Dr. Derrell Acon (he/him)
Vice President of People and Operations - Opera Philadelphia; Associate Artistic Director - Heartbeat Opera; Black Opera Alliance; New Works Forum Arts Equity Specialist OPERA America
Los Angeles, CA
Fulbright scholar Dr. Derrell Acon is a dynamic performer, scholar, and activist who has over 15 years of experience in the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) space. He continues to establish himself as a leader in classical music, education, and ethnic studies as relates to the role of the artist-activist.
Dr. Acon is an Mellon Foundation grantee and frequent presenter throughout the U.S. at conferences for the National Association for Ethnic Studies and NANM, and internationally at venues in Europe and Africa. He has been lecturer and equity consultant at The Chautauqua Institution, Portland Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, The Industry LA, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Dr. Acon is the Director of Engagement and Equity at Long Beach Opera and the New Works Forum Arts Equity Specialist for OPERA America. This October, he will teach an 8-course seminar entitled “Viva VERDI: Why Giuseppe and Gang Would be BLM Activists.”
Internationally, Dr. Acon has worked with institutions on EDI concepts and how to build infrastructure that supports such work. He has also worked on behalf of the State Department with hundreds of foreign Fulbrighters and toured with the Peace Corps to HBCUs to gauge entry barriers into the Fulbright Program.
Dr. Acon has served as trustee of Lawrence University and used his role as fiduciary to the $320 million endowment to ensure that equity and inclusion were centered in all decision-making and oversight processes. He is a frequent consultant, advisor, and panelist in the fields of opera and ethnic studies.
Dr. Sinella Aghasi (she/her)
Associate Director - Opéra Louisiane
Baton Rouge, LA
Dr. Sinella Aghasi is an arts administrator, educator, and a violinist. As an arts advocate, Dr. Aghasi is committed to making Classical music relevant and accessible to a diverse community. In her current role as the Associate Director of Opéra Louisiane, she is proud to take part in bringing professional opera to Baton Rouge and opening a door for thousands of students to experience opera for the first time in their lives. As an arts administrator, she has sought to advocate for equitable access for the arts through the most effective ways of fundraising and marketing. Dr. Aghasi is passionate about establishing non-traditional partnerships and using creative placemaking to effectively diversify the opera patrons in the community. Dr. Aghasi holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Louisiana State University, Master of Music from San Francisco State University, and Bachelor of music education and violin performance from California State University Stanislaus.
As an active performer, she plays with several local orchestras, such as Opéra Louisiane, Baton Rouge Symphony, Acadiana Symphony, Rapides Symphony, Lake Charles Symphony, and Gulf Coast Symphony. In addition to her love for performance, Dr. Aghasi’s passion for music education has never stopped growing. She served as a teaching artist at San Francisco Symphony’s Education Department, Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and Kids’ Orchestra, and has most recently created an interactive virtual opera education program for elementary students in the Greater Baton Rouge Area. As an Arts advocate, she serves on the Artist Advisory board of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, and as the co-chair of the Barton Leadership program at Forum 225.
Ana De Archuleta (she/her)
President - ADA Artist Management; Director of Artistic Operations - National Sawdust
Ana De Archuleta has quickly established herself as one of the most sought-after managers in the operatic field as well as artist advocate. Representing a thriving roster of vocalists, conductors, and directors worldwide. Ana’s vast background in the arts has played a major role in her success as an artist manager. Throughout her life she has been involved in many facets of the performing arts as an instrumentalist, dancer, operatic stage manager, assistant director, opera chorister, and an operatic soloist. She is a business member of Opera America and the American Symphony league, is on the Board of the Olga Iglesias Project, Advisory Board of Seagle Music Colony, Diversity Advisory Committee with American Lyric Theater, as well as co-chair of the 2017-20 Women’s Opera Network Steering Committee and a panelist for the National Endowment of the Arts 2017 Arts Works Opera Grants. A sought-after mentor to Resident Artists of many performing arts organizations, Ana frequently offers her insights into the business aspect of the opera world via master classes and one on one consultations. She has presented her seminar at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music, Yale University, and Wolf Trap Opera among others. Additionally, she has been invited to judge multiple vocal competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council, Fort Worth Opera’s McCammon Voice Competition, and Florida Grand Opera’s Young Patronesses of the Opera Vocal Competition. Ana belongs to the faculty to the The Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors.
Walteria Caldwell (she/her)
Executive Director - Diversitá Opera Arts Company
Walteria Caldwell is a professionally trained mezzo-soprano, pianist, and music educator who tours around the country and abroad.
She is also the Executive Director of Diversitá Opera Arts Company, a non profit organization that provides a diverse cast of performers through opera/classical music on stage along with artistic shows throughout the United States. They also provide music education to schools, scholarships to deserving students, and performance opportunities for the youth.
In the field of opera, Walteria has been in several productions as the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors as well as both Hansel and the Gingerbread Witch from Hansel & Gretel. In Bizet's opera Carmen, Walteria has performed Carmen in concert and Mercedes on stage. From Verdi's repertoire, Walteria has sung Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera, Quickly and Meg Page from Falstaff, Azucena in scenes from Il trovatore, and Amneris from Aida in concert. In newly composed work, she debuted the role of Sylvia in the opera Wading Home (composed by Mary Alice Rich which is based on the successful novel by Rosalyn Story), and performed as the Juggler/Opera Singer in Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing by Malcolm Fox. She has also performed additional roles along with working as a concert soloist with various choirs/orchestras for oratorio works such as The Messiah and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.
