Local opera singing couple also authors, nude models

by Len Lear
Posted 12/11/20

Talk about a multi-talented couple! Authors, opera singers, artist models, hospital “patients,” songwriters and more. That's John Rudolph Quinn, 63 (“I'm past the point where I lie …

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Local opera singing couple also authors, nude models

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Talk about a multi-talented couple! Authors, opera singers, artist models, hospital “patients,” songwriters and more. That's John Rudolph Quinn, 63 (“I'm past the point where I lie about my age”), and Katie Quinn, 53, who live near Green Lane and Ridge Avenue in Roxborough and have been married for 23 years. I have seen them perform with the Amici Opera Company and Delaware Valley Opera Company (although not lately because of the pandemic), and their vocal power is thrilling.

“In addition to being fine singers and actors, they are very reliable and a pleasure to work with,” said Ralph Tudisco, founder of Amici Opera Company, a non-profit opera ensemble that has performed countless operas, including several that had never previously been staged in the U.S., at churches, restaurants and private halls all over the Delaware Valley and the Jersey shore.

Kate is a graduate of the Creative & Performing Arts High School. “I sang before I could talk. I sang 'Scarborough Fair' at age 2, although I did not talk until age 3,” said Katie, who studied at the University of the Arts but left to form a rock band. She wrote songs, recorded a demo tape and developed a following when she did open mic performances at the now-defunct J.C. Dobbs at 3rd & South Streets. She also worked at a coffee shop at 2nd & Lombard.

“The owner asked me to play music on Sundays,” she said. “I also played guitar, piano and mandolin at Hot Tamales on Chestnut Street in 1993. I broke up with a guy in 1996 and then got back into opera. I had taken voice lessons. That's when I started with Amici and DVOC.”

Quinn has sung all types of music, from folk to opera, classical and even some jazz. She has sung many notable operatic roles, including Mimi in "La Boheme" by Puccini and Leonora in "Il Trovatore" by Verdi. Katie has sung spirituals from "Amazing Grace" to "Ave Maria" (Schubert and Bach) as well as her own compositions of spirituals and songs. She even composed an opera, "Sephro," which has been performed by the Main Line Opera Guild and Bel Canto Voce Artists, and she has been a voice teacher.

John went to Central Bucks East High school and studied music and theater at Bucks County Community College and the International School of Performing Arts in Doylestown. He auditioned for the Philadelphia Opera Chorus and the New York City Opera. “I'm not at that level,” he said modestly, although he has sung for 35 years for companies such as the Center Stage Opera Company in Harrisburg, Atlantic City Opera Theater and BucksMont Opera Company.

Unless you are with one of the few top opera companies in the country, however, opera singing will not pay the bills. (In some cases, singers have to pay money just for the privilege of performing.) So for more than 25 years, John's main day job was to pose for students at local art schools — Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), Tyler (Temple University), the University of the Arts, Allens Lane Art Center, Fleisher Art Center and Main Line Art Center.

“You hold a pose stationary for 20 minutes,” he explained. “Then you take a break for five minutes and then pose again for 20 minutes. The average class is three hours, and there is one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Most are in the nude, which was never big deal for me. In fact, we got married at a beach which was clothing-optional in New Jersey. We did pose for some portraits in costume until the pandemic hit.”

Katie did artist modeling at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and PAFA. She also was a “standardized patient” from 1999 to 2015, and John did it from 2003 to 2009 at Temple Medical School. (Standardized patients are like actors who work with medical students, telling them they have certain symptoms — which they do not really have — so that the students can diagnose their supposed ailments. There was a famous episode of “Seinfeld” in which two standardized patients fight each other because both insist on “having gonorrhea.”)

Not only opera singers, but many actors, pop singers, dancers, musicians, artists and writers have to take supplementary jobs. For example, John has also done pet sitting and house cleaning. Katie has done singing telegrams, getting dressed up as “Barney” in a purple costume, as well as the Cookie Monster and a clown. “But I have to have a driver because I do not have a driver's license.” She dressed up as the Cookie Monster along with the Bert and Ernie team of Muppets on Sesame Street. “About 100 kids followed me to the car in South Philly,” she said. “Bert couldn't get his head into the car because it was so big. Fortunately for us, a funeral home in the neighborhood invited us in so we could change out of our clothes.”

Katie also writes on blogs about social issues like domestic abuse and the “Me Too” movement. She even has her own YouTube channel (“Hazel Kate Quinn”) with videos about mental health, domestic violence and social commentary.

Katie and John made a film, “Sammy Blood Moon,” a paranormal romance that was seen virtually in the Unnamed Film Fest in early October, and Katie has written science fiction novels taken from Celtic myth under the penname Deuana Kerridwen such as “Sephro (a planet) Chronicle” and “Sephro the Connector,” available at amazon.com.

And John is writing a book about John Augustus Stone (1801-1834), an actor who wrote 12 plays, including “Metamorah” (1829) about the mistreatment of Native Americans, but who drowned himself in the Schuylkill River. John is also writing a novel about Edwin Forrest (1806-1872), a Philadelphian who was the most famous actor of his time.

Katie and John have seven cats, all found on the street. They have had cats live to 21, 20 and 18.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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