Press Published: 29 Aug 2022

OPERA America Announces Participants of the 2022‒2023 Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color

OPERA America recognizes the leadership achievements and dedication of three accomplished BIPOC professionals in opera who have been selected as mentees in the 2022‒2023 Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color. The Mentorship Program, now in its second year, advances racial equity in the field by pairing BIPOC administrators with established leaders in the field who can support them in achieving their career goals.

The 2022‒2023 mentee-mentor partnerships are:

  • Mentee: Dorian Block, Social Media Manager, The Dallas Opera
    Mentor: Rebekah Diaz, Founder and Principal Consultant, Diaz Inclusion Consulting; and Director of IDEA Initiatives and Community Engagement, Pittsburgh Opera
  • Mentee: Malikha Mayes, Development Database and Membership Manager, The Dallas Opera
    Mentor: Afton Battle, General and Artistic Director, Fort Worth Opera
  • Mentee: Timmy Yuen, Senior Human Resources Generalist, San Francisco Opera
    Mentor: Matthew Ozawa, Chief Artistic Administration Officer, Lyric Opera of Chicago

See below for profiles of the participants.

The yearlong Mentorship Program will provide mentees with guidance and support from veteran BIPOC arts administrators and establish action plans for professional growth and long-term career trajectories. The mentee-mentor pairs will come together for remote and in-person sessions over the next 12 months, including at Opera Conference 2023 in Pittsburgh in May.

Established in 2021 as part of OPERA America’s effort to eradicate racism and ensure equity throughout the field, the program was conceived by members of OPERA America’s Racial Justice Opera Network (RJON). It responds to the industry’s desire to counteract practices of exclusion toward Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, North African, and Native American administrators, who face systemic barriers that can adversely impact professional advancement.

The program has already had a profound impact on the mentees from the inaugural year. Carlos García León, individual giving manager at Cincinnati Opera, noted, “The program has been phenomenal. The validation that I am worthy to be considered a leader-in-the-making as someone who still feels so new to opera and fundraising felt amazing.” Jaime Sharp, communications and publications manager at Grantmakers in the Arts, shared that the program connected her “with not just one-on-one guidance, but an entire network of BIPOC administrators.” Takesha Meshé Kizart-Thomas, director of development at The American Opera Project, spoke to the lasting impact of the program: “The program will continue to inspire me to blaze trails with the robust support of OPERA America lifting me higher and higher.”

“The Opera Leaders of Color Mentorship program is designed by and for administrators of color,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America. “We are grateful to members of the Racial Justice Opera Network for their leadership in conceiving the program and their continued support as we welcome a new cohort of mentee-mentor partnerships.” 

BIPOC administrators working in opera were invited to apply to participate in the Mentorship Program as mentees. Applications were reviewed by Racial Justice Opera Network members: Anh Le, director of marketing and public relations, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; Chevalier Lovett, chief operating officer, Florida Rising, and board member, Opera Orlando; and Andrea Puente-Catán, director of major gifts and Hispanic initiatives, San Diego Opera. Mentors were identified to align with the goals and interests of their mentees.

OPERA America is committed to achieving racial equity in the opera field. In addition to the Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color, the organization offers two programs to advance the careers of composers and librettists of color: IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access), supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation; and IDEA Opera Residencies, supported by the Katherine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation. More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

Other OPERA America programs focused on the advancement of opera administrators include the Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, as well as the Leadership Intensive and New General Directors Roundtable. To learn more about leadership development programs at OPERA America, visit operaamerica.org/LeadDev.

About the Participants

Dorian Block, Mentee
Social Media Manager, The Dallas Opera 

Dorian Block (née Salomé Block) is a trans-masculine individual of Hispanic and Native American heritage from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he grew up attending, performing in, and eventually marketing for The Santa Fe Opera. Block currently serves as social media manager at The Dallas Opera, working closely with the Equity Cohort to center diversity in social media communications and attending a monthly Equity and Belonging Book Club to discuss how Decolonizing Wealth can be applied in opera. Dorian earned his B.A. in English with an arts administration concentration from McMurry University (2015), where he now serves on the Alumni Board of Directors. While there, his proposed solution to legalizing LGBTQI+ protections within the United Nations framework won international awards at the National Model UN Conference in Rome, Italy. In 2016, he began his communications career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, working with The Santa Fe Community Foundation, writing grants for the mayor of Santa Fe, and volunteering with the largest LGBTQI+ philanthropic entity in New Mexico. He is dedicated to exploring digital media’s role in helping increase the representation of intersectional diversity on both sides of the operatic stage.

