CARLSBAD — Susanna Kurner is a member of Carlsbad’s beloved Kurner theatrical family. Grandmother Louise Crane, 101, was involved in community theater beginning in the Great Depression. Mother Laura Kurner, sister Kristianne Kurner and nephew Jonah Gercke followed in her footsteps. Today, Kristianne is executive artistic director of the award-winning New Village Arts Theatre and Laura manages the adjacent Art Foundry of artist studios.
Susanna took a slightly different route. She is a classically trained opera singer who’s able to perform in German, Italian, French and Czech. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music in 1998, she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to Kristianne and her newborn nephew, Jonah.
It was there that she decided to confront her fears and realize a lifelong dream of becoming a jazz singer.
“Growing up I remember my parents playing Ella Fitzgerald albums and falling in love with the music,” she said. “Jazz was what I wanted to sing but I didn’t think I was hip enough.”
She began taking private lessons and performing in showcases hosted by her teacher.
“I was able let go of the preconceived notion that I didn’t have any soul,” she said. “I have soul, just a different kind. “
When she returned to the family home in Carlsbad in 2001 she started a jazz trio and began performing at the Pannikin in Del Mar. Her singing got another boost when she was introduced to the Alexander Technique.
“I wanted to get back into singing classical and began voice lessons with Dr. Sarah Lopez,” she said. “She told me to learn the Alexander Technique for better breath support and referred me to Eileen Troberman in Encinitas.”
The technique was developed by the late F.M. Alexander, an Australian actor who realized that tension in his neck and body was causing chronic laryngitis. His method is designed to help people rid their body of harmful tension, manifested in slouching and tight shoulders, and re-direct these habits to move freely. This, in turn, results in a better sense of well-being.
“I had issues with anxiety which significantly decreased,” she said. “Then my breathing and performance improved.”
Susanna was so impressed with the results that in 2006 she moved to Charlottesville, Va., and enrolled in a three-year course at the Alexander Technique Center to become a certified teacher herself. When she completed the program a year ago she returned to Carlsbad and opened her own school.
“Today I teach both the Alexander Technique and singing,” she said. “I can teach the Alexander Technique without singing, but I can’t teach singing without the Alexander Technique.”
For information about the Alexander Technique, visit www.northcountyalexandertechnique.com.
Last spring Susanna stretched herself again by starting a “retro country” band, Hello Trouble. In addition to performing, she writes many of the songs, which she says are inspired by Hank Williams and Buck Owens.
Big sister Kristianne approves of her new direction.
“Susanna has performed opera, jazz, musical theatre and many other vocal styles, but when I heard her sing with Hello Trouble, I felt like she had completely found the right genre for her,” she said. “She performs with such joy and energy that it is a thrill to watch. Although, I still love to hear her pop out an aria or two.”
Susanna and jazz guitarist Adrian Demain will be performing at the Urban Bar and Grill at 827 Fifth Ave. in San Diego at 8 p.m. Dec. 17.
Hello Trouble will be performing at the Royal Dive, 2949 San Luis Rey Rd., Oceanside at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 28. The group consists of Susanna, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kevin Williams, lead guitarist Jeff Ross and bass guitarist Troy Sandow.
For more information about upcoming performances, visit www.susannakurner.com.