulanger Initiative (DC).

Noelle currently lives in Washington DC with her partner Kevin and pup Cashew. For more information on her background and career, click on the categories below.

Education

Academics

In May 2023, with the support of an Artistic Excellence Award, Noelle completed a Doctor in Musical Arts (DMA) in Voice with a joint Master’s in Musicology from Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Noelle was elected to the Epsilon Omicron Chapter of the Society of Pi Kappa Lambda in recognition of her musical and academic achievements. She was also awarded the George Castelle Memorial Award in Voice and the Irving Lowens Endowed Memorial Prize in Musicology.

In 2018, Noelle received a Graduate Performance Diploma in Vocal Studies at Peabody Institute in the studio of soprano Ah Young Hong, where she received the George R. Woodhead Endowed Prize in Voice. In 2012, Noelle completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance & Literature from Eastman School of Music in the studio of soprano Rita Shane. In 2007, Noelle also received a Bachelor of Arts in Drama with Departmental Honors from Vassar College.

Languages

Growing up in a bilingual household with a Colombian mother, Noelle is an avid language-learner, studying Spanish, French, and German. In 2008, after a year-long intensive program, she was awarded a Certificate of Proficiency in French by McGill University. In 2018, Noelle attended the German School/German for Singers Program at Middlebury College, and she later passed the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 exam at Die Neue Schule in Berlin.

Research & Concert Programming

Doctoral Research

From 2019 to 2023, Noelle completed a Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice at Peabody Insitute in the studio of soprano Ah Young Hong. Noelle’s research focuses on the politics of canon creation and employing programming methodology to create a more inclusive, accurate historical narrative around the creativity of women and their artistic contributions in classical music, specifically within the song repertoire of 19th-century European and North American women composers.

In 2020, Noelle was awarded a Presser Graduate Award from the Presser Foundation to pursue archival research in Berlin, Munich, and Karlsruhe for her DMA thesis project, “In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau,” on the unpublished Lieder of German Romantic-era composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). She completed the first phase of her research in Germany from March to June 2022. Noelle’s work on this project remains ongoing. For updates, click here.

Dramaturgy

In 2020, with a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Noelle co-created A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudeville-inspired revue celebrating and problematizing the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted many American women the right to vote. Noelle served as dramaturg and co-book writer for AWSSE!, using resources like the Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music Collection at the Library of Congress. AWSSE! was workshopped at Alchemical Studios (NYC) in November 2021. 

She Is Song Blog

In July 2022, Noelle also launched She Is Song, a blog to share her research and writing about the contributions of women composers in classical music, specifically through song repertoire. Read the newest posts here.

The Pleiades Project

From 2018-2022, Noelle served as Director of Live Content for The Pleaides Project, a production platform for female-identifying artists through digital and live performance opportunities. With The Pleiades Project, Noelle has collaborated as both a performer and a curator. In 2020, Noelle presented virtual lectures on the lives and works of composers Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Louise Reichardt for German Romantics, a film series that explores the Lieder of Romantic-era women composers. In 2019, in collaboration with Caroline Miller, sopranos Aine Hakamatsuka and Manami Hattori-Fallen, and the MUSE Festival (NYC), Noelle co-programmed World of Miyabi: Japanese Women in Song, a program of traditional waka settings by Japanese women composers, including the contemporary poetry of Japanese Canadian poet Joy Kogawa in Leslie Uyeda’s cycle into the shimmering. In 2018, she premiered in Come down angels, a program exploring folk songs and spirituals from female perspectives, at the Multi- Cultural Sonic Evolution Festival (NYC) and the Alchemical Theatre Laboratory (NYC).

Concert Work & New Music

Noelle employs innovative song programming to explore the works of historic and living women composers. Examples of her original programs include Ophelia and Her Sisters​, ​Femmes en fleur, The Little Ghost​, The Heavenly Banquet, To the Queen of My Heart, Head, Heart, and Portraits: The Self Illuminated, The Shining Place, and Sauvez-moi de l’amour. Noelle received the Outstanding Performance Award in the Art Song Division of the Metropolitan International Vocal Competition, has been a semifinalist in the Mary Trueman Vocal Arts Competition with The Art Song Preservation Society of New York, and has been a Young Artist at SongFest where she coached with Martin Katz, Margo Garrett, Graham Johnson, and composer Jake Heggie.

A frequent recital collaborator, Noelle has presented concerts with Christ & St. Stephen’s Recital Series (NYC), The Cantanti Project (NYC), The Pleiades Project (NYC) and IN Series (DC). With The Cantanti Project, she collaborated on Ophelia Transformed, which examined representations of Ophelia through the works of Johann Strauss, Jake Heggie, Ambroise Thomas, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Noelle also collaborated on Her Story, inspired by Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination for the U.S. presidency. Her Story celebrated female perspectives in song with works by Hildegard von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, Germaine Tailleferre, and Libby Larsen.

