Carrie Henneman Shaw

Praised in the New York Times “as graceful vocally as she was in her movements,” “consistently stylish” (Boston Globe), and as a “cool, precise soprano” (Chicago Tribune), Carrie Henneman Shaw is a two-time McKnight Fellowship for Musicians winner (2010, 2017). 

She has premiered major works by such Minnesota composers as Jocelyn Hagen and Abbie Betinis and performed American premieres of works by Georg Friedrich Haas, Hans Thomalla, and Augusta Read Thomas. 

In addition to being an interpreter of contemporary and experimental music, Carrie specializes in music of the 17th century and has performed operatic roles with Boston Early Music Festival and Haymarket Opera. She is a member of Chicago's Ensemble Dal Niente and Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. 

An instructor at Winona State University and Bethel University, she holds degrees in English and voice performance from Lawrence University and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.


Hear Carrie in Oratorio per la Settimana Santa March 8 & 10, 2018 - Get your tickets now! 


What is the story of how you first came to love music and opera?  

When I was a small child, my mom always left an LP playing when I went to sleep at night, some children's music, but also Sound of Music, Sorcerer's Apprentice, and (most importantly) the soundtrack to Annie, with which I was beyond obsessed. When I was in sixth grade, my dad died after a short battle with cancer. My choir teacher, seeing me adrift, drew me into small group of singers who performed a substance-abuse prevention musical targeting at-risk elementary school-age children, and from that time on, music became a second home for me. I didn't discover opera until I was nearly done with high school, and frankly it didn't immediately catch my interest. It was a regional youth choir in Louisville that programmed Vivaldi's 'Gloria' that was my gateway to a strong personal connection with classical singing and subsequently with Baroque music and opera.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?  

Easily my biggest artistic challenge is having time to explore. Even if I only did 17th-century music, I feel like it would take my whole lifetime just to scratch the surface. Baroque guitar songs, masques, madrigals, operas, and on and on and on. There's so much hiding inside the pages of books tucked away in libraries all over the world, and I'm pretty sure I've never even heard my favorite piece of music yet, because it's out there somewhere, waiting for me to find it.

Do you have a favorite performer?  

When I first started studying singing, I could not get enough Anne Sofie von Otter. I burned a hole through her Berg/Korngold/Strauss CD. Even when I didn't understand anything - the style, the language, the content -, the way she used her voice to color the interaction between melody and the harmony moved me in a way nothing else ever had. I still love her now, but at this point in my life, my favorite performer is always whomever I'm working with, on any given day, who does something creative, surprising, unusual, or who otherwise fills the room with a passion for the work we're doing. A bit fickle, yes, but I always mean it when I fall in love with my collaborators.

Do you have a favorite role? Aria? Opera?  

My favorite opera has to be John Blow's Venus and Adonis. Forget arias; if I'd never heard anything but the dialogue between Venus and Adonis, it'd still be my favorite opera.

Do you have any favorite books about music?  

My music books are deeply nerdy, not exactly your typical page turners, unless you get really excited about nitty gritty history. Anne MacNeil's Music and Women of the Commedia dell'Arte in the Late Sixteenth Century; Music and the Language of Love by Catherine Gordon-Seifert. There are a lot of bookmarks and dog-eared pages in my copies of these two books in particular.

What else are you reading?  

I always try to read a little poetry and a little something else, so right now, I'm reading Olio by Tyehimba Jess and The Quantum Labyrinth by Paul Halpern, which is about physicists Richard Feynman and John Wheeler.  On deck is a book by Peter Sahlins called 1668: The Year of the Animal in France, which I'm really looking forward to!

Who are your favorite 17th- and 18th-century composers?  

Of course, I couldn't do without Monteverdi, and thank goodness for Michel Pignolet de Montéclair. But then there's Luca Marenzio and Marin Marais and of course Bach....nope, can't do it. I can't name favorites. Sorry!

If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?  

The Monteverdi 1610 Vespers

What do you love about HOC?  

I absolutely love that HOC is so committed to unearthing unfamiliar works. Big opera companies roll out year after year of the same handful of operas, worried that their core audiences will only show up if it's a 'hit' show. HOC gives performers and audiences a reason to believe that the unexpected is worth looking forward to.

Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?  

I often think about Carlos Fittante and Robin Gilbert's masked dance preceding La descente d'Orfée aux Enfers. Their movements were so clear and expressive that everyone swore they could see the mask change expression.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?  

I love sitting quietly by a fire and knitting.

What is the first thing you think about in the morning?  

Breakfast! I'm always starving the minute I wake up.

Do you have any heroes/heroines?   

My mom. I know it's hokey, but it's true.

What music do you listen to most often?  

I need a lot of silence in my life, so when I'm not performing or preparing or studying a piece that I've assigned to a student, I usually don't listen to anything. But when I have time and space, my go-to is early- to mid-17th-century violin music.

If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?

I have no clue. Perhaps an architect or a computer scientist. I haven't seriously considered any other career since I was 11 years old, so very normal jobs seem even more implausible than this completely implausible life I've found myself in.