Rebekah Diaz, Mentor
Founder and Principal Consultant, Diaz Inclusion Consulting
Director of IDEA Initiatives and Community Engagement, Pittsburgh Opera 

A certified diversity executive, Rebekah Diaz has a deep knowledge of the specific equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) needs of nonprofit arts and cultural institutions. She is the founder and principal consultant for Diaz Inclusion Consulting, an EDI consultancy focused on delivering shame-free, growth-focused workshops and strategic planning for arts organizations. Her multifaceted career in the performing arts industry provides a unique understanding of the needs of cultural institutions, audiences, teams, and creatives. Diaz is also the director of IDEA initiatives and community engagement for Pittsburgh Opera, an arts equity specialist for OPERA America’s New Works Forum, and a co-founder of Pittsburgh Arts Administrators of Color and Unite and Ignite. 

A leading arts entrepreneur, Diaz was featured in PUMP Magazine’s “40 under 40” in 2021. She won a position in OPERA America Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, where she apprenticed with renowned agent Ana De Archuleta. In 2018, she was recognized as an educational finalist in the International Opera Awards. Diaz conceived and implemented the groundbreaking Cadenza program, creating pathways toward therapeutic betterment for human trafficking victims and other high-needs groups through exposure to opera. Additional project highlights include the creation of a youth opera academy and an unprecedented collaboration with Disney/Pixar to create custom operatic animations. 

Malikha Mayes, Mentee
Development Database and Membership Manager, The Dallas Opera 

Malikha Mayes (she/her) is a versatile soprano and arts administrator who uses her passion for the arts to encourage cultural representation behind the scenes, on the stage, and in the audience of opera productions. Based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Mayes currently serves as the development database and membership manager at The Dallas Opera. As a member of The Dallas Opera’s Equity Cohort, she leads, facilitates, and coordinates discussions and practices surrounding equity and belonging in the development department and beyond. Mayes holds a Master of Music in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Texas Tech University. With an equal passion for performance and administration, Malikha plans to be at the forefront of holistic equitable change in opera. 

Afton Battle, Mentor
General and Artistic Director, Fort Worth Opera  

Afton Battle came to Fort Worth Opera in 2020 following development and strategic consulting work with Red Clay Dance Company, the National Black Theatre, the African American Policy Forum, and Brooklyn arts and culture firm Red Olive Consulting. She was previously the director of development for the New York Theatre Workshop, director of the annual campaign for the Joffrey Ballet, and the corporate and foundation relations and individual giving manager for the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. A native of Amarillo, Battle holds a degree in voice performance from the University of Houston and a Master of Music in voice performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College. Before following her passion for arts administration, Battle had an operatic career that led her to the stages of Europe and North America.  As a self-proclaimed artivist (artist and activist), Battle is no stranger to the power that representation and mentorship can have on a young emerging professional. She gratefully acknowledges Angelique Power, past president of the Field Foundation and newly appointed president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, and Mila Gibson, voice teacher, music educator, and founder of Amarillo Opera, for their mentorship, guidance, and career development advice that encouraged her to pursue a path in opera and arts administration.   

Timmy Yuen, Mentee
Senior Human Resources Generalist, San Francisco Opera 

Originally from Santa Paula, California, and a graduate in drama from Stanford University, Timmy Yuen (he/him/his) has embraced arts administration with a passion as deep as his love for opera, theater, and circus. After a 14-year journey as director of one of Northern California’s premier circus summer camps, Camp Winnarainbow, he joined the San Francisco Opera education department to manage its acclaimed Opera ARIA school programs. Deepening his knowledge, Yuen then served three years in finance, where he managed payroll, and now commits himself to bettering the employee experience in the San Francisco Opera’s human resources department. Yuen is driven by a passion to support his fellow SFO colleagues, advocate for increased diversity and representation in opera, and help realize more sustainable work/life practices for the opera industry.  

Matthew Ozawa, Mentor
Chief Artistic Administration Officer, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Matthew Ozawa is a stage director, artistic director, administrator, and educator who has firmly cemented himself as one of the preeminent creative forces in the opera world today. Ozawa was recently appointed the chief artistic administration officer at Lyric Opera of Chicago, a newly created position that oversees five departments and all of Lyric’s artistic planning, processes, and activities. Previously, Ozawa served for three years as an assistant professor of music at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. In addition, he spent five years as the founder and artistic director of Mozawa, a Chicago-based incubator advancing collaborative art and artists.   

Ozawa has directed productions at San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Minnesota Opera, Opera Colorado, San Diego Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Arizona Opera, Kentucky Opera, North Carolina Opera, Opera Siam, Asia Society, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center, among many others. Upcoming directing engagements include a new production of Orfeo ed Euridice at San Francisco Opera, as well as several new productions to be announced. Ozawa was raised in California and Singapore and is a graduate of United World College of South East Asia and Oberlin Conservatory. 

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