Miah Im, 1974-2021

Tributes paid to a performer of ‘steadfast dedication’ who pioneered a new style of opera production at Rice University

November 11, 2021
Miah Im, 1974-2021
Source: Rice University

A leading pianist, conductor and mentor to younger artists has died.

Miah Im was born in Toronto in 1974 and studied piano performance at the University of Michigan before going on to a master’s in collaborative piano and chamber music. She then worked with many orchestras and opera companies, notably as principal coach and conductor of the University of Toronto Opera School and music director of both the University of Maryland Opera Studio and the San Diego Opera Young Artists Ensemble.

Beyond the US, Ms Im provided coaching at London’s Royal College of Music and Royal Opera House and took on assignments in Italy, Taiwan and South Korea. She eventually spent four years as the head of music staff at the Los Angeles Opera, devoting much of her energy to supporting emerging artists. From there she moved to Houston, Texas in 2020 to become director of opera studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and studio music director for the Houston Grand Opera. Although she had more than 80 operas in her repertoire, Ms Im moved to Rice at the very time when the Covid pandemic had shut down most venues. Her inaugural production of The Emperor of Atlantis – a chamber opera, in which death plays a central role, originally composed by Viktor Ullmann while interned in a Nazi prison camp – was meant to be one of the first live performances in the new Brockman Hall for Opera. In the event, it had to be mounted as the Shepherd School’s first virtual and socially distanced production, using a massive onstage green screen and new Chromadepth technology to create powerful three-dimensional effects in stark primary colours.

An active member of Opera America, Ms Im served on the steering committee of its Women’s Opera Network as part of her deep commitment to gender equality and mentoring talented women. She was also the first recipient of the Marilyn Horne Foundation Award for Excellence in Vocal Accompanying and appeared as a featured artist at one of the foundation’s annual gala concerts.

“To be an artist of Miah’s calibre requires steadfast dedication and talent, which is rare enough in the world,” said Matthew Loden, dean of the Shepherd School. “The way that Miah so naturally used her gifts to nurture and amplify the opportunities for young singers made her even more unique.”

Ms Im died of pancreatic cancer on 30 September and is survived by her partner, Christopher Scott and his son Ethan.


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