Amplifying Female Voices: Linda Kernohan

Amplifying Female Voices: Linda Kernohan

One of the most exciting opportunities we have as performers is to perform music by living composers. This excitement is amplified when it comes to music by often underrepresented composers. Read on to learn about composer Linda Kernohan and the possibility of programming her music on your recital.


When you combine talent, kindness, and a catalog of beautiful music, you get Dr. Linda Kernohan. Holding degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, New York University, and The Ohio State University, Kernohan is a pianist, educator, writer, classical radio producer, and composer. Her music has been performed across the U.S., and in Germany, the Czech Republic, and China. For five years she served as the classical music blogger for the Grammy Awards, and she has taught at many colleges and universities. Kernohan combines her many experiences, both personal and professional, to produce poignant pieces of music.

Although it took a while to discover the right path, Kernohan knew she wanted to be a musician since childhood. After hearing her own music played for the first time, her vision became clear. She wanted to be a composer.

Kernohan’s compositional style is a synthesis of many aspects of her life. She was raised Lutheran, so traditional hymn tunes often inspire her writing. Show tunes became a great influence as she fondly remembers her mother playing Rodgers and Hammerstein songs on the piano at home. Pop music is also an influence. In college, she was trained in a modernist style which required her to leave behind everything she loved about music. Since then, she has been working to create a combination of all her influences. Striving toward this goal, she often hides hymn tunes within atonal pieces and quotes pop music in classical pieces. 

A composer of many genres, Kernohan’s song catalog stands out as emotional, contemplative, and innovative. Her song set Music Theater Pieces (2002) contains songs for various voice parts. “Life Cycles” is written for alto, baritone, and piano, and “Gaveston’s Soliloquy” is written for tenor or baritone and piano. One of Kernohan’s self-proclaimed favorites is Sandy Songs (2021) for baritone and piano—a collaboration with librettist and baritone Daniel Neer. Each song is very different and showcases her eclectic style. Each of the five songs represents one of the five boroughs of New York City. “The Bronx: Throgs Neck” is a 70’s-style ballad in which Kernohan purposefully resisted adding more 21st century-sounding material. Writing a straightforward 70’s love song was her way of being modernist by defying the rules.

A recurring theme found in Kernohan’s music is addressing the struggles of humanity including mental health and social issues. She identifies her own struggles that became roadblocks to her success. The first of these is being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. Saying “I’m a composer,” and believing it took a long time. Often, she would be the only woman in a group of composers. In fact, she never had a female composition teacher. One professor asked “what does the woman composer think?” Although she believes the professor meant well, comments like this caused a feeling of imposter syndrome, self-consciousness, and pressure for the perceived responsibility of representing all women. These situations of non-acceptance have thankfully decreased overall, but there is still work to be done in getting music by women performed regularly. 

 Kernohan was a working class, first-generation college student which presented its own set of struggles specifically in her undergraduate program. Additionally, she has suffered from depression and anxiety since her teenage years. These issues are addressed in her work as a composer, a professor, and throughout her life. Today, her depression has gone down significantly thanks to an established support system and access to appropriate treatment. She only wishes she could bottle up whatever it is that made that happen and give it away. Her music pursues this lofty goal.

To her, the purpose of music is to connect and to help people feel like they aren’t alone. Admittedly, a lot of her music is on the emotional or sad side, and for good reason. Music is healing and it is when we are in pain that we need it the most. She acknowledges that playful and happy music can be healing too, and it is an ongoing project to write music in that mood.

Part of the experience of getting to perform music by living composers is the chance of collaborating with them. Kernohan enjoys hearing performers’ thoughts in regard to the interpretation of her music. She has found that they will often find things in her music that she didn’t know were there. She has some non-negotiables in terms of artistic license, but in the end, she sees performers as partners. Her final hope is that anyone performing her music will find something within it for themselves; something that reaffirms why we are in this profession in the first place. 

More information about Dr. Kernohan including a list of works and a full biography can be found at 

Alec Arnett

Alec Arnett is a baritone, writer, and conductor currently based in Ohio. He holds degrees in vocal performance and music history and literature from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. He is a 2022 CS Music Certified Artist and was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Orpheus Vocal Competition. Alec can be contacted via email at