2017 Projects of Special Merit

Cincinnati Opera Guild – GUILD MEET AND GREETS

This project has been repeated for fifteen years; 2017 marks the 15th anniversary.   The 1st goal of the Guild Meet and Greets is to provide a warm, inclusive welcome breakfast for the artists, production staff and Opera company staff before the first rehearsal of each opera production of the season. The 2nd goal is to showcase the Guild’s volunteer support of the season’s productions.

Our Opera company presents four operas each season within the two months of June and July. As part of the Guild’s support of the season the Meet and Greets were developed to provide a personal welcome event for each production during this very busy time for the opera company. The Meet and Greet Co-Chairs are part of the Opera Guild’s Executive Committee and head a committee of 35 volunteer Guild members.

The full committee is invited to a Meet and Greet Committee Kick-Off Luncheon planned by the co-chairs in early May each year. At the luncheon Meet and Greet dates are shared and members then sign up for dates they will attend. Each Guild committee member brings either a sweet or savory to serve at the breakfast. Opera interns are at a drop off point to help bring the generous platters of all kinds of breakfast foods to the set-up buffet tables. The opera company provides coffee and juice for each event.

The event begins with Guild members welcoming the guests as they arrive, providing name tags and introductions. The Meet and Greets bring together the vocal artists and production staff from all over the country and world with opera staff for their first opportunity to meet each other. It also provides the visiting artists an opportunity to meet Guild members, who will be supporting them as part of the audiences. After 20 minutes of mingling and eating, the Opera Artistic Director rings a bell and asks everyone to gather in one large circle. He asks of each person to introduce themselves and say where they were born. That provides both a great ice breaker and a sense of the world community of opera. The Director follows with background about the upcoming opera production. The circle time ends and is followed by more time to mingle and enjoy the breakfast buffet. The event ends when the director rings the bell again as a signal that the first rehearsal will begin and all other guests may leave. The opera is known for being hospitable and the Meet and Greet events provide the foundation for that reputation.

The Guild supports the Outbound Education Program of the Opera; its budget contributes about $500.  Food and decor are provided by volunteers. The Meet and Greets are promoted within the Guild as a volunteer opportunity and benefit of membership.

San Francisco Opera Guild – Opera Scouts

Opera Scouts, a program of Guild education, is a performing and cultural arts organization for youth aged 12-18. Focused on ensemble based support for individual achievement in arts related projects. This organization provides a social, developmental, career and service for arts-minded youth.

The disciplined practice of the group is dedicated to honing skills, and knowledge of opera, musical theater and their component arts (drama, music, dance, design, language, composition, culture.) A project based structure allow Scouts to achieve proficiency in their chosen area of concentration and earn merit badges for each successful project, allowing them to move to the next tier in the program. There are five tiers: Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern. Along with arts training and concentration, Scouts are trained in life skills to promote better communication, confidence, integrity and conflict management. As they advance through the program they become eligible to become student conflict mediators at their schools and community organizations.

Young artists aged 12-18 must complete an application and interview in order to join Opera Scouts. There is a $50 annual membership fee. Scouts must attend at least two meetings per month in order to retain Scout in Good Standing (SIGS) status. Scouts meet once a week from 4:30 to 6:30. They participate in workshops, training, projects and lecture series that advance them to the next level in their arts training and appreciation.

Planning began in January 2016 and involved 40 volunteers.  We regularly schedule special guest artist (directors, coaches, teachers, designers, pianists) and local opera companies, theaters, concert halls provide free/very low price tickets for participating Scouts. The Guild allocated a $500 budget to cover other expenses this first year.

Most of our first year participants were recruited from our teen summer conservatory training program. We currently advertise the program on our website, at special events, and through word of mouth, but we have planned a recruitment day where Scouts are invited to bring a guest to a special meeting.



Austin Opera Guild – Serenata Wine Dinner and Auction

In 2011, Project Chair and AO Guild Board of Directors member, Marilyn Davis Rabkin, decided to plan and implement a new type of fundraising event to benefit AO. Her goal was to create an exciting new annual fundraising event that the Austin arts community would associate with AO – a signature event – that would bring in significant funds for AO each year. The first event, Austin Opera Wine Dinner and Auction, was held at Barton Creek Country Club and at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin subsequently. Since its inception the event has included a multi-course dinner with wine pairings; live and silent auctions focused on fine wines, but including other high dollar items (eg, jewelry, art, experiences); and operatic entertainment.

In 2014, Austin Opera in a rebranding process, helped create a new name for the event, Serenata (from the Italian “to serenade”) Wine Dinner and Auction. We also added a dance with live band in 2015 that started following the close of the live and silent auctions.

