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Willette Murphy Klausner: The Woman Behind Three Mo' Tenors

By Deardra Shuler

Willette Murphy Klausner is no stranger to the business of entertainment.  In fact, it seems during the course of her life she has seized the golden ring breaking ground in several different areas.  A graduate of UCLA, Ms. Klausner studied economics and later attended Tobe Coburn, a fashion careers school in New York.  Among her "firsts" she was the first African American model to appear in a major fashion magazine (Mademoiselle) and she modeled in Copenhagen, Denmark and other major European cities. She was the first African American woman in fashion merchandising at Bloomingdale's in New York; and the first female corporate VP at MCA Universal Studios.  Klausner is a cultivated, sophisticated woman whose hard work, determination, savoir-faire and extraordinary business aplomb has brought her to the pinnacle of success. She is a woman that commands respect because she manages to pull the best from others while ensuring she gets the job done.  Her integrity and honesty attract people to her and these qualities anchor her during those times when the unseemly side of business rears its ugly head.  

"I thoroughly enjoyed the corporate environment.  Although the environment is very structured, thinking outside the box was not only possible but was often rewarded.  When I came to Universal Studios, I had 10 years experience in marketing research. Fortunately for me, Universal was interested in initiating television advertising for their movies and I was asked to create the marketing research department," stated Klausner.

"When I went to work for Universal Studios, I didn't realize there had never been a female corporate executive prior to me.  I realized it when my husband turned out to be the only male spouse among the corporate wives at the annual corporate retreat -- a status he greatly enjoyed.  The male executives were initially a little uncomfortable, being unaccustomed to working with female executives, but when they discovered that I made no special demands on them, we got along very well" stated the busy entrepreneur.   "I have never been interested in being the 'first,' I only wanted to be the best.  I never felt there was a boundary.  I felt that I could do just about anything.   I really had extraordinary parents who instilled that mindset in me.  My father was demanding and had very high standards.  My mother was the gentle one" commented Willette.  Raised in Santa Barbara, California, it appears the entire Murphy family (four daughters including Willette), were achievers."  Her father was a caterer and so it's not surprising that Klausner and her husband, Manny, have become renowned for their discerning taste in fine wines and gourmet food.

"I enjoyed my work at Universal Studios, but I really wanted to be a producer.  I wanted to make films that entertained and inspired.  So, that is what I set out to do" remarked Willette who is now a full fledged producer.  Instead of films, however, Klausner has worked mainly on theater projects.  On Broadway, Klausner co-produced "Kat and Kings" and in regional theaters, she co-produced "Twist," an American interracial musical version of "Oliver Twist" set in New Orleans.  She also co-produced "HurlyBurly,"  "Fully Committed," and "To Take Arms," the story of Harriet Jacobs" starring Hattie Winston and Sanaa Lathan.  Klausner is presently working on a film she describes as a rap opera movie.  "It's the story of an Italian/African-American boy whose extraordinary gift helps to heal old wounds and reunite the family.   I love fascinating stories about real people," said Willette whose job once entailed keeping her finger on the pulse of the movie-going public. 

A world traveler, Willette has visited many countries whose people are not as fortunate as Americans but yet seem appreciative for whatever they have.  Travel has made Willette grateful to live in America and grateful for the opportunity to "create the world she wants to live in."  In 2000, her passion for projects which entertain and inspire led her to "Three Mo' Tenors," a staged concert created, directed and choreographed by Marion J. Caffey. "Three Mo' Tenors" features classically trained African-American tenors in a program that blends opera and the protocols of jazz, blues, old school, new school, gospel, spirituals and Broadway tunes.  

Klausner believes that "Three Mo' Tenors is "entertainment on a mission."  She is determined to broaden the appeal of opera to all audiences but especially to African American audiences.  Klausner and her production partner, Caffey, seek to establish a new blueprint for opportunity and success for African American tenors in the world of opera.  "Our plan is to sing our way into history and sing our way to the top by igniting the demand for the African American tenor," says an optimistic Klausner.  Her current objective is to establish a partnership with the right corporate sponsor in order to help make "Three Mo' Tenors" a household name. 

Each day brings Ms. Klausner closer to her goal.  "Three Mo' Tenors" started 2005 by opening the NAACP Image Awards at the Kodak Theatre and finished the year by opening the Tenth Annual Prisms Awards for Minorities in Business Magazine in Los Angeles. Three Mo' Tenors' first performance in 2006 will be a special VIP appearance, the 21st Annual Mayor's Arts Awards at the Kennedy Center on January 9th in Washington, D.C.  In March, they will perform for three weeks in Detroit at the Fisher Theatre followed by a special appearance in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Other highlights on the schedule for 2006 include an August appearance at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland, and in September, a US State Department-sponsored tour to Armenia. 

Other tour dates will be announced on the website:

Copyright © Theodore Myles Publishing, Inc.

January 2006

All rights reserved.

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