For the 2019-2020 season, Noelle co-curated with Artistic Director Timothy Nelson, and performed in the Gala Concert for the IN Series’ Women Composers Festival (DC), interpreting works by Kate Soper, Jessica Krash, Emily Lau, Caroline Shaw, Lori Laitman, Gabriela Ortiz, Emily Brey, and Louise Talma.

In 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Noelle presented a filmed concert, The Shining Place, with pianist Michael Sheppard at St. Thomas’ Parish (DC). The Shining Place included works by Eve Beglarian, Lee Hoiby, Judith Weir, Margaret Bonds, and Lori Laitman.

In 2022, Noelle presented Sauvez-moi de l’amour, a chamber music recital with works by Comtessa de Dia, Mel Bonis, Luise Adolpha Le Beau, David Lang, and Caroline Shaw in collaboration with Julie Bosworth (voice), Claire Galloway-Weber (voice), Bonnie Lander (voice), Alix Evans (medieval harp), and Hui-Chuan Chen (piano).

Noelle is also passionate about engaging with new works by living composers, Noelle was featured as the titular character in Kaija Saariaho’s monodrama Émilie. Based on the life and writings of Marquise Émilie du Châtelet, a prolific 17th-century French physicist, this unique production, directed by Garnett Bruce and conducted by Leonard Weissman, cast eight sopranos, each playing Émilie throughout the monodrama’s nine scenes. Émilie, in conjunction with Now Hear This, was coached by soprano Elizabeth Futral, who premiered Émilie in the United States, as well as Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, who premiered Émilie in 2010.

Non-Profit & Teaching

The breadth of Noelle’s artistic experience extends into the arts non-profit landscape. She currently works as a Research Associate with the Boulanger Initiative (BI), expanding their database listings of the works of women composers, as well as writing blogs and supplemental activities for BI’s educational materials.

In May 2023, Noelle completed the Teaching Academy’s Certificate program at the Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation at Johns Hopkins University. This program supports Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows in their development as instructors in undergraduate and graduate settings. As part of the Certificate program, Noelle created and facilitated Acting Art Song, a workshop centered on interpreting art song for the recital stage, with voice students in Opera Workshop at the University of Maryland.

From 2018-2022, Noelle served as the Director of Live Programming at NYC-based The Pleiades Project, where she employed her skills in programming, writing, and producing on a variety of projects. From 2013-2016, Noelle developed a background in non-profit arts administration as a grant writer and Interim Daily Manager at The Actors Theater Workshop (NYC), and Executive Assistant to Michelle Oesterle, the Director of Manhattan Girls Chorus (NYC). As a passionate advocate for arts and music education, Noelle’s duties included seeking funds and managing programs that empower children from diverse backgrounds to discover their unique voice through theatre and music.

Historical Performance

Drawn to the inherent drama, complexity, and emotion of Baroque repertoire, Noelle has coached with early music specialists Drew Minter, Ellen Hargis, Lisa Saffer, Paul O’Dette, Richard Stone, and Mark Cudek. In 2014, Noelle was a member of the Young Artist Program at The Boston Early Music Festival in Handel’s ​Almira​.

Noelle advocates for the work of historic women composers in her early music concert repertoire as well. With Philadelphia-based lutenist Theodore Cheek, Noelle performed Italian Renaissance lute songs by Francesca Caccini, Maddalena Casulana, Vittoria Aleotti, and Leonora Orsini. She has also interpreted Esther and Sémelé, biblical cantatas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, with Baltimore-based harpsichordist Paula Maust. Noelle collaborated with lutenist Cameron Welke on Barbara Strozzi’s E giungerà pur mai, Op. 8 and with vocalist and medieval harpist Alix Evans on A chantar m’er de so qu’eu no volria, a medieval monody by Comtessa de Dia.

Opera

Noelle’s operatic interests lie in both ends of the historical spectrum, and she specializes in Baroque and 20th- to 21st -century operatic works. Highlights of her operatic credits include Calisto in Cavalli’s La Calisto, Fairy in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Drusilla in ​L’incoronazione di Poppea, Papagena in ​The Magic Flute, 1st Witch and Second Woman in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and Despina in Così fan tutte​. For her work in the Christopher Caines production of The Fairy Queen, produced by dell’Arte Ensemble, she was praised by The New York Times as ” terrific fun… and especially fine among the singers,” and by The Wall Street Journal as “[one] of the most notable soloists… in a vibrant, exuberant chorus.”

Since 2019, Noelle has performed with DC-based opera company IN Series. In 2023, she performed as a soloist in REQUIEM, an experimental staged concert work combining Mozart’s Requiem with music by French composers Lili Boulanger and Québécois composer Claude Vivier. DC Theatre Arts hailed REQUIEM as “flat-out glorious… the singing is exhilarating, both individually and as combined voices.”

During IN Series’ 2019-2020 season, Noelle performed as Polyxo in Kate Soper’s chamber opera Here Be Sirens, produced by IN Series and directed by Brian K. Shaw for The IN Series Women Composers Festival. Hailed by The Washington Classical Review for her “silvery-toned voice” and by DC Metro Theatre Arts as “delightful with pointy little ears and extraordinary, crystal-clear voices… fully capable of handling Soper’s sophisticated and intricate score,” Here Be Sirens employs a trio of sopranos, accompanying themselves with extended techniques on prepared piano, as they search for the meaning behind their own mythological existence.