This year’s Serenata in the Garden of Seville was held on February 20, 2016. The theme for food and décor was Sevillian, corresponding with the final opera of this season The Barber of Seville. Renowned Executive Chef Elmar Pramps and the guild committee planned a gourmet 4-course dinner with wine pairings. We honored two area arts philanthropists, Eva and Marvin Womack. Internationally celebrated baritone Michael Chioldi provided entertainment. A new feature of this year’s event was use of auction management software provided by Auction Source. Automation of many aspects of the live and silent auctions made those activities run more smoothly and decreased the need for staff assistance at the event, most notably at check-in and check out.

PLANNING AND ORGANIZATION: Selection of the date and initiation of the new contract with the Four Seasons began in March immediately after the event. Committee work began in June. There were five subcommittees and 30 members overall. An additional 15-20 volunteers participated in singular tasks (e.g. mailings) or the day of the event function. Opera staff had supportive roles in this event, such as handling ticket sale transactions, bookkeeping/accounting and final budget and contracts approval. The Austin Opera General Director and Board Chair also had input into the program and selection of the auction management software purchase. The staff liaison to the Guild helped with additional functions, such as assisting volunteers with use of the new software. The AO General Manager also helped engage the event entertainer. Many members of the Opera Board of Trustees (all volunteers) supported the Guild’s efforts by sponsoring tables, donating or obtaining auction items and spreading the word about the event.

As the event has grown bigger and more successful, the Guild has opted to use more professional service to raise the quality of some aspects of the event. This year, we used the catering services of the Four Seasons, professional auctioneer (in-kind), professional photographer/videographer, professional entertainment (opera singer and dance band), and some marketing assistance (invitation design, focal image for collaterals.)

The estimated net income was$279,115 exceeding our goal of $227,805 by $51,310 (22.5%).

Marketing efforts included direct mail, marketing through the opera website and social media, emails to AO patrons and Guild members, electronic outreach to wine-related organizations in the community, advertisements in The Long Center and Zachary Scott Theater program, and articles in The Libretto, the Guild newsletter.

Attendance of 330 exceeding our goal of 265 by 65 (24.5%)


Opera Muskoka (Formerly Muskoka Festival)

The volunteers of this organization support the community of Muskoka and Bracebridge.

The project type is Artist Support, Audience Development, Education, Fundraising, Organization, and Communication and has been repeated 5 times with the view to support it again this year.

Our ultimate goal is to develop a summer program where young singers come to Muskoka to study with professional coaches and receive accreditation. Thus far we have developed and supported opera interest in the region as well as professional master classes to educate young singers in the area.

Since 2010 we have provided a vocal master class where young singers receive training. We now also include an instrumental master class for young musicians.   Students have an opportunity to work with opera professionals in concerts and opera performances during the Festival. Each year our opening night has been a concert or opera presentation. In 2014 other arts groups were interested in working with the Festival and the ChautauquaFest was born. In 2015, there were ten days of concerts and master classes including six ticketed events.

The planning process begins right after each Festival ends. It starts with five volunteers and can grow to twenty. It takes a year to plan and organize a ten day Festival. The Canadian Opera Company distributes our flyers at their performances in the spring and on their email blasts. Since 2009 we have used professional coaches, musicians, performers, catering, and marketing and printing specialists. Funding has been provided through grants from the town of Bracebridge, generous donors, and advertising sales for the Festival program. Our costs annually are between $20,000 and $25,000. We try to maintain a $5000 balance to start planning for the upcoming season.



Opera Guild/University of Alabama – Food & Music Around the World: A Gustatory Gala

The 18-member fledgling Opera Guild planned and executed a lavish gala at the Museum of Natural History on the UA campus. Most food, items and services were contributed. University staff and UA students assisted. A grand buffet was arranged and entertainment was provided by 30 students, alumni and faculty. Raffle and silent auction was held. Capacity audience of 150 guests helped raise $23,000 (goal was $10,000). Guild membership has increased 30% and subsequent UA opera performances have all sold out well in advance.

Opera Omaha Guild – Flavors of Midtown

A month long community celebration of food and music events designed to mesh with Opera Omaha and culminating with their Opera Outdoors concert in the park. Taste of Midtown created ticketed “foodie” events at upscale eateries. Taste of the Opera were more intimate parties hosted by supporters at their own expense. Donor/guests received VIP seating for Opera Outdoors concert. Midtown Revelry was a ticketed event prior to the concert with opera artists in attendance. A flavorful Affair was a patron party on concert night featuring a pre-concert restaurant dinner, VIP seating and post concert dessert. $20,000 was raised and the publicity and community awareness was priceless.

Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild – At Ease With Opera for Silent Night

This educational initiative held in conjunction with the National World War I Museum was designed to promote the opera Silent Night and teach the significance of this opera in relationship to WWI, The event was conceived by the guild; the museum provided facilities, equipment and coordination. The university provided a lecturer for one of the three different events. The film Joyeux Noel was also screened.

Performing Arts League of Chattanooga – Sunday Showcase

A performance event planned and executed by PAL to highlight and celebrate school-age talent and the organizations that foster and support that talent. This was a first time project involving the community and promoting youth involvement in the arts while counteracting the cuts and elimination of arts in the schools. The production featured performances by 150 outstanding young student artists representing 40 local schools and organizations. Though not designed as a money maker, funds raised exceeded expenses by $7,000.

Austin Opera Guild – Austin Opera Guild Enrichment Series

Three times per season AOG holds a session in a private home to provide information on an opera and on its production to enhance the experience, deepen knowledge and provide background while engaging opera attendees in lively discussion. The guild often features the opera company’s stage director or utilizes experts from the academic community.

Glimmerglass Opera Guild – Talking Opera: Members Preview/Met Opera’s HD Simulcasts

This is a collaborative outreach by the Guild and the Foothills Performing Arts Center where the Metropolitan Opera’s HD simulcasts are screened. Presentations are given before each performance to inform viewers about the opera and sometimes about the performers involved. It has increased attendance at the screenings and attracted new members to the Opera Guild.


Cast Care –  Amarillo Opera BRAVO

Amarillo Opera brings in guest artists, directors, stage managers, and conductors for both the fall and spring opera productions.   Out of town guests are given a casual welcome party on the day of their arrival. Guild members provide food for this dinner that allows the guests to meet one another, the opera sponsors, and members of the Board of Trustees and the Guild in an informal setting.

Several patrons provide lodging for out of town guests in a family setting. Cast Care includes evening meals provided to the whole cast and crew the last four rehearsal nights prior to the performance.  The Cast Care coordinator finds sponsors for each of the four meals for between sixty and one hundred people.  Guild members usually provide one meal and also fill out meals with salad, water, and desserts as needed.   These meals help create a family mood and build community while serving the needs of the cast.

The project lasts from three weeks before the beginning of the rehearsals to the last dress rehearsal twice a year.  The Guild works as a whole to provide support to the hospitality chair and the Cast Care coordinator for this project.

Les Boutiques de Noel – Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild

In its 39th year, the Opera Guild Christmas boutique is a one-stop shopping extravaganza with nearly 150 booths with goods ranging from jewelry to toys to clothes to food.  The Guild begins planning next year’s boutique as soon as this year’s boutiques closes.  Duties were handled by Guild members/volunteers.  The guild’s goal was to raise $100,000 for the opera company; we exceeded this by raising $130,000.

Vocal Competition for High School Students – Performing Arts League of Chattanooga

The Vocal Competition project, in its 19th year, awards and fosters the study of vocal performance and encourages young people to pursue classical singing as a career by providing them with an opportunity to compete with their peers, perform in front of a live audience, be judged and critiqued by a panel of unbiased professionals, and further their education in order to help launch their careers.  One junior or senior student, male or female, from each high school or home school association in the area is eligible for the competition.  Each must be recommended by his or her high school music teacher or private vocal instructor for at-large students.  There is one winner and a first and second runner up, each receiving a monetary award.  All contestants have opportunity to speak to the judges after the competition, which is open to the public

Up to 30 volunteers serve on committees ranging from administrative to fundraising.  The project has awarded over $30,000 since its inception.


Artist Support – Houston Grand Opera Guild

Guild Ambassador – Austin Lyric Opera Guild

Education/Audience Development – Opera Guild of N. Virginia

Spirits of the Opera Fund Raising – Opera Omaha Guild

Education/Audience Development/Communication – The Santa Fe Opera Guild

Education – Opera Guild of San Antonio

Fundraising – Knoxville Opera Guild


“Fifty Years of the Lyric Opera: A Great First Act”

Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild

The Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild’s excellent project is an exemplary book highlighting the history of the Kansas City Lyric Opera. “Fifty Years of the Lyric Opera: A Great First Act” proudly celebrates the company’s 50th anniversary season. OVI is proud to honor this Special Project and acknowledge it at our Conference 2009 in Santa Fe.