Veronica Chapman-Smith (she/her)
Director of Community Initiatives - Opera Philadelphia
Veronica Chapman-Smith has worked in Opera Philadelphia’s administration since 2016. Ms. Chapman-Smith was integral in the development of Opera Philadelphia’s Backstage Pass; a workforce readiness program for technical theater. Along with running the Backstage Pass program, Mrs. Chapman-Smith runs Opera Philadelphia’s Teen Voices of The City Ensemble (T-VOCE); a free choir open to all teens in the Philadelphia area. In 2020, Mrs. Chapman-Smith became Opera Philadelphia’s Director of Community Initiatives, overseeing Opera Philadelphia’s educational programming and community partnerships. She is also an integral part of the organization’s anti-racist initiatives. Mrs. Chapman-Smith is currently completing a Diversity Leadership Certificate at Temple University.
Mrs. Chapman-Smith started in the opera world as a singer. She studied vocal performance at Temple University where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After her studies, she spent the next 16 years singing roles for various opera companies across the United States, from smaller groups like Ash Lawn Opera Festival to larger organizations such as Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has maintained firm roots in Philadelphia, performing small roles and singing in the chorus for Opera Philadelphia, and singing in concerts and recordings with the contemporary choral group The Crossing, including the 2018 Grammy Award winning recording The Fifth Century. With an extensive performing background Mrs. Chapman-Smith brings access to artists and opportunities not easily available to the participants of both programs. Mrs. Chapman-Smith continues to perform as a soloist on a local and national level, as well as being a member of Opera Philadelphia’s chorus.
Melody Chang (she/her)
Director of Marketing - Inland Northwest Opera
Melody Chang is currently the Director of Marketing for Inland Northwest Opera, the only professional opera company in the Inland Northwest. Previously, she managed community outreach & engagement programs, digital marketing, reporting, and special projects for Spokane's Best of Broadway series, presented by WestCoast Entertainment.
She sits on the Board of the Spokane Symphony, as well as performs with the Spokane Symphony Chorale as a first soprano. She also proudly serves on the Board of Directors for Communities in Schools of Spokane County. Melody holds a Bachelor of Arts in Voice from Washington State University.
Debbie Chinn (she/her)
Managing Director - Anna Deavere Smith's Pipeline Project, Girls
El Cerrito, CA
Over the past 25 years, Debbie has held executive leadership positions as Executive Director of Opera Parallèle and Carmel Bach Festival, and as Managing Director at CENTERSTAGE (the State Theater of Maryland), California Shakespeare Theater, and Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. She has served as a strategic consultant for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Ventura Music Festival, and Philip Glass’ Days and Nights Festival. She is Board President of Theatre Bay Area, one of the largest service organizations for theatres in the U.S., and she serves as Audit Chair of the Board of the San Francisco Community Music Center. Her advisory roles include being on the Advisory Council of West Edge Opera and on the Leadership Council of the National Small Business Association, a nonpartisan organization, based in Washington, D.C. with 65,000 members across every state and industry in the U.S. Her past board affiliations include Theatre Communications Group, the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (Board President), and Network of Ensemble Theatres. Her transformative leadership work is featured as one of 13 case studies in “Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World” in the International Leadership Association Series which assembles thought leaders to reimagine leadership in building a healthy, sustainable, and equitable world.
Ryan Chittaphong (he/him)
Director of Marketing - Stella Adler Studio of Acting
New York, NY
Ryan has been with the Stella Adler Studio since 2008. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Performance from Middle Tennessee State University where he studied Stella Adler’s work. Before coming to the studio, Ryan served as Marketing and Development Associate at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. He also held administrative positions at the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, and Tennessee Performing Arts Center. As an actor, Ryan has performed all over the world including such countries as Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Honduras. Recent production include: Originating the role of Hero in Taylor Mac’s world premiere of The Fre (Flea Theater), Arsenic and Old Lace, Finian’s Rainbow (Berkshire Theatre Festival), The Fez (Flea Theater), Dry Powder (Arthur Seelen Theatre), Professor Brenner (HERE Arts Center), As You Like It (Harold Clurman Lab) and various productions at the Stella Adler Studio. For three years, he had the great pleasure of working at the world famous Grand Ole Opry as an official Hank Williams impersonator. Ryan frequently performs improv comedy in the city with groups such as Ten Bones Theatre and the Armory. He studied improv at Upright Citizen's Brigade and the Magnet Theater. Ryan is a proud company member of the Story Pirates and is a co-founder of Glamsmash Productions, a New York based film production company.
Destiny Coleman (she/her)
Director of Education and Artistic Administration - Opera Columbus
Destiny Coleman is the Director of Education and Artistic Administration for Opera Columbus. In this position, Ms. Coleman coordinates all education and community engagement programming, serving over 14,000 students and families per year; oversees the annual Cooper-Bing Vocal Competition; and serves as lead administrator. In 2017, Ms. Coleman received the Sir William Osler, MD, Award from The Ohio State University Medicine and the Arts Board on behalf of Opera Columbus, in recognition of her leadership in the Columbus arts community and for her commitment to bringing the performing arts to the medical center’s staff and patients. In 2018-2019, Ms. Coleman received acclaim after she conceptualized, created, and directed The Voice of Freedom and The Journey, A Celebration of Music Inspired by African-American Culture. Both community engagement programs were centered around diversity and inclusion, offering over 60 artists of color opportunities to perform. In 2020, she was recognized as an emerging leader in the arts and awarded the Next Up Columbus Award by The Columbus Young Professionals Club.
As a mezzo-soprano, Ms. Coleman has performed with The Ohio State University Lyric Opera Theatre Program, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Heather Headley, and the world-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli. Ms. Coleman holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from The Ohio State University and a Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University.
She recently participated in Opera Europa’s 2018 Opera Management Course in Poznań, Poland, and is a current participant of the YWCA Leadership for Social Change Program.
