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National Trustee Forum

The National Trustee Forum is a multiday symposium for opera company board members to develop deeper understanding of the most pressing governance challenges and opportunities in the field of opera.

The forum is guided by OPERA America's conviction that the health of opera companies depends on the strength of their boards. Forum meetings offer board members insight into trends and issues, successful strategies, and governance concepts to reinforce their service to their companies and communities.

Past sessions have examined board recruitment and engagement strategies, committee structures, board-staff dynamics, leadership succession, and other topics that build trustee understanding of company operations.

Participants hear from experts, learn from one another, and forge lasting friendships with opera-devoted peers at other companies across the country.

Program Details

The trustees of OPERA America’s Professional Company Members are invited to participate in the National Trustee Forum. Multiple trustees from a board are encouraged to attend as a group to maximize the learning potential for their company.

The daytime meetings of the forum are accompanied by an evening program of performances, receptions, and private dinners, including the OPERA America Salutes awards dinner.

Upcoming Dates and Costs

The National Trustee Forum takes place in New York City each winter. A registration fee applies for the forum, with supplemental costs for optional evening activities.

National Trustee Forum 2024

January 24‒26, 2023 | New York City
Wednesday, January 24, 1:00 p.m. ‒ 3:30 p.m. ET
Thursday‒Friday, January 25 and 26, 9:30 a.m. ‒ 3:30 p.m. ET

The 2024 National Trustee Forum brings together opera company board members to discuss how good governance practices can be deployed to support and guide companies through the dynamics of this post-COVID period. Participants will develop new benchmarks for success for governing amid unpredictability.

The Forum is part of OPERA America's National Trustee Weekend, January 24‒27, for opera company trustees, supporters, and guests from across the country. Forum attendees can register for additional weekend activities including the OPERA America Salutes awards dinner and performances at Works & Process at the Guggenheim, on Broadway, and at The Metropolitan Opera.



The National Trustee Forum is open to board members of OPERA America's Professional Company Members.

  • $395 Member
  • $470 Non-Member (includes membership)



After a welcome and review of the agenda for the meeting, attendees will learn about the similarities that unify the companies represented at the Trustee Forum. Trustees will review current trends in opera repertoire, audience attitudes and behaviors, patterns of giving, and expenses as experienced by opera companies in recent seasons. In a lighting round of ideas, attendees will be invited to share the most important insights they’ve gained over the last year and how they have strengthened their companies and their work as trustees.

Recruiting, Onboarding, Engaging, and Evaluating Board Members
Company leaders agree that strong boards are the foundation of successful companies, but building and activating an effective board is a continuing challenge. Morning sessions will be dedicated to unpacking and examining the steps to creating and sustaining a good board, including engagement strategies for younger board members, optimizing committees, and nurturing a sense of community among veteran members and newcomers to the governance table.

The Dynamics of Good Board/Staff Partnerships
Opera is about collaboration – between composers and librettists, among cast members, and between the board and the staff. In this session, we will discuss the centrality of trusting relationships and the way fiduciary oversight combines with team work to create successful partnerships.

Speaking Up and Speaking Out about Support for the Arts
Fiduciary oversight is not the only responsibility of trustees. Good board members must fulfill their role as advocates for their companies. Local, state and federal support sustained the sector through the pandemic. How do we sustain support for the arts as an essential element of community health? OPERA America’s government affairs director, Tony Shivers, will be on hand to update members about the latest advocacy priorities and report on OPERA America’s effort to build the field’s capacity to advance a shared agenda for the arts.

Realizing Research
The variability in audience behavior and ticket sales patterns coming out of the pandemic leaves many opera companies navigating without their usual guideposts. Research from OPERA America, the Wallace Foundation, and others can provide insights — but how can those insights be translated into strategy? In this session, we will review recent reports on audience trends, discuss the ways research can be used at board meetings and in committee work, and understand how board members are essential to creating space for their companies to experiment in response to findings.

Supporting the Artists
OPERA America has been working on several initiatives to help companies create safe and respectful environments for creative excellence. An update on these projects will inspire trustees to help support the artists who bring opera to life.

Facilitated Discussion
Attendees will be invited to submit questions and topics for discussion in advance of the meeting. Sessions dedicated to facilitated discussion will engage all members in peer learning around these points of inquiry.

For more information, contact us at Membership@operaamerica.org or 646.699.5266.