Student Testimonials

Emily Fons, mezzo-soprano

Dr. Karen Kanakis was an integral part of my vocal education during my time at Luther College.  Dr. Kanakis' wonderful ability as an educator is obviously due to the fact that she is a highly accomplished musician herself, and speaks from not only a large pedagogical knowledge base, but from experience.  Dr. Kanakis inspired me to find repertoire that interested and inspired me, and in that way helped me to discover what made my voice unique, and to really take ownership of that.  Dr. Kanakis helped me build the skills that would take me from college, to grad school, to the audition circuit, and eventually to a career as a professional musician.  I always felt nurtured yet challenged, and above all respected the professional atmosphere that Dr. Kanakis provided.  Dr. Kanakis was and is a symbol to me of what hard work and a passion for your gifts can mean in terms of success, a career, and a life's calling.  I'm sure whatever a student's vocal goals are, Dr. Kanakis can help to achieve them.


Jill Phillips, mezzo-soprano

I have thoroughly enjoyed my voice lessons with Karen.  She creates a learning environment conducive to exploring, questioning, and creating.  She is very knowledgeable about vocal pedagogy and is able to provide exercises and repertoire appropriate for vocal growth.  She has encouraged me and helped me to explore the qualities of my voice that make it unique to me.  In addition to being my voice teacher, she has also become a very important mentor for me in my professional career.  


David Geist, baritone

I came to Karen directly out of high school entering into my first year as a voice major in college. As a young singer in need of basic technical guidance, Karen gave me the tools to help lay a strong vocal foundation for myself. Very few teachers who I have ever worked with have had the pedagogical background and overall knowledge of vocal function than Karen. This feeds directly into her teaching, and allows her to be an excellent vocal builder. Not only is Karen a strong vocal technician, but she is also highly dedicated to her students and their overall success. She will hold you to high standards along with being your biggest cheerleader. I always felt safe and comfortable around her whether I was feeling insecure about my voice, or if something outside of singing was impacting me that day. At this point, having moved onto other schools and teachers, and now beginning a career as a professional singer, I can more fully see the impact Karen has had on me. I have no doubt that the vocal grounding and pedagogical knowledge I received from her has given me the tools to be a flexible singer, and approach all singing in a way that is healthy, productive, and beautiful. I would not be the singer I am today without her.

Kelley Lokensgard, mezzo-soprano

Working with Dr. Karen Kanakis is an all-encompassing experience. It will be rare that a student ever feels more supported with another teacher. She is a mentor - a true educator - who fiercely believes in her students and has a talent for knowing how to train their weaknesses while also highlighting their assets. I specifically appreciate how she pedagogically lays out a plan to train each student to success. She builds a sturdy foundation for singing, as opposed to fixing minor, shallow errors. There is a clear path that provides structure for each student. No student of hers will feel unattended to or without a plan. 

I would not be the singer I am without Dr. Kanakis. I would recommend her to any singer that is focused, career-oriented, and willing to put in the work she expects. It is absolutely worth it. 


Wesley Frye, tenor

I studied voice under Dr. Kanakis in the final two years of my bachelors’ degree at Luther College, and in that time, I learned more about my voice than I ever had before. She is not your average voice teacher; she makes you think. She brought technique and full, resonant, healthy singing to the forefront and from there, she helped me understand the reason behind all of the new ideas I was absorbing. Dr. Kanakis works above and below the surface to pinpoint the advantages and flaws of one’s vocal construct, and teaches with an unparalleled adamancy to bring out the best in each singer. In addition to being a fine teacher, it’s important to mention that she is a fine person; her resplendent personality comes out in her instruction, and it is impossible to be in a bad mood when studying with her! I cannot imagine what my voice would be without Karen Kanakis’s guidance, and I don’t want to. If you’re looking to singing fuller and healthier than you ever have before, and want to enjoy the path to success with a smile on your face, Dr. Kanakis is the right choice!


Brianna Clancy, mezzo-soprano

I began studying with Dr. Kanakis my freshman year in college, when the only skills I had to my name were enthusiasm and a good sense of pitch. For four years, Dr. K instilled in my peers and me a work ethic that, after a year of graduate studies, I have yet to see equaled.  Her thorough understanding of voice pedagogy helped me lay a solid foundation that I rely upon to build my technique to this day. She always emphasized the importance of professionalism, but she also instilled in me the confidence to go out into the world and let everyone know there is nothing wrong with a mezzo who can sing a high C.


Luigi Enriquez, tenor

Karen Kanakis has not only given me a more confident, resonant, and free voice, but also a healthy environment where I was allowed to make mistakes, be exploratory, and be myself. I never trusted my voice and never considered myself to be a singer, but Karen, with her time, patience, and willingness in my lessons, taught me to be more positive and she always affirmed the progress that I made. She has a great energy in lessons, has great relationship skills and communication skills, she is very critical and protective of her singers, but always a happy and willing to help. She is well versed in pedagogy and has a tremendous voice to match.