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Press Released: 20 May 2014

OPERA America Selects Participants for 2014 Leadership Intensive Program

Developing Future Leaders and Strengthening Opera Companies

14 Participants from U.S., Canada and Europe to Gather in San Francisco and New York

OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce that 14 participants from the United States, Canada and Europe have been selected for its 2014 Leadership Intensive program. These future industry leaders were chosen through a competitive selection process that focused on proven leadership and potential for significant contributions to the opera field throughout their careers.This program is made possible by the generous support of American Express.

The Leadership Intensive exemplifies OPERA America’s firm commitment to identify and nurture leaders who will advance the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera for years to come. This program seeks to identify the most promising emerging leaders in a range of opera administration fields and provide them with the skills and contacts needed to advance their careers.

The 2014 Leadership Intensive participants are:

  • Ana Ablamonova, founder, Operomanija (Vilnius, Lithuania)
  • Todd Calvin, vice president, business and legal affairs, Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Brittany Duncan, HGOco programs director, Houston Grand Opera
  • Barbara Lynne Jamison, youth programs manager, Seattle Opera
  • David Krohn, corporate development officer, Houston Grand Opera
  • Ashley Magnus, manager of corporate gifts, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Benjamin Makino, music director, Opera Memphis
  • Joseph Peacock, director of corporate giving, Vancouver Opera
  • Gerald Phillippe, membership coordinator, Opera Europa (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Thomas Rhodes, development associate, Fort Worth Opera
  • Joanna Verano, development manager, Pacific Opera Victoria (Victoria, BC)
  • Bradley Vernatter, director of production, Boston Lyric Opera
  • Sean Waugh, assistant to the director of artistic administration, San Francisco Opera
  • Christopher Wybenga, institutional and legacy giving associate, San Francisco Opera

OPERA America’s sister organizations, Opera.ca and Opera Europa, each selected two of the participants, giving the program an international dimension.

“American Express is pleased to support OPERA America’s 2014 Leadership Intensive as part of our commitment to nurture the next generation of nonprofit leaders,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “We recognize that these 14 leaders are critical to creating a vibrant national opera community for audiences and artists now and in the future.”

As part of the Leadership Intensive, participants will attend seminars and workshops during Opera Conference 2014 in San Francisco in June. Building on that work, these leaders will reconvene in August for a week-long learning program at OPERA America’s National Opera Center in New York City.

In both sessions, participants will gain skills that will enhance their current work, build strategic capacity in a variety of administrative areas and develop career advancement techniques to enhance their personal leadership strengths.

Upon completion of the program, these developing leaders will apply their new skills and knowledge to their current positions, sharing the learning with their home organizations, communities and the opera field.

“There is a steep learning curve when new staff take their first positions guiding departments or opera companies because there is no formal training process for these high-stakes situations,” stated Marc. A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “The interest that has been generated by this program in just its first few years is evidence that our industry’s aspiring leaders are hungry for this combination of valuable knowledge, skills and contacts.”

Thanks to a generous gift from American Express, through its philanthropic giving initiative aimed at developing emerging nonprofit leaders, Leadership Intensive participants pay no registration fees and receive a generous subsidy for travel and accommodations.

2014 Leadership Intensive Participants

Ana Ablamonova
Founder, Operomanija (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Ana Ablamonova is the performing arts producer, founder and director of the contemporary opera festival New Opera Action and Operomanija, which unites over 400 artists from Lithuania and abroad. She graduated with a master’s degree in music management from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2009. Ablamonova also holds a master’s degree in choir conducting from the Saint Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts. Since 2008, she has produced over 30 new operas and five contemporary opera festivals, a number of workshops and other music theatre and interdisciplinary arts projects and released contemporary opera CDs. Ablamonova is the winner of the EU program for young art managers, Gulliver Connect, and has interned at the Vienna Chamber Opera. Since 2012 she has served as head of the art centre at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. Since 2014 she has served as the Lithuanian national coordinator of European Opera Days.

Todd Calvin
Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks (Los Angeles, CA)

Todd Calvin was introduced to and fascinated by opera at age 12 when he listened to the Metropolitan Opera’s radio broadcast of Rigoletto. Calvin’s first live opera experience – Norma with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne – took place at the San Francisco Opera, a venue where he would later work under the tutelage of Lotfi Mansouri and Pamela Rosenberg. While there, he ran the rehearsal department, managed visa and immigration matters for the Merola program and participated in negotiations with AGMA and AFM. Currently, Calvin is vice president of business and legal affairs for the Nickelodeon group, part of the Viacom media networks. His responsibilities include negotiating and drafting agreements for the development and production of live-action scripted, unscripted and digital-media programs. He also advises his network partners regarding intellectual property, labor, guild and contract matters. Calvin and his husband, Scott, live in Los Angeles with their four cats.

