Orchestra pit to be dedicated to Steven Karlin

Fundraising has begun for an orchestra pit to be dedicated to passed teacher Steven Karlin.

by Katie Gregory and Helen Wheatley

story by Katie Gregory

When Steven Karlin passed away on Friday, October 21, 2016, the world shifted a little. Countless communities came together in grieving a bright and happy man. Flowers were laid on the seal, songs were sung and tears were shed. Six days later, his memorial service was held. Throughout the night, there were many performances conducted in his honor, and finally an announcement by the Music Director of Music Theatre Kansas City, Julie Danielson. She told the crowd of an orchestra pit to be dedicated to Karlin. $100,000 to be raised, $25,000 already donated by Danielson herself. Sitting in that crowd was Steven Perry, the Director of Choirs at STA and Karlin’s close friend.

“When I first heard that MTKC would be dedicating an orchestra pit to Mr. Karlin, I thought ‘Wow, this is awesome,’” Perry says. “I think it’s a great way to memorialize him. He was a very talented man, but his real passion was music theater. So I just think it’s great. It makes me very proud.”

Danielson echoes this sentiment. “Having a dedication to Steven just felt right,” she says. “He was an essential part of MTKC, so having a memorial for him was the logical next step after his passing. I couldn’t imagine not doing something.”

Though the decision to dedicate a memorial to Karlin was an obvious one for Danielson, the process of getting the orchestra pit to be a reality will be a long one.

“With an orchestra pit, there’s a lot that goes into it,” Perry says. “Not only do you have to dig the hole for the pit itself, but you have to have acoustic treatment, hydraulics and other things as well.”

Danielson agrees that the process will be a long one, but believes that the contribution an orchestra pit makes to a performance is immeasurable.

“An orchestra pit is important because even though not every place has one, it really helps to amplify the sound and the acoustics. It brings the performance to a whole different level.” Danielson says.

Perry holds the same belief. “I can tell you, having worked in schools that have orchestra pits, that it really brings a whole new dimension to the performance,” Perry says. “You have the ability to have an orchestra in front and beneath the stage. So, acoustically, it’s the most ideal place and it’s the way they do it in professional theaters. The only problem is that it’s very expensive.”

Funds for this memorial will hopefully all be raised by spring 2017. With money coming from multiple places, the goal is that all $100,000 will be raised from donations.

“A lot of different organizations have been helping to fundraise for this,” Danielson says. “St. Teresa’s and MTKC are only two examples. Basically anywhere that Steven was involved with, that’s who’s donating.”

It seems that many people wish to help memorialize Karlin. At STA, Perry says the reaction from his classes has been overwhelmingly supportive of the gesture.

“The reaction from my classes has absolutely been positive,” Perry says. “Everyone is very excited. Many of our girls are involved with music theater, so they know and recognize the value of having an orchestra pit and how it really elevates the performance.”

Junior Courtney Talken is one member of STA Singers who shares this view. She has sung in many performances dedicated to Karlin.

“Memorializing [Mr. Karlin] definitely brings back all of the emotions that are associated with his passing, but also brings a sense of peace, knowing that he’s never really gone.”

STA choirs have also done their part to remember him, dedicating their grand piano to their passed accompanist and friend. Perry says it’s things like this that comfort him in his grief.

“I think that any time you have a memorial that’s named after someone, anyone who knew that person will tell stories,” Perry says. “We have a building on campus that’s named after someone, but as time has gone on, people have told stories less and less, though the name lives on. However, because Mr. Karlin worked with young people, I think that his stories will go on for a long time. Any time that someone goes to a MTKC performance and sees the Karlin name on the pit, that will prompt people to tell stories, and I think that’s how we carry his honor forward into future generations.”

Throughout the next few months, donations will continue to be collected and performances will be dedicated in Karlin’s honor. If you would like to attend any of these events or donate to the MTKC orchestra pit fund, please check below for details.


Donate to MTKC here.

PUG concert, January 3rd