Marlon Daniel (he/him)
Conductor/Music Director, Entrepreneur/Arts Administrator/Lecturer
New York, NY / Paris, France
A laureate of the 2018 Bucharest Symphony Orchestra International Conducting Competition, American conductor Marlon Daniel is one of the most dynamic conductors of his generation. He has been described as “a natural and enormous talent” by the Chicago Sun-Times and as “fabulous and exceptional” by Pravda – Moscow. He is the world’s foremost exponent of the music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and a champion of contemporary music and works by composers of African descent, especially William Grant Still and composer George Walker, who was a mentor. Educated in both Europe and the United States, he has studied at Manhattan School of Music, the Prague Academy, Le Conservatoire Américain (Fontainebleau) and Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. His teachers have included Jiří Bělohlávek, David Gilbert, Tomáš Koutník, Miriam Němcová and Jorma Panula. He has also benefited from the advice of Ivan Fischer, Herbie Hancock, Zubin Mehta and Sir Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonie. He has performed with Chineke! In London, the Havana Lyceum Orchestra, New Canon Chamber Collective Orchestra, Pazardzhik Symphony Orchestra, Praga Sinfonietta, Sofia Sinfonietta, Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba, where he was the first and only African American to date invited to conduct the orchestra in its sixty-five-year history.
He is currently Artistic and Music Director of the Festival International Musique Saint-Georges, Artistic and Executive Director of the All-Caribbean Youth Orchestra, Music Director of Ensemble du Monde, Associate Conductor of Florida Grand Opera and an MBA Cohort (Arts Administration, Entrepreneurship and Innovation) of the Global Leaders Program.
Khori Dastoor (she/her)
General Director and CEO - Houston Grand Opera
Khori Dastoor is the General Director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera.
Previously she severed as General Director Opera San José, overseeing all aspects of artistic planning and business operations for the company. Among her missions are renewing Opera San José’s commitment to developing and curating emerging talent and elevating the company as a vibrant artistic incubator in the heart of Silicon Valley.
She previously served as Associate Director of the Packard Humanities Institute, responsible for arts, music, and archaeology initiatives, and as Director of the San Francisco District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Ms. Dastoor received her Bachelor of Music from New England Conservatory and completed doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, earning the Dean’s Award for the School of Arts and Architecture.
Ras Dia (he/him)
CArtistic Planning & Producing Manager – Little Island; Project Director & Creative Producer – VisionIntoArt (VIA); Co-Founder - ffflypaper
New York, NY
Ras Dia is a Brooklyn-born, Harlem-bred creative working at the intersection of inspiration and empowerment in the arts. His work has been described as “stirring” (Washington Post), “bracing, compelling, and heartbreaking” (Musical America), and “grippingly produced” (The Boston Globe). Recent projects include Houses of Zodiac (Prestini) with ballerina Georgina Pazcoguin, butoh artist Dai Matsuoka, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler presented by The Broad (LA), as part of Takashi Murakami’s exhibition Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, the world premiere of Con Alma with Paola Prestini & Magos Herrera at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Mexico City), Heartbeat Opera’s BREATHING FREE: a visual album, the Frederick R. Koch Foundation’s Townhouse Series, San Francisco Symphony’s MTT25: An American Icon, San Francisco Opera’s In Song, and the launch of Little Island (NYC), a public park and arts organization developed by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, where he serves as the Artistic Planning & Producing Manager, presenting projects with artists including Ayodele Casel, PigPen Theatre Co., Shaina Taub, Mahogany L. Browne, the American Ballet Theatre, Michael McElroy, Phylicia Rashad, Morgan Jay, and Lillias White.
Ras previously served as the Assistant Producer of the Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody- and Emmy award-winning Live in HD series, and as the Managing Director of the New York City Master Chorale, in addition to marketing, development, production, and administrative roles with the National Children’s Chorus, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Carnegie Hall, The New School, where he supported programs for immigrant, refugee, and survivor communities across New York City, and National Sawdust, where he produced the Artists-in-Residence program, and co-created SAUCE, a series of artist sessions.
He is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Purchase College (SUNY), as well as the Boy’s Choir of Harlem, and has appeared as a guest speaker for the National YoungArts Foundation, Amherst College, the Black Artists Fund, and the Manhattan School of Music, in addition to serving as a grant panelist for OPERA America.
Dianne Duursma (she/her)
Director of Development - City Theatre Company
An accomplished professional with 30 years of experience in the interdisciplinary fields of business & philanthropy. A highly dedicated and thorough individual with a superb record of delivering optimal donor experiences, revenue generation, and providing brand understanding that incites activation. Adept at bringing multiple simultaneous projects [annual fund-raising, capital campaigns, special events, board development/relations, board fundraising, and corporate giving] to completion with full accuracy and professionalism. Career-long revenue exceeding $62 million in contributed funds. Proven record of success in high-end department store purchasing, budgeting, management, and providing educational training and development of 600+ volunteers, health and human community services, and the ARTS.
Renee Fajardo (she/her)
Producing Intern - Against the Grain Theatre, Producer, Singer
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Born and raised in Manila, Filipino Mezzo-soprano Renee Fajardo has performed on both the opera stage and as a solo recitalist in the Philippines, the UK, Europe and Canada.
Winner of the Metcalf Performing Arts Grant, Renee is thrilled to join Against the Grain Theatre this season as Producing Intern. In this new role, she will further her commitment to building a more equitable, diverse and justice-facing industry for all historically-underrepresented identities in opera.
Equally passionate about performance and off-stage creative practice, Renee sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and is a mentor and provincial coordinator for Opera InReach where she co-develops supplementary opera curriculum materials for highschool students through the lens of equity, diversity and inclusivity. She also volunteers as an Institutional Giving intern with Boulanger Initiative, working on funding opportunities to support and advocate for works composed by women and marginalized gender composers.