Film

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Noelle became increasingly involved with projects that combine music and film. In 2020, Noelle co-created I take the long way there, a concert-film project in response to making art during the pandemic, which included the song repertoire of composers Jessica Krash, Melissa Dunphy, Lori Laitman, Clara Schumann, Vittoria Aleotti, and Maddalena Casulana. I take the long way there was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2022 Film Series of the Guerilla Opera Underground (Boston). As part of the Short Gems film series, Noelle also collaborated with DC-based Alliance for New Music-Theatre in Outside/In The Canyon, an original short film based on the Helen Frankenthaler painting “Canyon” with saxophonist Carolyn Braus. Outside/In The Canyon featured music by Jessica Krash, libretto by Claudia Rosales Waters, and direction by Susan Galbraith. Through her affiliation with Peabody Institute, Noelle also participated in an art song residency with DC-based composer Lori Laitman, in which she created film versions of Laitman’s “The Sunflowers” and “First Date.”

In 2019, she made her film debut in The Pleiades Project’s German Romantics: Clara, a music video interpretation of Clara Schumann’s Op. 12, now streaming on IN Series’ virtual opera house, INVISION. As the role of Senator Ben Cardin, Noelle also collaborated with IN Series in a virtual presentation of The Gonzales Cantata, a satirical docu-opera by composer Melissa Dunphy. In the style of Handelian oratorio, The Gonzales Cantata sets transcripts from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s disastrous 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Directed by Corrine Hayes, this INVISION production featured soprano Melissa Wimbish as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the premiere of an organ transcription by the composer, as well as a collaboration with the Capital City Symphony. This production was also profiled in The New York Times‘ article, “When Political Theater Ditches the Disguises of Fiction,” by Jesse Green.

 

Artistic Collaboration

Through a collaborative partnership with Canadian flutist Christian Paquette, Noelle and Christian have focused on repertoire that explores the fault-lines between the flute and the human voice, specifically with new works and works composed by women. They performed Kate Soper’s virtuosic Only the words themselves mean what they say at the Kennedy Center, on The Walters Art Museum Concert Series (Baltimore), and on the Gala Concert for the IN Series’ Women Composers Festival (DC). In 2019, Noelle and Christian premiered Kyle Puebla Dubin and Eli Rose’s Haven with baritone Joshua Scheid, which explores the nuance and complexity of trans identity, on the Shriver Hall Concert Discovery Series (Baltimore).

In collaboration with writer/comedian/actor Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Noelle developed and performed Queen of Hearts, a cabaret-style exploration of love through story and song. By combining Emma’s wit and observation through personal memoir and contemporary American musical theatre repertoire by Georgia Stitt and Jeanna Phillips, Queen of Hearts explores what truly evolves as romantic love descends upon one’s life. Awarded a Career Development Grant from Peabody Institute, Queen of Hearts premiered at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre (NYC) in 2016 and was later workshopped at The Pleiades Project Launch Event. In 2017-2018, Noelle and Emma performed Queen of Hearts with Inception to Exhibition (NYC) and Stillpointe Theater (Baltimore).

Soprano Noelle McMurtry and bass Andy Berry were the most notable soloists, and the whole tribe created a vibrant, exuberant chorus.

Heidi Waleson

The Wall Street Journal

“[Fairy Queen] is all terrific fun once you are swept into the spirit, and that doesn’t take long . . . Especially fine among the singers on Friday were Noelle McMurtry and Tamra Paselk; sopranos.”

James R. Oestreich

The New York Times

“Each of the very gifted singers . . . including Noelle McMurtry . . . has at least one aria to deliver . . . These are beautiful, lilting pieces of music, with large amounts of fioritura. The singers’ task of keeping their tone pure and tremolo at bay, in order to contrast “simple” singing with these virtuosic embellishments, is a demanding one (among the women, McMurtry is especially skilled at this).”

Deborah Jowitt

Dance Beat Arts Journal

“In the middle as Polyxo was the more silvery-toned Noelle McMurtry, who turned aside from the trio’s singing to ask questions. She went with increasing insistence to a pile of books, quoting Jung, Ovid, Pausanias, and other sources, her thoughtful analysis offering some comic relief from the unrelenting fierceness of the siren song.”

Charles T. Downey

Washington Classical Review

It must have been a challenge to find performers who could sing and dance as well. All the voices were fine but we were most impressed with sopranos Noelle McMurtry … [who] captured the Baroque style with pure tones that floated beautifully in the upper register.”

Meche Kroop

Voce di Meche

Whether they sing singly or together, as they do in their portrayal of the Muses, McMurty, Crossot, and Bosworth display that they are fully capable of handling Soper’s sophisticated and intricate score.

Barbara Mackay

DC Metro Theatre Arts