Keeping Up With Kim
valley native has penned an original operetta, and plans to do lots more
Eau Claire native Kim Osberg is making national waves as an emerging composer with her own brand of classical contemporary music. The North High School graduate recently composed an entire 35-minute operetta, Thump, based on the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
Osberg has always had a love for music; since middle school she has been playing piano, percussion, and harp. Locally, the young composer’s very first composition, Inspiring, won the Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony’s Young Composers Competition in 2009.
Since then, Osberg went on to attend Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she wrote the very first version of Thump for her senior thesis. Osberg was inspired to base her piece off the infamous Poe tale because of her personal history with the story.
“Poe, and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ specifically, have always been in my life, since my mother would read from a collection of Poe’s works to my sister and I,” she said. “And with so many adaptations of the short story, it seemed odd there was no major musical rendition of the work.”
While Osberg wanted to use Poe’s words directly in her operetta, she also wanted to shed new light on the story. To do so, she split the narrator into three separate roles based on the different moods of Poe’s complex text – a violent voice, a regretful voice, and one that keeps oscillating between the two.
Osberg developed the whole libretto, wrote the music, and rehearsed and directed the opera all on her own. The first version of the piece was made only for voices and the piano. The production was a big hit at Luther College.
“We had about 100 people show up, which is quite a lot in such a small school, especially on a Friday night!” Osberg said.
The success of Thump helped Osberg to get into one of the best music schools in the country: the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington.
While Osberg thought her time with the opera was over, during her first year in Bloomington, New Voices Opera (a promotion company for emerging opera works) picked Thump for a performance in its 2015 spring program. Osberg orchestrated the piano part for a chamber orchestra, and the company staged it in full at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington.
“It was a crazy semester, but the entire company worked relentlessly and put on an incredible production of the show,” said Osberg.
Thump is only the beginning of a promising composing career for Osberg, who said she recently finished a work for solo harp and a work for viola and piano. She also finished another piece to complete her very first suite, a collection of shorter pieces.
Osberg also said she was honored to have her middle school band director, Laurie Francis of Northstar Middle School, commission a piece for Francis’ final concert before retirement.
“I’m especially excited about this project because the whole piece really feels like it will have come full-circle, since (Francis) was one of the first important musical influences in my life,” Osberg said.
She’s well on her way to musical greatness, but what sets Osberg apart from other composers is the range of styles she composes in, everything from folksy harp to marimba quartets to pieces for jazz combos to Afro-Cuban-inspired ensembles.
“I always love the opportunity to learn more about a new genre of music. How I write depends greatly on who I work with and what kind of performance the piece is for,” she said. “I’m interested in giving listeners an experience, not just a concert or a performance.”
Learn more about Kim Osberg and her music at www.kimberlyosberg.com.