The Opera Cowgirls started out in a bar...
The Opera Cowgirls started out by accident after mezzo-soprano Caitlin McKechney, a bartender in Brooklyn at the time, was asked to open for a rock show by the lead singer of the band. “You know I sing opera, right?”, the question. “Yeah, it’ll be cool,” the answer. The opening riff to the Habanera started playing and the entire crowd went quiet and turned to listen as she made her way around the room. Once the aria ended, the crowd erupted in cheers, hoots and hollers louder than any polite opera audience Caitlin had ever sung for. And thus, with the knowledge that there was an audience for this music beyond of the opera house, the Opera Cowgirls were born!
Since then, the OCGs have added an array of instruments and an incredible roster of opera-singing instrumentalists that include - in addition to Caitlin on guitar and banjolele - Mila Henry on melodica, accordion and other instruments with tiny keys, soprano Maria Lindsey on dulcimer, soprano Jessica Sandidge on mandolin and soprano Sarah Beckham-Turner on cello. By blending operatic melodies with country flavor and instruments, the Cowgirls truly bring Grand Opera to the Grand Ole Opry. In 2021, they released their first single, Mon Coeur, to Spotify and have since released three more singles. Their Christmas EP will be released in 2022.
Based in New York and often sharing a bill with indie rock and country bands, the Cowgirls are always a hit, with venues including the in-town Le Poisson Rouge, LIC Bar, Parkside Lounge, Pete’s Candy Store and The Slipper Room. Outside the New York City area, the OCGs have performed at Opera North (NH), Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre (IA), Delaware Valley Opera (NY), Hopewell Valley Vineyards (NJ), North Beach Bandshell/Magic City Opera (FL), NightBlue Theater (IL) and the San Francisco Ballet (CA). They have attended Avaloch Farm Music Institute; toured Amarillo, TX; performed with renown musicians including mandolinist and composer Joe Brent (9 Horses, Oklahoma on Broadway), violinist and musical saw player Philippa Thompson (Bang on a Can), tap dancing clown Brent McBeth (Parallel Exit and Big Apple Circus), violinist Andie Tanning, ARKAI Music and Hotel Elefant.
Their latest project is their performing of Kirsten Volness, Kate Holland and Susan Werbe's Letters That You Will Not Get with The American Opera Project in the summer of 2022.
The Cowgirls have individually performed with The Metropolitan Opera, The American Opera Project, Florida Grand Opera, Nashville Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera on Tap, Opera Philadelphia, PROTOTYPE Festival, Sarasota Opera, St. Petersburg Opera, and Tacoma Opera, to name a few.
Caitlin McKechney, founding Cowgirl, rocks the guitar and banjolele (a hybrid of a ukulele and a banjo). You often hear her singing Carmen while flirting with unsuspecting beer-drinkers, or belting out some Patsy Cline. She has performed multiple times in both Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, but primarily on Mozart, Rossini and Bizet. She buys a new pair of boots each time she’s there, and now owns an impressive collection. Caitlin is mom to "Mikey", her little half-Greek, half-Irish, all-cowboy Covid baby.
Soprano-extraordinaire Sarah Beckham-Turner brings us her cello skills AND her Texas street cred, providing us with bass lines and baselines galore. In addition to her star power and spell-binding ability to work a crowd, she is also mom to “Sweet Baby James” Turner and little Caleb Vance. She currently lives in Amarillo where she is molding the future generation of opera singers at West Texas A&M University.
Mila Henry is our piano-mini-accordion-autoharp-bells-ukulele-slidewhistle player, who occasionally lends her sugary voice to a song or two. She can seamlessly transition from an orchestral score on a keytar to an improvised melodica solo that would make Mozart swoon. Most importantly, she is our style guru and owns a magnificent number of vintage cowgirl shirts. Mila is also a #girlboss, service as Artist Director of The American Opera Project in Brooklyn.
Maria Maxfield, our newbie Cowgirl, grew up in Colorado singing country music. After studying voice and becoming an incredible soprano, she waltzed on over to Tennessee and met Caitlin, who was singing opera on the side of a Memphis highway (this is not a joke). Maria joins us along with her dulcimer, Merlin, who magically taught her how to play in less than a day.
Jessica Sandidge is our California girl, gracing us with her mind-boggling high notes and Dolly Parton blend of strength and sweetness. She plays a beautiful Seagull Mandolin named “Pearl”, and also lends her sweet skills to our ever-evolving roster of tiny instruments. Always a rebel, Jess is a natural blonde amidst a brood of brunettes, which we think is super country.