Brittany Duncan
HGOco Programs Director, Houston Grand Opera

An “operapreneur” with a passion for making opera relevant to all, Brittany Duncan currently serves as HGOco programs director at Houston Grand Opera, spearheading a new three-year initiative to commission and produce chamber operas resonant with contemporary life in Houston. From 2012-2013, Duncan lived in the United Kingdom, where she earned an M.B.A. from the University of Oxford and was selected as a delegate to Opera Europa’s inaugural Opera Management Course. Duncan’s work in opera began in 2007 when she co-founded grassroots opera company OperaHub in Boston. Under her leadership, OperaHub produced 15 productions in spaces throughout the city—most of which were offered free to the public. Duncan’s background also includes marketing and PR experience in both for- and non-profit settings, as well as work with Opera Philadelphia, the Buxton Festival (U.K.) and Berkshire Opera Company. A native of Chicago, Duncan holds a B.A. in music from Williams College.

Barbara Lynne Jamison
Youth Programs Manager, Seattle Opera

Barbara Lynne Jamison is currently the youth programs manager at Seattle Opera and recently served as director of curriculum and artist development with the Metropolitan Opera Guild. She received her B.M., Vocal Performance from Florida International University and her M.M., Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, with doctoral studies in music education at Boston University. She has extensive experience as a music educator and has served nationally as guest conductor and clinician in the areas of choral music and curriculum design. As a soprano, she has sung under the batons of such notable conductors as Michael Tilson-Thomas, Eduardo Mata and Martin Pearlman. Her performances have been broadcast on New York Public Radio and can be heard on Hänssler Classics, Arsis and Naxos labels. Jamison is currently serving her second term as board president of Seattle Girls’ Choir.

David Krohn
Corporate Development Officer, Houston Grand Opera

David Krohn currently serves as Corporate Development Officer with Houston Grand Opera. With a background as an operatic baritone, having performed over forty roles around the world, he brings unique perspective to his work, uniting passion for the art form with administrative skill. At HGO, Krohn is responsible for the cultivation and solicitation of corporate, foundation, government and major individual donors. In his short time with the company, he has established new partnerships, funding both mainstage and HGOco. He works closely with the board of directors, trustees and corporate council, a group of over fifty representatives from major corporate supporters. Prior to this, Krohn served as Seattle Opera’s institutional giving associate, where he achieved a 16% increase in total giving within his portfolio. Krohn holds an M.M. from The Juilliard School and a B.M. from The Peabody Conservatory.

Ashley Magnus
Manager of Corporate Gifts, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera (Salt Lake City, UT)

Ashley Magnus serves as manager of corporate gifts with Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. She holds a B.S. in music management from the University of Evansville and began her career as production coordinator with Utah Opera. After only a few months, she also took on leading the volunteer program for the organization, including the Deer Valley® Music Festival, and has held many varied positions in arts administration in the years since. Magnus recently received an M.B.A. from the University of Utah and specializes in business strategy, project management and building constructive community and corporate partnerships. In addition to advocating for opera and the arts, Magnus is a vocalist and has performed in several productions with the Utah Opera Chorus. Her other passions include running, yoga and travel, and she has lived throughout the U.S. and in England. She currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband, Brandon and their dog, Jasmine.

Benjamin Makino
Music Director, Opera Memphis

Benjamin Makino is music director at Opera Memphis. He was previously assistant conductor at Long Beach Opera where he conducted productions of David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Michael Gordon’s Van Gogh; the U.S. premieres of Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus and Stewart Copeland’s Tell Tale Heart and the U.S. professional premiere of Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth. In 2012, Makino was the music director for Opera Memphis’ first 30 Days of Opera, a program of free events throughout the greater Memphis metropolitan area. Makino is a graduate of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program of the Washington National Opera. He graduated from Chapman University and the University of California, Los Angeles and pursued advanced studies at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. In his free time, Makino enjoys running, cycling, languages and reading Stan Sakai’s inimitable Usagi Yojimbo.

Joseph Peacock
Director of Corporate Giving, Vancouver Opera

Joe Peacock is entering his 11th year as a performing arts fundraiser and currently serves as director of corporate giving with Vancouver Opera. Peacock holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as well as a Masters of Arts Administration from Indiana University. As a trained singer himself, Peacock has a passion for ensuring that the operatic art form is available and accessible to as many individuals as possible. In addition to Vancouver Opera, Peacock has held positions with Santa Fe Opera, Kentucky Opera, Indianapolis Opera and Portland Opera.