As a settler of Filipino heritage, she is grateful to be currently based in T’karonto (Toronto), the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples; currently home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Renee recently completed her Masters in Opera Performance from the University of Toronto, and holds a first-class Bachelor of Music degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Sandy Feliciano (she/her)
Events and Volunteer Manager - Atlanta Opera
Sandy Feliciano is the Events and Volunteer Manager for The Atlanta Opera, where she facilitates over 50 key fundraising and stewardship events each year, including the annual Gala. In 2020, she planned the Opera’s 40th Anniversary Gala, its most successful fundraiser to date, netting over half a million dollars for the organization.
Since moving to Atlanta last year, Sandy has become an active member of the Atlanta community, serving as the Vice President of Public Relations for St. Maximilian Kolbe Toastmasters and Vice Chair of Marketing and Communications for Hispanic Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs. She volunteers as a mentor for the Latin American Association and as an Adjudicator for the ArtsBridge Foundation’s Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards.
Previously, Sandy was the Marketing and Patron Services Manager of the Savannah VOICE Festival for four years, where she led marketing initiatives and oversaw front-of-house staff for over 25 events during the three-week festival. Sandy holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of South Florida and a Certificate in Graphic Design from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
Miguel Flores (he/him)
Technical/Production Administrator, Stage Manager, Production Manager
I have worked with Long Beach Opera, IU Opera, Memphis Opera, Opera Del West, MIT Music and Theater Arts, and Boston Conservatory.
Falefia Jr Brandon Fuamatu (he/him)
Events and Production Manager - Hawaii Opera Theatre
Falefia Jr. Brandon Fuamatu is a budding classical artist with accomplishments and interests across the various fields of operatic performance, both on and behind the stage. In the summer of 2019, Mr. Fuamatu sang the roles of Moralès and Dancaire in Narni, Italy in the Narnia Festival’s production of Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Andrea DelGuidice. Recently, he was the Assistant Director for Hawai’i Opera Theatre’s 19’-20’ season productions of Tosca, under the tutelage of Director Omer Ben Seadia, and Le nozze di Figaro, with Director Tara Faircloth. Mr. Fuamatu is currently working with Hawai’i Opera Theatre’s administration as their Events and Productions Manager and Digital Productions Coordinator. He has an M.M. in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from The Westminster Choir College of Rider University and a B.A. in Music and Voice from The University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
Gabrielle Nomura Gainor (she/her)
Communications and Public Engagement Manager - Seattle Opera
I am a communications manager with a passion for storytelling, community engagement, and racial equity. I am focused on building and amplifying Seattle Opera's civic engagement and anti-racism efforts. My communications work on Madame Butterfly ('17) was praised in The New York Times' 2019 opinion piece, "Classical Opera Has a Racism Problem." I create content for social media and the Seattle Opera blog, contextualize operas through lobby displays, and help to develop community-engagement events at the Opera Center. I have also shared expertise as a cultural consultant for Portland Opera and Edmonds Center for the Arts, and I have spoken on the NPR affiliate KUOW regarding Asian cultural stereotypes in The Nutcracker. My professional goals are to help shift culture toward racial equity through the arts and representation onstage.
Carlos García León (he/they)
Individual Giving Manager - Cincinnati Opera
Carlos García León is a queer, non-binary, Latine, Mexican-Statesian who is currently the Individual Giving Manager for Cincinnati Opera. In this position, they are in charge of stewardship, cultivation, and engagement of donors who give $3,500 or below. Pre-COVID, Carlos helped with the November Gala and became the liaison to the Cincinnati Opera’s Guild. Post-COVID, they were a part of the Artist Relief Fund, set to compensate contracted artists and artisans from the financial burden by raising over $500,000 and starting the Virtual Opera Chats program designed to engage patrons with diverse artists and stories.
Carlos earned his Bachelor of Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Bassoon Performance and a Communications Minor and went on to the University of Cincinnati to earn his Master of Arts in Arts Administration and a Master of Business Administration. In addition, Carlos is a spoken word artist, having their written work publish in local and national zines, and performing in local open mics.
Carlos was born in Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico and had a passion for music early on. However, their drive for cultural equity, decolonizing the arts, and social justice developed over the years through experiences in various music organizations. Carlos continues learning and working to fight for cultural equity and justice in their work and the music field.
Sarah Geocaris (she/her)
Assistant Director of Annual Giving - Joffrey Ballet
Experienced Development Associate with a demonstrated history of working in the performing arts industry. Skilled in Board Management, Editing, Public Speaking, Fundraising, and Event Planning. Strong professional with a Master of Music focused in Voice Performance from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. I aspire to manage a foundation one day.
Executive Director/General Director/CEO, Managing Director/COO, Technical/Production Administrator, Small Business Owner
New York, NY
David Gibson started his career in the entertainment industry in 1984 working behind the scenes for local event production and sound firms in Washington D.C. From 1986 until 1990, he attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Design and Production. From 1990 until 2002, he toured internationally with theatrical and dance productions. From 2002 until 2007 he served as the Director of Production at Jazz at Lincoln Center's, Frederick P. Rose Hall, leading the start up production team for the performance facilities at the Time Warner Center. In this capacity, he worked on strategic planning, labor negotiations and budget planning. In 2008 he began to focus on growing GES to its full potential. Since moving to New York in 1991, David has consulted clients on touring operations, recording projects, facility planning, technical operations, sound system and acoustic design, special events, and production needs for the development of performing arts facilities. He has produced performances in Africa, South America, Asia, and all over Europe, in more than 20 countries. He has supervised all areas of production and is skilled at providing guidance and useful advice for program and budget development for capital projects, concert and facility production, and operating budgets. He has planned and managed the execution of hundreds of new productions. David brings the ability to translate technical details into a full-scale budget, and in turn, provide guidance and advice for executive level decision-making.
