When Steven Humphrey proposed to Kyra Clefton 33 years ago on Dungeness Spit, they were a couple of young music students. Several moves, multiple careers and a family later, the Humphreys still make beautiful music together.
Along the way, they have become masters of transition.
They met while each pursued a new direction. After Steven Humphrey took his BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he moved west to study for a master’s degree in opera production and stage direction at the University of Washington.
A talented pianist, he met Kyra when he worked as an accompanist for voice lessons.
Kyra had taken a bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting at Gonzaga. At U.W., however, she turned to vocal performance, completing bachelor’s of arts and bachelor’s of music degrees and then a Master of Music degree. Her specialty is the art song — German lieder or French chansons, for example — a genre she said “requires the same vocal and production technique as opera.”
Starting out, the young couple faced the same job prospects as many artists, which made flexibility a key to survival. Steven was accompanist for the Pacific Northwest ballet and later worked in management for the Northwest Boychoir and Evergreen Chamber Opera Theater. Kyra had begun taking vocal students at Northwest College in Kirland; she has been a vocal coach for more than 30 years now.
Ninety percent of her teaching, she said, is in one-on-one coaching sessions, though she has worked on vocal technique with larger groups, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, for example.
Moving to southern California, the couple again found their lives in transition.
Kyra sang professionally with the Los Angeles Master Chorale for 23 years, working with three of the group’s four conductors. The Chorale sang regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, soloing under conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel. As a teacher, she began to specialize in voices undergoing transition — children’s voices altering from treble to adolescent ranges, for example, or women’s maturing voices. She worked with young divas Ariadne Greif, Lauren Libaw and Julia Metzler.
Steven’s expertise in music management led him to specialize in organizational decision-making. He built a career in training businesses and nonprofit organizations, facilitating their decisions at difficult organizational crossroads. Working directly with an organization’s members, he helps draw out ideas about the group’s identity and purpose, then moves on to a consensus on policies and procedures and, finally, a discussion of which technologies will help implement the group’s plan.
As their family grew with the addition of sons Chris and Patrick and daughter Fiona, the Humphreys sought out traditions to temper life’s changes.
“We read to the children every day,” said Kyra, “and talked to them about everything.” Even when the family’s yard was small, she said, “We had a veggie garden and fruit trees, and learned about landscaping, so we were all always working the land.”
In the schools
When they returned to the Sequim foothills in 2012, the two became involved with the Olympic Peninsula Academy, a partnership program of support and offerings for parents who design part or all of their children’s curriculum.
Like many OPA parents, the Humphreys volunteered, working with the enrichment courses for grades 1-4 and the vocal program for grades 5-12.
Fiona is now 14 and starting at the high school in September, so they are winding up their year as co-presidents of the PTO at OPA. (Their son Chris is an engineer with Google, Patrick a performing artist in Pasadena.) Steven recently facilitated a visioning retreat for OPA as well.
A member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Kyra still teaches vocal performance, her youngest student at 11 years old and her most mature student at 80. Steven plays every day, though he also has put up a woodworking shop to create furniture for the house.
The garden at the Humphreys’ current home is the planned setting for their dream project, a bed-and-breakfast to be run as a retreat for classical musicians. They have the name — Euterpe Lodge, after one of the muses — but still are in the dreaming stage.
Meanwhile, they make music. Kyra appeared in the Dewey Award-winning Reader’s Theatre Plus 2013 production of “Winter Wonderettes.” She also has sung with the Peninsula Singers, the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus and at her church. She plans to continue performing choral music: “I love the idea of music that people make together.”
Kyra will continue teaching music at OPA and Steven was appointed to the City Arts Advisory Council in June.
The Humphreys also are interested in performing chamber music in the area. Another favorite project is to team up to offer auction packages for selected charities: a choice of gourmet dinners at their home, followed by a musical performance of piano, art songs and musical theater selections.