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Award-winning soprano returning to Sewickley for special performance

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Sewickley Academy native Jennifer O'Loughlin appears in 'Candide' in Vienna.
Photo by Barbara Palffy
Sewickley Academy native Jennifer O'Loughlin appears in 'Candide' in Vienna. Photo by Barbara Palffy

By age 12, Sewickley native Jennifer O'Loughlin knew she wanted to be a performer, but she said she couldn't have imagined what kind of a lifestyle that would be.

Since then, the opera soprano has performed and garnered awards from all over the world.

Although she has lived in Vienna, Austria, for 10 years, she said she has never has forgotten her hometown. On April 28, she will return to perform at St. James Catholic Church, where she once sang in the choir and worked with Lou Valenzi, director of music.

“I have a fond place in my heart for this town. I love Vienna, but I miss Sewickley sometimes,” said O'Loughlin, a 1996 Quaker Valley High School graduate.

She enjoyed spending time last Christmas with her father, Dr. Laurence O'Loughlin; mother, Maureen; and brother, Timothy.

“Without their love and support, I probably wouldn't have been able to do what I've done,” she said.

O'Loughlin will present “Coming Full Circle: Bring Me Your Song Again” at St. James with Donna Amato of Edgeworth accompanying on piano.

“I grew up in Sewickley, and to go away and experience so much and come back and share that with people here, that's pretty special.”

“I've chosen songs I think the audience will enjoy and will show what I've been doing in my career,” she said

Her first set will include songs in foreign languages by Mozart and Strauss.

The second set will be performed in English and come from a program she created titled, “If I Keep a Green Bough in My Heart, the Singing Bird Will Come,” which is part of a Chinese proverb.

Sharron Schaefer, St. James associate director of music, who once was O'Loughlin's piano teacher, said it was evident early on that her student had musical talent.

“She had a profound understanding of the passion with which most music is composed. She put emotion into her playing at a much younger age than most students,” Schaefer said.

When O'Loughlin was a high school junior, Schaefer, who at the time was director of music at Sewickley United Methodist Church, asked her to sing as a guest there in the summers.

“Her selections were always performed to a ‘still' audience. By that, I mean that you could almost hear the breathing of the people in the pews, it was that quiet,” Schaefer said.

O'Loughlin, who still takes voice lessons a few times each year in New York, also worked with Valenzi, choral and general music teacher at Quaker Valley Middle School, at Robert Morris University in “The Pirates of Penzance.”

She said she first fell in love with classical music when she was 9 years old and participated in the Children's Festival Chorus in Pittsburgh, which performed many concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

O'Loughlin, who also was in three Quaker Valley musicals, graduated with a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from Peabody Institute at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

She then received a master's degree in vocal performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York; was awarded a grant to attend Zürich Opera Studio's international young artists program in Switzerland; and was an ensemble member for eight seasons with Vienna Volksoper, a major opera house in Austria.

She now works freelance for Volksoper, which she said makes her more available to perform in other countries, as well.

Most recently, her performance of Lucia's mad scene from “Lucia Di Lammermoor” in the finals of the Paris Opera Awards earned her the Maria Callas Prize for the best interpretation and audience favorite prize.

In October and November, she will perform the title role in Handel's “Semele” and as Konstanze in Mozart's “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail” at Munich's Gärtnerplatztheater.

“I have watched her make a dream come true, and use her God-given talent to it's great ability,” Schaefer said.

“I am proud to have been a mentor to her when she was young, and now a friend to her as an adult.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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