Deonté Griffin-Quick (he/him)
Director of Programs and Services - New Jersey Theatre Alliance
Deonté Griffin-Quick is a nationally recognized, award-winning arts administrator and consultant with a proven track record of envisioning and implementing change at the local level. Deonte currently serves as Director of Programs and Services at New Jersey Theatre Alliance, where he builds lasting partnerships between theaters and community organizations in the state of New Jersey. Before transitioning into a full-time role at NJTA, Deonté previously worked at the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, where he managed the statewide Poetry Out Loud program. During his tenure, he contributed to recruiting over 2,000 students to the program, making it the second largest POL program in the country. As an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Mr. Griffin-Quick is a frequently sought after speaker, consultant, workshop facilitator, and grant panelist. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Arts Administration from Drexel University.
Mengtong Guan (she/her)
Artistic Administrator, Education/Community Engagement/Social Impact, Executive Director/General Director/CEO, Producer
New York, NY
A creative producer and arts manager, Mengtong received a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Indiana University O’Neil School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Mengtong Guan worked with Lincoln Center Festival in New York City as Assistant Company Manager, in 2014 she joined Ping Pong Productions in China and the USA after touring with Mark Morris Dance Group in China and has been leading the organization as Executive and Creative Director since 2017. Mengtong is a regular speaker at art conferences and guest lecturer in academies to promote cultural diversity and international art exchange. She is an alumnus of Atelier for Young Festival Managers by the European Festival Association and Emerging Leaders of New York Arts Fellowship. Mengtong Guan currently sits on the Membership Committee of the International Society of Performing Arts.
Aliana de la Guardia (she/her)
Co-Artistic Director - Guerilla Opera
Aliana de la Guardia is a first generation Cuban-American and enjoys a multifaceted career of both artist and administrator. She is a co-founder of Guerilla Opera, an ensemble member and now co-artistic director, with which she has produced more than fifteen world premiere operas with roles tailor-made for her ferocious stage presence. She was recently selected as a protégée for OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network Mentorship Program for Women in Opera, paired with Lee Anne Myslewski from the Wolf Trap Foundation. She is also the recipient of a Public Art Learning Fund grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to pursue mentorship with Double Edge Theatre. She is the owner and founder of Dirty Paloma Voice Studio in Haverhill, MA, treasurer of Granite State National Association of Teachers of Singing, and is on the Haverhill Multicultural Festival 2020 planning committee. Aliana has a BM in vocal performance, emphasis in opera and an MM, vocal performance from the Boston Conservatory.
Jonathon Hampton (he/him)
Administration + Publicity, Singer, Voice Teacher
Jonathon Hampton, a native of Chicago, brings a wealth of diversity and experience, having worked in business management, arts education, and music performance in New York, California, and now Washington, DC area. He’s spent much of his business career in communications and outreach with Carnegie Hall, Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA), American Bach Soloists, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (EBCPA), and now works in Communications for Strathmore. He sings regularly as an alto, tenor, and baritone at Washington National Cathedral and St. John Paul II National Shrine, among several other choirs. He is the director of the American Youth Chorus and has also conducted for San Francisco Youth Chorus, Tactus SF, Grace Church in Newark (NJ), Washington International School, PBA, EBCPA and many others. He also founded two choruses in affiliation with his Alma mater, Cornell University, from which he graduated in 2004. Additionally, he has completed a certificate program in nonprofit management through Chorus America.
Chelbi Harvin-Dickens (they/their; she/her)
Community Engagement Coordinator - San Francisco Opera
Chelbi Harvin Dickens (they/she) is an interdisciplinary artist and educator with a background in dance, theatre, and music. They are dedicated to arts education and have worked within academic and artistic institutions in Washington D.C., New York, and California. Chelbi specializes in bold ideas that elicit the implementation and expansion of DEI initiatives. In their work, Chelbi focuses intently on devising creative ways to build safe, affirming space for marginalized communities, with particular emphasis on intersectionality, social justice, and reform. Chelbi is driven by the belief in artistic storytelling as the most powerful form of communication, education, and expression. Chelbi’s mission is to illuminate ways for institutions to reflect, respect, and collaborate with the communities that they serve and expand community access to institutional resources.
Briana Elyse Hunter (she/her)
Marketing and Communications Director - Bare Opera
New York, NY
Briana Elyse Hunter described by the NY Times as “a radiant mezzo-soprano” and Opera News as “a mezzo-soprano of astounding vocal and dramatic range,” is rapidly emerging as an artist to watch. Her previous credits include Blue (Mother), Carmen (Carmen, Mercédès), La tragédie de Carmen (Carmen), Little Women (Jo), Xerxes (Arsamenes), Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlovsky), As One (Hannah after), and La traviata (Flora). She won the 2018 EncoreMichigan Wilde Award for “Best Performance in an Opera” for her portrayal of Gertrude Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27. She has been on the rosters of New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Santa Fe Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Knoxville Opera, UrbanArias in D.C., American Opera Projects, Opera in the Heights, I SING BEIJING, Sarasota Opera, El Paso Opera, and Music Academy of the West where she sang the title role of Carmen under the tutelage of the great Marilyn Horne. She recently made her Lincoln Center Theater debut in their gala performance of Camelot starring Lin Manuel Miranda. Next year she is poised to make her Kennedy Center debut with Washington National Opera as Mother in Blue by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, and return to the role of Carmen at Opera Orlando in a brand new production set in Haiti. Lookout for her in Bare Opera's Fall 2020 virtual production in The Decameron Project.
Ishan Johnson (he/him)
Associate Director of Development - Chicago Opera Theater
Ishan Johnson is currently the Associate Director of Development for Chicago Opera Theater, overseeing individual & planned giving, and special events. Previously, he served as Manager of Auxiliary Relations for Chicago History Museum, where he raised more than $1 million for the institution. His career in philanthropy began with Snow City Arts. He is a graduate of the AFP Chicago Fellows program, was awarded the 2019 Chamberlain Scholarship, and now proudly serves on their Board of Directors as chair of the IDEA Committee. Ishan holds a Vocal Performance degree from Boston University, and held a professional career as an opera singer for more than a decade.
