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Article Published: 01 Jan 2019

Seedbeds for Ideas

What would an ideal board member look like? That was just one of many questions raised by OPERA America’s Development Forum when it met this October at the National Opera Center. In a brainstorming session, the participants — all opera-company fundraisers from across the country — determined some two dozen attributes of valuable trustees. Among them: understanding the difference between governance responsibilities and volunteer efforts, welcoming constructive feedback, serving as a cheerleader as well as a financial supporter, and responding quickly to messages and invitations.

This kind of idea-sharing takes place at nine discipline-specific forums convened by OA throughout the year for its Professional Company Members. These meetings provide opportunities for those working in opera’s various specialties — marketing, education, finance, new works, board leadership — to assess shared challenges, compare notes on successful tactics and find opportunities for collaboration. For instance, this fall’s Performer Development Forum — composed of voice teachers, artist managers and administrators of young artist programs — finalized “Standards for Opera Singers”: an online guide, intended to inform teaching practices at conservatories and singer-training programs, that outlines the essential skills an opera singer needs to pursue a career.

Aside from the Development Forum and Performer Development Forum, OPERA America facilitated three other forums this fall, for industry professionals in the fields of education, marketing/PR and technical/ production.

Forum Takeaways

Development Forum

“When your company adopts a new direction — different repertoire, a new season format — be transparent about the risks involved.”

“The board of directors is not a donor club.”

Marketing/PR Forum

“Your audiences will remember their first, last, best and worst moments of their experience with you.”

“Increasing equity, diversity and inclusion means considering who has a voice — not just who has a ticket.”

“Marketing and development departments need to see production designs as early as possible so they can communicate a show’s essence.”

Performer Development Forum

“Millennials may have their own approach to learning, but if we’re going to do our best work cultivating future  artists, we have to deal with the differences.”

“Young singers at the undergraduate level are not just learning how to sing; they’re developing their artistic identities.”

Education Forum

“We need to embrace our graying audience rather than bemoan it.”

Technical/Production Forum

“In any conversation about the pipeline
for tech/prod staff, we have to talk about
equity, diversity and inclusion.”

This article was published in the Winter 2019 issue of Opera America Magazine.