The Tanglewood Express

Chico girl heading to prestigious music academy

Sarah Krulder rehearses for a recent performance at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Sarah Krulder rehearses for a recent performance at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Photo by John Domogma

Music patrons:
Contributions to Sarah Krulder’s music fund can be made at

The next time you hear people lamenting the sorry state of today’s teenagers, tell them about Sarah Krulder.

Krulder is 15 years old and going into her sophomore year at Inspire School of the Arts and Sciences in Chico. In order to get to school punctually and still have time to practice her art, which is singing, she gets up at 5 a.m.

That’s better than middle school, when she woke at 4:30.

Granted, Krulder is not a typical teenager, but she would be the first to say that she knows many kids her age who are similarly dedicated and disciplined, beginning with her musician friends.

For the past two years, Krulder has attended the San Francisco Opera’s Summer Conservatory, a three-week program of training and performance for budding virtuosi like her. This summer she’s been selected to attend the Young Artist Program at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute in western Massachusetts, perhaps the most prestigious program of its kind in the country. Previous graduates include Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma and Harry Connick Jr.

Sitting at the kitchen table in her Butte Creek Canyon home, Krulder can hardly contain herself. “I’m so excited,” she said, “but it won’t really hit me until a week before I leave [in early July].”

Krulder is a slender, graceful girl with classic features; beautiful, almond-shaped eyes; and long, brown hair. In conversation, she’s articulate, voluble and self-aware, and like anyone who is accustomed to performing before audiences, not at all shy.

It was her decision to apply to Tanglewood. “I wanted to do something more intensive, that included more scholarship,” she said. The performance video she submitted of her singing, in German, “Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln,” an aria from Mozart’s opera The Abduction From the Seraglio, shows that she has a powerful instrument, one capable of reaching the upper registers without strain or wobble.

Her teacher for the past four years has been Gwen Curatilo, who was a coloratura soprano with the San Francisco Opera before joining the music faculty at Chico State, from which she retired several years ago.

She recognizes a kindred spirit in Krulder. It was a combination of talent, dedication and discipline that enabled Curatilo to become an internationally recognized singer, and she sees those same qualities in her student.

“She just oozes with enthusiasm,” Curatilo said. “She’s pretty much a natural.”

Sarah’s parents, Joe and Jori Krulder, have organized their lives around their daughter, who of course doesn’t yet drive. The Krulders both teach—she at Paradise High School and he at Butte and Yuba colleges—but somehow they are able to ferry their daughter to her many commitments in town, including school, lessons, musical theater rehearsals and vocal performances.

Tanglewood will cost about $8,000 altogether, and Krulder has raised much of it. She’s a regular at the Saturday farmers’ market, where she stands before a sign reading “Boston or Bust” and sings for donations. She’s raised about $1,000 that way. And a May performance at the Centerville School House, with the brilliant 16-year-old pianist (and good friend) Diego Bustamante accompanying her, brought in some $2,000 in donations.

She’s still a bit short, however, and says she is grateful for donations to her GoFundMe site. If you believe that it takes a village to raise a child, this is a good opportunity to show it.