Xavier Joseph (he/him)
Arts Coordinator and Voice Teacher - Duke Ellington School of The Arts
I am currently an Arts Coordinator and Voice Teacher at Duke Ellington School of The Arts. I am also an active opera singer. I am actively trying to transition from the classroom into full time Arts Administration.
Kenneth Kellogg (he/him)
Singer, Voice Teacher, Administration
Since completing the Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera and the Domingo-Cafritz Emerging Artist program at Washington National Opera, Kenneth has kept an active performing schedule in the US and Europe. While taking on many traditional bass roles such as Leporello, Osmin, Colline, Sarastro, Mephistopheles, he has become know for taking on new contemporary works. Most recently, the role of the Father in Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s opera, Blue, was written for him as well as a new Symphony based on the speeches of Barack Obama, A More Perfect Union by Paul Frucht.
While maintaining and active performing schedule, Kenneth is also involved in consulting, helping companies and leaders address issues surrounding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and advocating for rights and fair treatment of artists as partners in creation.
Kimba King (she/her)
Senior Director, Human Resources - The Adrienne Arsht Center
Kimba King joined the Arsht Center in 2005. As Senior Director, Human Resources for one of the largest performing arts centers in the country, King manages employee relations, workers compensation and benefits for a staff of more than 100 full-time staff and 65 part-time staff. She is also responsible for recruiting talent for a variety of positions at the Center, from administrative and customer service staff to specialized staff in production, marketing and fundraising. She is the Administrator for the first state of Florida certified Technical Theater Apprenticeship Program for underserved and underrepresented youth.
Joseph Li (he/him)
Vice President, Artistic - Minnesota Opera
Academic Administrator, Artistic Administrator, Pianist/Vocal Coach/Conductor
Seattle native Joseph Li joined Minnesota Opera as Vice President, Artistic in 2021.
An alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Mr. Li has performed in recital with Jamie Barton, Lauren Snouffer, Tamara Wilson, and Ryan McKinny, and has served as a guest coach and instructor for Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Minnesota Opera, Rice University, Baylor University, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, Opera Birmingham, and the Aspen Opera Theater.
In 2012 Mr. Li joined the music staff and guest artist roster of Wolf Trap Opera, where in recent seasons he has served as Manager of Special Projects. During the 2017 WTO season he conducted Philip Glass’ chamber opera "The Fall of the House of Usher" in collaboration with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra and Halcyon Stage in Washington, D.C., and later conducted the first studio recording of the piece, which was released in 2019 by Orange Mountain Music.
Mr. Li performs with and writes regularly for the New York Festival of Song and serves on NYFOS’ Artist Council. He made his NYFOS and Merkin Hall debut in New York City performing in recital with Steven Blier in "W.C. Handy & The Birth of the Blues," returning in future seasons for "T’aint Nobody’s Business if I Do: Songs of Gay Harlem."
Mr. Li holds degrees in Piano Performance and Vocal Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music.
Jason Lynch (he/him)
Technical/Production Administrator, Lighting Designer
Jason Lynch is a Chicago-based lighting designer for theatre, dance, opera, and other live performance art. He is also the recipient of the 2019 Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award which recognizes emerging theatrical designers within the Chicago area and is honored to have his recent work on an immersive 360° production of THE WILD PARTY at the Denver Center featured in American Theatre Magazine. Credits include: FANNIE (upcoming), SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY, LOTTERY DAY, HOW TO CATCH CREATION (asst.) and AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (asst.) (Goodman Theatre); CHOIR BOY (upcoming), GUARDS AT THE TAJ (assoc.) (Steppenwolf); HAIRSPRAY, BLACK ODYSSEY (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); FEEDING BEATRICE (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2, A DOLL’S HOUSE, THE WILD PARTY, DRAG ON (Denver Center); CLUE (upcoming), SKELETON CREW (Alley Theatre); WHAT TO SEND UP WHEN IT GOES DOWN (upcoming), FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN (Dallas Theater Center).
Jason is a proud member of The Association of Lighting Designers and alumnus of The Santa Fe Opera.
@jasonlynch.design // www.jasondlynch.com
Siddhartha Misra (he/him)
Lead Guest Services Associate - Opera Philadelphia
I bring a diverse background as a performer and analyst to the challenge of connecting presenters with their audiences. My passion for data science started with assembling the evidence in an opera score, and finding the narrative through which to communicate an artistic idea to an audience. That thirst for knowledge and interpretation has led to work with PowerBI and, more recently, machine learning, neural networks and data modeling.
I am a team leader within our box-office staff at Opera Philadelphia, and a problem solver within our CRM database, Tessitura. Other recent experience emphasizes data visualization, exploratory data analysis, and linear/logistic regression. Consistently successful with project management, incorporating new initiatives, strategic planning and event planning.
Michael Ortiz (he/him)
Technical Director - The Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe, NM
I am entering my 18th season with SFO. this will be my first as the Technical Director. My goal is to help diversify opera and modernize the repertory.
Jorge Parodi (he/him)
General and Artistic Director - Opera Hispánica
New York, NY
Maestro Jorge Parodi has led several productions at The Atlanta Opera, Opera Tampa, Opera Orlando, Savannah Opera and Buenos Aires Lírica. He also conducted productions at the Castleton Festival, The Banff Centre and The Juilliard School. Recent credits include his debut at New York City Opera and Chautauqua Opera. He has led the World Premiéres of Anton Coppola’s Lady Swanwhite for Opera Tampa, and John Musto’s Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt in a co-production of On Site Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Pittsburgh Opera.
