Picking Up Steam
Despite incremental gains in recent years, BIPOC individuals remain significantly underrepresented in the ranks of American opera companies. OPERA America’s first-ever Field-Wide Demographic Report, released this summer, revealed that BIPOC administrators hold only 18 percent of senior-level administrative positions at opera companies, and just under 21 percent of administrative positions overall — compared to a U.S. population that is 42 percent BIPOC.
Like more and more initiatives across the country, OPERA America’s Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color seeks to address this imbalance and advance racial equity in the field. Launched last year with guidance from OPERA America’s Racial Justice Opera Network Steering Committee, the mentorship program pairs BIPOC professionals with executive-level leaders who can support them in achieving their career goals.
The program’s second annual cohort, announced in August, consists of three mentee/mentor teams. The pairs will come together for remote and in-person mentoring sessions over the next year, including this May at Opera Conference 2023 in Pittsburgh. The mentors will help the mentees establish action plans for their professional growth and long-term career trajectories.
“The Opera Leaders of Color program connected me with not just one-on-one guidance, but an entire network of BIPOC administrators,” says Jaime Sharp, a 2021 mentee and the communications and publications manager for Grantmakers in the Arts. Sharp, also the former president and CEO of Opera NexGen, adds: “My experience has helped me develop realistic insight on my personal career trajectory and on how to face obstacles that stand in my way.”