Gerald Phillippe
Membership Coordinator, Opera Europa (Brussels, Belgium)

Gerald Philippe was raised in Belgium, where studied political science and international relations at the Catholic University of Louvain. He spent an Erasmus exchange semester in Bologna, Italy. His further studies included law and a Masters in European Affairs from the University of Aachen, Germany. Philippe has interned for European institutions in Brussels, London and Rome and subsequently entered the services of the European Commission in 1999, where he spent a range of 10 years working in various fields including external relations, enlargement, transport and energy. Over this period, he took two sabbaticals and travelled extensively in South and Central America and Asia. Opera has been a major part of his life since his early adolescence and is still now his main passion. In 2000, he joined the steering committee of the youth association of La Monnaie in Brussels and in 2009 became the membership coordinator of Opera Europa, a position he tremendously enjoys.

Thomas Rhodes
Development Associate, Fort Worth Opera

A native Texan, Thomas Rhodes is happy to be promoting opera in his home state as development associate at Fort Worth Opera. When he isn’t hard at work raising money, he spends his spare hours exploring ways to use augmented reality devices in the performing arts as one of the first 10,000 beta testers for Google Glass, a wearable augmented reality computing device. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Music and German from Austin College, he continued his studies as a double degree student at both Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Arts Management program and the University of Bologna’s Graduate Degree in Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts program. Rhodes has held internships at The Santa Fe Opera, Wiener Staatsoper and Pittsburgh Opera; has worked at Opera Mauritius; and has held seasonal contracts with the Heifetz International Music Institute and Greenwich Music Festival.

Joanna Verano
Development Manager, Pacific Opera Victoria (Victoria, BC)

Joanna Verano is the Development Manager at Pacific Opera Victoria. She received her B.A. in Art Studies from the University of the Philippines and an M.A. in Arts Administration from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. With over 10 years of experience in the field of arts and culture, she has held positions in both marketing and fundraising with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Canadian Stage Company and the Royal BC Museum. Verano is currently on the board of the Viva Youth Choirs of Victoria. A member of the Victoria Choral Society where she recently completed a two-year term as the Development Officer on the board, she continues to volunteer her time with them through various committees and as their social media administrator. In her free time, Verano loves exploring Vancouver Island with her husband and two young children and enjoys attending a wide variety of community events with her family.

Bradley Vernatter
Director of Production, Boston Lyric Opera

Over the last decade, Bradley Vernatter has produced and managed opera for leading organizations and festivals throughout the United States and Europe. He currently serves as the director of production for Boston Lyric Opera. He held the position production manager for the renowned Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland for six years and served the same role with Chicago Opera Theater under the direction of Brian Dickie. He recently held the post of company manager for Maestro Lorin Maazel’s celebrated Castleton Festival in Virginia. Vernatter has worked in stage management for Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, New Jersey Opera Theater, North Carolina’s Brevard Music Center, Toledo Opera, the New York City Opera, Indiana University and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree from Otterbein College in Ohio.

Sean Waugh
Assistant to the Director of Artistic Administration, San Francisco Opera

Sean Waugh joined San Francisco Opera in May 2010 as Assistant to the Director of Artistic Administration. In August 2014, Sean will begin a new role with the company as Artistic Planning Manager assisting with casting, season planning and strategic initiatives. Prior to San Francisco Opera, he was a student in the Performing Arts Administration Program at New York University and completed internships with the Metropolitan Opera, OPERA America, the Castleton Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera and the Handel & Haydn Society. He is a graduate of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University where he helped lead the school's recruitment team and founded the Musicians' Health Series, the Schulich Ambassador Program and the Music Career Service, all which have grown to be integral programs at the institution today. He is a recipient of a California “NextGen” Leadership Development Award and is an active participant of Emerging Arts Professionals.

Christopher Wybenga
Institutional and Legacy Giving Associate, San Francisco Opera

Passionate about the advancement of the arts in his community, Christopher Wybenga has worked with arts organizations in the Bay Area for the past five years. Currently serving as institutional and legacy giving associate at San Francisco Opera, Wybenga facilitates continued relationships with legacy givers, supports the director of corporate giving with sponsorship fulfillment and administers in-kind giving programs. Wybenga also enjoys his position as director of operations for Bay Area Arts Marketing, a consulting company specializing in subscription and fundraising campaigns. Originally from Southern California, Christopher grew up playing the cello. He went on to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, earning his Bachelor of Music Degree. Wybenga moved to the Bay Area in 2009 to pursue the Master of Nonprofit Administration Degree at the University of San Francisco. Wybenga thoroughly enjoys living in the Bay Area with his wife Annie, a professional cellist, and their puppy Beatrix.

American Express: Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow
One of American Express' three platforms for its philanthropy is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and sectors, American Express is making grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. Nearly 15,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefitted from American Express leadership programs.

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress and youtube.com/americanexpress.

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