Maestro Parodi has worked with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, the NHK Symphony, the Castleton Festival Orchestra, the Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra, the Ensemble Zipoli for the American Baroque, and the Juilliard Pre College Orchestra among others.
Recently, Maestro Parodi was appointed General and Artistic Director of Opera Hispánica, the only company in the United Sates focused on the Hispanic vocal repertoire and on the Latin perspective. With OH maestro Parodi performed with such artists as Eglise Gutiérrez and Isabel Leonard, and conducted OH Festival’s production of Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires, which The New York Times described as "excellent."
Maestro Parodi is the Music Director of the Senior Opera Theatre at the Manhattan School of Music. His work with MSM Senior Opera Theater was featured in an interview published in the March ’18 edition of Opera News.
Mr. Parodi is the Founder and Music Director of the Tokyo International Vocal Arts Academy Summer Workshop and he is a faculty member at The Juilliard School.
LaRob K. Rafael (he/him)
Administrative Specialist, Coordinator - Lyric Opera of Chicago
Founder and Artistic Director - Hearing in Color
I have organized events that open a dialogue between the arts and community through music. I have developed a concert initiative called “Hearing in Color” which was founded on the principles of knowing that classical music is not for any one group, and that it often neglects to showcase composers and artists of color and of marginalized groups. As the founder and artistic director, I have worked to lead community events at least twice a year, curating the programming, hiring artists, and measuring the impact of each engagement with the community. At Lyric, I hire speakers for engagement events such as panel discussions and pre-opera talks, I am program lead for Youth Opera Council and I work closely with Chicago Public Schools in ensuring them bus scholarships to productions. Recently, as the country awakened to the injustices against Black people and Lyric hurried to respond effectively, I led our IDEA Working Group to formulate a letter of actionable steps presented to Executive Leadership and the Board. Holding Lyric accountable for its commitment to IDEA, the letter outlines systematic, organizational, and artistic changes to consider for the advancement of the company as a whole. Above all, I am extremely passionate about the arts and I believe it's both important to be a leader, educator, and an excellent team member and student. I have committed to bring these ideals with me in every work space and environment.
Chloe Rispin (she/her)
Singer, Arts journalism and Cultural Diplomacy
Chloe is a soprano with more than 10 years experience performing in a variety of recitals, concerts, festivals and masterclasses in the US, UK and Spain. Recently, Chloe was featured in the 2022 International Day of Latin American and Iberian Art Song Concert.
As a keen linguist, Chloe is always working on a new language (Spanish, French, Portuguese and Turkish) and learning new repertoire. Currently her repertoire spans 10 languages.
Her latest project in development is Talisman Magazine. Talisman is a multidisciplinary magazine with a focus on showcasing composers, performers, musicologists etc., from multicultural backgrounds as well often overlooked musical traditions.
Dennis Robinson (he/him)
Manager of Artistic Administration - Palm Beach Opera
West Palm Beach, FL
Dennis is a passionate administrator and advocate who has a diverse background in producing opera, as well as, bringing arts education and experiences to individuals of all backgrounds and abilities. Previously, he served as Artistic Administrator for Pittsburgh Festival Opera and on the education staffs of City Theatre Company and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre managing community and accessibility programming. Dennis is also an active director who has previously worked with companies such as The Glimmerglass Festival, Pittsburgh Opera, Toledo Opera, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company to name a few. Dennis is a native Pittsburgher, and alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University.
Margarita Roman (she/her/ella)
HR Generalist - Old Town School of Folk Music
Seasoned non-profit professional with 20+ years of experience in visual arts, education and music industries. Emphasis has been primarily in Human Resources and Finance/Accounting.
Kamala Sankaram (she/her)
Co-Artistic Director - Experiments in Opera
Praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times) and “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times), Kamala Sankaram writes highly theatrical music that defies categorization. Recent commissions include the Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Opera on Tap, among others. Awards, grants and residencies include: Jonathan Larson Award, NEA ArtWorks, MAP Fund, Opera America, the Civilians, HERE, the MacDowell Colony, and the Watermill Center. Known for her work with emerging technologies, her recent genre-defying hit Looking at You (with Rob Handel and Kristin Marting) featured live data mining of the audience and a chorus of 25 singing tablet computers. Sankaram, Handel, and Marting also created all decisions will be made by consensus, a short absurdist opera performed live over Zoom and featured on NBC and the BBC3. With librettist Jerre Dye and Opera on Tap, she created The Parksville Murders, the world’s first virtual reality opera (Samsung VR, Jaunt VR, Kennedy Center Reach Festival, “Best Virtual Reality Video” NY Independent Film Festival, Future of Storytelling, Salem Horror Festival and the Topanga Film Festival.) Also a performer, notable appearances include the LA Philharmonic, LA Opera, and the PROTOTYPE Festival, among others. Kamala is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble (recipient of two awards for Best Eclectic Album from the Independent Music Awards). Dr. Sankaram holds a PhD from the New School and is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase.
Jaime Sharp (she/they)
Arts Leader, Creative, Advocate
Jaime strives to evolve organizational culture, and diversify the arts community through dynamic leadership rooted in equity and inclusivity. She currently serves as Communications & Publications Manager for Grantmakers in the Arts, and is on the advisory cabinet for SINGTANK with Victory Hall Opera. Jaime is a cohort member for the BIPOC Leadership Circle with artEquity, and the Hart Institute for Women Administrators with The Dallas Opera. Beginning in 2023, she joins the Turn the Spotlight fellowship, mentored by Afa Dworkin (Sphinx Organization), and Melissa Wegner (Metropolitan Opera); National Arts Strategies' Executive Program in Arts & Culture; and the Racial Equity cohort with United Philanthropy Forum. They have participated in several leadership programs, including Leadership Through Mentorship with Women of Color in the Arts, and OPERA America's Opera Leaders of Color. She was the 2021-2022 EDI Research Fellow for the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and has worked for American Repertory Theatre, Black Opera Alliance, Cincinnati Symphony, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and University Musical Society. Jaime also co-founded the choral ensemble Hear Us, Hear Them, dedicated to uplifting marginalized voices in classical music, and led Opera NexGen as General Director from 2020-2022. Remaining an active performer, they've recently sung with Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Ithaca, Akron Symphony Orchestra, and joins the Sphinx Organization's Exigence Vocal Ensemble for their 25th anniversary tour. Jaime holds a MM and BM, a certificate in fundraising fundamentals from Tessitura, and is pursuing an MBA and MA in Arts Administration with a certificate in fundraising and development.
