A native of Louisville, Ky., soprano Marilyn Taylor received her bachelor's degree in music education and master's degree in vocal performance from the University of Louisville, studying with formerly German-based baritone Donn Everette. She began doctoral studies at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1986, where she worked primarily with Classical Singer Magazine's 2010 teacher of the year Virginia Zeani. While completing coursework she also studied with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Giorgio Tozzi and Gary Arvin. In 2005 she completed the doctor of music degree in vocal performance at IU with minors in music history and speech and hearing sciences, specializing in the study of professional voice, theory and applications and voice disorders. Her research document “Songs in the Wilderness: the Music and Heritage of Charles Gildersleeve Vardell” unearthed new information about the life and output of this North Carolina composer who contributed significantly to the region's musical culture.
Beginning her professional opera career as artist-in-residence with Kentucky Opera, she received accolades for leading roles there and with Des Moines Metro Opera, as well as the Dayton, Nashville, Piedmont and Chattanooga Operas, and Lyric Opera Kansas City. Her concert repertoire has ranged from the baroque to the avant-garde both abroad (the Bonn Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Flannéries Musicales d'Eté de Reims, Alba Music Festival) and in the U.S. at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Louisville Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, and various chamber orchestras and choral societies throughout the country. She was selected to perform for the opening of the Riverpark Center in Owensboro, Ky., sharing billing with John Denver and Florence Henderson.
Taylor was the recipient of an award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions, a generous career grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and a George London Grant awarded to singers “demonstrating a full range of singing, acting, and musical talent.” The NewYork Times praised her performances of Mahler and Monteverdi with conductor Dennis Russell Davies, and in Germany she was lauded as a “figure commanding respect and attention” for Bach's St. Matthew Passion. A proponent of contemporary music, she has collaborated with composers William Bolcom, Robert Ward, Warren Benson, John Harbison and noted UNCSA composers Kenneth Frazelle and Larry Dillon. Her solo CD Return: Art Songs from Carolina, featuring works by Kenneth Frazelle, Robert Ward and Charles Vardell, received critical acclaim. She has recorded with Koch, Albany, G. Schirmer and South Carolina ED-TV, portraying the role of Alida in Robert Ward's Roman Fever, available on DVD.
Taylor joined the artist faculty of the (University of) North Carolina School of the Arts in 1992 at the recommendation of Piedmont Opera's founder, Norman Johnson, and continues to serve there as chair of the voice department in the School of Music. She served as master teacher and mentor for the NATS intern program in June 2008 in Charlotte, and in 2009 was granted the University of North Carolina Board of Governors' Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her students have been national finalists at the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, and have performed with the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Spoleto Festival, Zurich Opera, Hamburg Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theater St. Louis and other opera companies and orchestras throughout the world. She counts among her students noted American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, and René Barbera, the winner of Domingo’s 2011 Operalia competition in Russia.