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Article Published: 01 Oct 2017

School Days for Tomorrow’s Leaders

The 13 opera professionals who gathered in August at the National Opera Center for OPERA America’s 2017 Leadership Intensive went through a week of concentrated sessions and seminars geared toward preparing them for career advancement. The annual professional development program, founded in 2012 and supported by American Express, focuses not just on the practical skills tomorrow’s leaders need for their careers, but the personal qualities that make up true leadership.

It also introduces them to a network of peers they can turn to for guidance and support in years ahead. This year, for the first time, OPERA America invited its sister organization Ópera Latinoamérica, based in Santiago, Chile, to send a participant. Alejandra Martí, the organization’s executive director, joined 10 administrators from the U.S. and two from Canada to learn about topics ranging from finance management to storytelling, from public speaking to dining etiquette. Participants will come together again at Opera Conference 2018, from June 20 to 23 in Saint Louis, where they will join alumni of past Intensives in roundtable discussions.

The Class of 2017

Alejandra Valarino Boyer
Director of Community Programs, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Jennifer Dubin
Chief Development Officer, Austin Opera

Julia Gallagher
Assistant Production Director, Minnesota Opera

Jason Hardy
Director of Development, Opera Memphis

Steven Humes
Education Manager, Opera Philadelphia

Caroline Koelker
Managing Director, Opera Maine

Rhanda Luna
Director of Administration and Education, OPERA San Antonio

Alisa Magallón
Teaching Artist, Minnesota Opera

Nicole Malcolm
Development Manager, Pacific Opera Victoria

Alejandra Martí
Executive Director, Ópera Latinoamérica

Courtney Rizzo
Budget Manager, LA Opera

Michael Sakir
Music Director, Opera Memphis

Robin Whiffen
Manager of Artistic Operations, Opera on the Avalon

OA's Leadership Intensive: Lessons Learned
  • "Let a mistake ruin your breakfast, but not your lunch. True achievement comes from resiliency as much as your skills and strengths.”
  • "Make sure your board is continuously engaged in learning about the organization — and the industry."
  • "We have bosses. We don’t have superiors."
  • "You can change behavior, but not personality."
  • "Define your core values. Use them when you are prioritizing your time or deciding between two 'right' options."
  • "It’s important to treat the board as artists. They require coaching and rehearsal, too."
  • "When introducing two people whose names you don’t know, 'You two know each other, don’t you?' works 90 percent of the time."

This article was published in the Fall 2017 issue of Opera America Magazine.