Adam Rei Siegel (he/him)
Producer - Peak Entertainment
New York, NY
Adam Rei Siegel is an experiential and off-Broadway producer whose clients include Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung, Walmart, Spotify, Yale University, Wayfair, HBO and more. Most recently, he has been the co-creator and co-producer of Reconnected, an interactive mentalism experience executive produced by Alan Cumming with almost 400 performances since summer 2020, as well as the co-producer of off-Broadway's The Other Side and associate producer on off-Broadway's Beyond Babel. He worked as the Outreach Specialist for Dancers Responding to AIDS and Classical Action, both programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and co-produced the Fire Island Dance Festival and Hudson Valley Dance Festival. He is the Vice President of the Board of New York Theater Barn, Advisory Board Member of National Queer Theater, NextGen Advocate and Auction Committee member for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, graduate of the Theatre Resources Unlimited master class, participant in the 5th Wall Forum incubator for XR/VR projects, theater reviewer for Gush as well as a theater writer for W42ST Magazine and Broadway Roulette.
Alexa Smith (she/her)
Chief of Staff - Manhattan School of Music
New York, NY
I am the current Chief of Staff at Manhattan School of Music where I oversee special programs for the Office of the President. I serve as the Director of the Cultural Inclusion Initiative and am the school's government liaison. I created the Black Creator's Initiative at MSM which creates opportunities for Black creators (composers, librettists, directors, performers, writers, etc.). I am an MBA candidate at Boston University and hope to pursue a career in executive leadership in the performing arts.
Kenneth R. Timmons (he/him)
Human Resources Manager - The Atlanta Opera
Dynamic, results-driven, strategic business partner and management professional with a successful track record of leading organizational change, streamlining procedures, reducing costs, and improving compliance levels. Hands-on success administering multi-million-dollar budgets and benefits programs, directing payroll operations, and recruiting highly skilled employees. Adept at building relationships and communicating with management, staff, and associates at all levels. Demonstrated ability to plan and implement strategic projects critical to organizational success. Vital member of management teams in various capacities; providing leadership and continuous improvement in training, processes, reporting and strategic planning.
Michael Walker (he/him)
Director of Development - Apollo's Fire
Michael Walker, arts administrator and countertenor, believes in creating and producing innovative and sustainable arts programming; implementing experienced organizational methods using a communicative and collaborative approach. By applying his insight gained through many years of working in the ever changing fine art industry in areas such as event production, development, and non-profit management, Mr. Walker has produced projects that are dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all; and providing leadership in arts education. Mr. Walker has collaborated with established community partners and musicians to create innovative programming. He has launched highly successful concert series featuring emerging and established artists, curated historically informed music workshops, and built sustainable business structures to ensure the continued growth of arts organizations. Praised for his “luminous tone, weighted with pathos” (Upstage), countertenor Michael Walker has performed oratorios and recitals throughout the United States and abroad. He frequently performs in historically informed performances ranging from the Early Renaissance to the Late Baroque era. As an advocate for early music and the classical performing arts, Mr. Walker serves as the vice president of Indianapolis Baroque Orchestras, as a board member on the boards of directors of Early Music America, and currently is a Sphinx Leader Fellow.
Justin Werner (he/him)
President and Founder - Stratagem Artists
New York, NY
Justin Werner is an operatic professional with extensive experience in production, education, and artist representation. Mr. Werner founded Stratagem Artists in 2018, which cultivates and represents a select roster of operatic artists through artist driven collaboration.
Between 2014-2018, Mr. Werner was a co-founder and artist manager at Couret & Werner (C&W) Artist Management and gained his initial Artist Management experience at IMG Artists, where he served as an Artist Management intern.
Mr. Werner was the founder and Artistic Director of New York Opera Exchange (2011–2015), which afforded numerous opportunities for emerging singers, directors, and designers to mount critically acclaimed productions.
A valued advisor for emerging artists, Mr. Werner is a frequent panelist for Opera America's Career Blueprints program. He has presented masterclasses and workshops for institutions such as Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA), Yale School of Music, Mannes School of Music, Des Moines Metro Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, Boston University, Fort Worth Opera / TCU, Oklahoma City University, and the University of North Texas. In past seasons, Mr. Werner served on the panels of the McCammon Vocal Competition, Talents of the World Competition, MetroWest Vocal Competition, and CS Music Vocal Competition.
Mr. Werner earned his BM in Vocal Performance from Boston University and his Advanced Certificate in Vocal Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music. Mr. Werner is also proud to be the chair of the On Site Opera Artistic Advisory Council.
Bryan White (he/him)
Vice President, Theatrical Production - Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Leadership Consultant
Bryan White is a production leader whose experience spans stage management, production management, operations management, programming and entertainment experience development for non-profit theaters, theme parks and cruise ships.
In his current role as Vice President of Theatrical Production for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the 3rd largest cruise corporation in the world, he is responsible for overseeing Artistic, Creative, Costumes, and Production Management. In addition to this, he is an active associate producer on a number of projects and serves as a leadership and management consultant for various arts organizations.