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MM - Vocal Performance
Illinois State University (current)

BM - Vocal Performance
Illinois State University

Mackenzie J. Ahlman


“The only reason I started composing was because of the abhorrent lack of representation of queer/LGBTQ+ people in classical music. My goal as a queer musician and composer is to bring this much-needed perspective to the foreground of modern music by setting text/poems by queer people to music.”


Mackenzie J. Ahlman, coloratura-soprano and composer, is a vocal performance master’s student at Illinois State University where she holds both the titles of Vocal Graduate Assistant and Choral Graduate Assistant. Born and raised in Grand Island, Nebraska, Mackenzie has passionately studied music her whole life, playing the violin since age 10 and singing before she could talk. Coming from a musical family her childhood was enriched with both sacred and secular music. After committing to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy Conservatory in New York City, she saw her first opera, Anna Bolena, by Donizetti. This experience prompted her to turn to her mother, who had attended the performance with her, and exclaim, “That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Mackenzie has since participated in MI Opera for years and has been seen in Illinois State University opera practicum performances since 2017. Recently she participated in Illinois State's Messiah sing-along, singing the alto solo, and was a finalist for the Illinois State University Concerto/Aria contest in 2019 and 2021. She also received the John Ferrell Scholarship at ISU in 2022.


Another one of Mackenzie’s passions is classical music composition. After being fed up with the lack of representation in her now classical music career, she decided to take things into her own hands and fill the musical void by composing queer music, for queer people, by a queer person, using queer poets/writers’ text. Her recent compositional premieres include Serenity (Choral composition commissioned by La Camerata Madrigal Singers, 2018), Defiance (Song cycle for piano and voice, 2019), The Violet (Choral composition commissioned by La Camerata Madrigal Singers, 2019), Three love songs (Song cycle for piano and voice, 2020 [IAWM Recognition Award]), Another Spring (Song for voice and piano, 2020), and Hope is the thing with feathers (Choral composition for SSAATTBB, 2021). She is currently working on two operas, two string symphonies, a Requiem Mass, several choral pieces, and several art songs.


Mackenzie has taught private voice (and dance) lessons for six years. Her philosophy “To sing is to bring color and joy to the world, even in its darkest times,” is the foundation of her teaching. She believes that with dedication, support, and, of course, fun, anyone can sing! Students in the Ahlman studio learn pedagogy techniques, various languages, and are exposed to new music and sounds to enhance their audiation skills.

My Music

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