Share Your Favorite Memory of Karen - Detroit Opera

Watch and read what former students Bernard Holcomb (recently performed with Detroit Opera in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X) and Judith Ellis had to say on Karen VanderKloot DiChiera for her 80th birthday celebration last year by clicking the button below.

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Karen was a friend and colleague to my Mother and Father - George and Eleanor Bodurow. When Eleanor was among the founders of the Dearborn Community Arts Council in the 1970s, she reached out to Karen and the MOT to collaborate on arts and educational programming. Karen, displaying her characteristic enthusiasm, immediately said "yes" and was very generous with her time and expertise. George, an Opera aficionado who could sing the libretti to most Italian and German operas, soon realized David and Karen's excelling vision for the MOT and the Detroit Opera House, and offered financial and moral support. I recall attending so many wonderful performances as a teen and young adult. In the early 2000s when I retuned to Detroit, I was fortunate to reconnect with Lisa. I like to think that our "next generation" friendship is an extension of my parents respect and affection, and a living tribute to Karen.


I had my first piano lesson with Karen in 1967 at the age of 9. She was the most loving, patient and enthusiastic teacher I had ever experienced. I remained Karen's pupil for approximately 8 years and enjoyed learning about the lives of composers and music theory. Karen will forever remain in my heart as a truly wonderful teacher and friend.


I was privileged to work with Karen and to have my child attend her summer programs. She was such an inspiration and I have so very many fond memories of her-- too many to list! She always had a warm smile and a kind word and a quick sense of humor. She is a beautiful soul.


A loving wife and mother, a stalwart champion of the arts - especially opera - and a genuine friend whose memory will remain evergreen!


Since her passing, I have been so surprised and impressed to read about how accomplished she was, in music and in the community. A life well lived.


For more than 40 years, I had the privilege of observing Karen’s amazing gifts to the State of Michigan.
Not only did she receive national recognition for bringing an opera experience to the children in the inner City of Detroit, but also to the Upper Peninsula, who would otherwise not have had such a stunning opportunity.
In the early days of our beloved Michigan Opera Theatre, Karen and I worked on many projects together in her home, whether planning a pub crawl, organizing a theme afterglow following the last night of every opera production —— serving food that was fitting for a specific opera, planning telethons to reach out to all our subscribers and patrons and so much more.
Thank you Karen for you - an extraordinary woman, who did everything with grace, proficiency and, of course, humor.
You will be forever remembered.


One of my first memories of Karen would be Christmas Eve 1959 or 1960 at her parent's home in Bloomfield Hills. She was playing Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on the piano. She played it beautifully, and I remember wishing I could play the piano like Karen. Karen was a beautiful woman, always upbeat, always kind to everyone. I loved spending time with Karen.


Over 50 years ago I met Karen when I was an undergraduate student at Oakland University. I have several good memories of Karen, but one memory in particular, which was special, was a trip to the Bentley Library at the University of Michigan with Karen in 2015. Karen had strongly encouraged me to give a presentation at a music conference at the Detroit Public Library along with her, which led to us doing research together. It was a beautiful day and included having lunch on the campus. Without her encouragement I would not have done a presentation at the DPL. It was truly a wonderful experience!


Wonderful. Beautiful. Inspiring.


I first met Karen when I was just out of school and a part-time trombone instructor at the old Detroit Community Music School. At a board meeting, I offered the challenge that I could teach somebody to play Twinkle Twinkle on the trombone in 10 minutes. Karen was on the board, as she often did, she volunteered. She did admirably, making me a hero in front of the board. It was the start of a long friendship, and le laughed about it many times over the subsequent 30+ years that I played in the MOT Orchestra.


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