Peanut Butter And Puccini, Indianola Chapter Des Moines Metro Opera Guild

The Indianola Chapter of the Des Moines Opera Guild serves a group that would not ordinarily attend or experience an opera. The event begins in the morning with a performance by Opera Iowa, then pauses for a festive peanut butter sandwich picnic lunch. It resumes in the afternoon: guiding children and adults through all the backstage rooms of the opera house, stopping to explain every area and answer any questions.

Ballads, Bugs And Ballet, Central City Opera House Association Guild

The Central City Opera House Association Guild offers young children and families the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a singing performer with Central City Opera. The Butterfly Pavilion has everyone participate in a bug safari with live creepy-crawlers, and Ballet Nouveau Colorado lets budding dancers dip their toes into the world of ballet. As a grand finale to the day, the Central City Opera Ensemble presents a whirlwind of comic opera scenes by Mozart and friends.

Neighborhood Ambassadors, Houston Grand Opera Guild

Threads & Trills, Des Moines Metro Opera Guild Council

Choose Your Own Fundraiser, Des Moines Chapter, Des Moines Metro Opera Guild

Arias In Ames, Ames Chapter, Des Moines Metro Opera Guild

Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Guild Vocal Competition

Opera Illinois League Motor Coach Trips

Opera Teasers, Central City Opera House Association Guild

Historic Properties Committee, Central City Opera House Assn. Guild

Greet-a-Singer, Central City Opera House Association Guild


Low Cost Approach to Using the Internet to Provide Information about the Guild to Prospective Members and to Facilitate Participation of Current Members

Houston Grand Opera Guild

Using volunteer developers, the Guild produced a professional-quality website, including an on-line e-Boutique, which would have cost over $50,000 if done commercially. The website contains descriptions of Guild activities with contact information, downloadable membership applications and event registration forms, a calendar of event, event photos, a history of the Guild, pages to recognize member service and contributors, and shopping pages with nearly 50 items for sale. There is a private page for Guild Board members containing contact lists, Guild bylaws, and Guild forms. The private page was used as a repository for comments and updates when the board collaborated on its Strategic Plan. The Guild sends out a monthly e-mail newsletter to Guild members and prospective members with information about upcoming events.



Chapters’ Executive Board of Lyric Opera of Chicago

This all-volunteer/all-guild project sells merchandise to raise funds for the company before selected performances and during the first intermission. The project has grown to include 61 sales dates: on some dates two sites in the opera house are staffed. A guild member acts as chairman and is aided by a committee of volunteer supervisors who restock the display cases, track inventory and supervise other volunteer salespeople. The 60-plus OperaShop volunteers come from all 21 Chapters (guilds) and receive discounts for parking, refreshments and merchandise. Members attending the opera receive a 10% discount as a benefit of guild membership. A program to take merchandise to outlying guilds for sale to those members was piloted this year. In addition to providing funds for the opera company, an added benefit is the good will generated for the company by the enthusiastic volunteer salespersons.

Go to this website:


Directory of Volunteers Available to Help Visiting Artists

Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association

The Artists’ Volunteer Committee was created to help visiting artists while they are in the area. The artists meet the opera company staff and the volunteers at a buffet dinner prepared by the Artists’ Volunteer Committee. Each artist is greeted at the door by a volunteer and is given a Directory of Volunteers with their pictures, names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The artist is told about the Artists’ Volunteer Committee and how volunteers can assist the artist with such things as transportation, baby-sitting, grocery-shopping, and recreational opportunities. A committee volunteer is assigned to each artist. That volunteer then matches the artist’s need with a volunteer using the directory. The artists often contact volunteers directly using the Directory, sometimes developing long-standing relationships.

A Dynamic and Involving Strategic Plan for the Opera Guild

Houston Grand Opera Guild

The General Director presented the guild with a set of goals critical for the future of the organization:

  1. Increase the membership of the Guild
  2. Increase the number of members actively involved the Guild’s activities.

The Guild sought to develop a Strategic Plan that would provide a roadmap to ensure its success. The Plan was completed in four months, involved over 50 members of the Guild, and resulted in the adoption of three new programs and a 50% increase in membership. Any member of the Board could volunteer to be on the Steering Committee for the Plan, and any member of the Guild could participate in a half-day idea-generating session for the Plan. In order to facilitate communication among the participants, a secure section of the Guild web site was deployed.

Young Hands on Opera

Central City Opera House Association Guild

In order to expose grade-school age children and their families to opera in an informal and fun environment, an event was held at a local performing arts hall. Mini singing and acting classes followed an informal pizza dinner. “Theatrical” makeup and distribution of souvenir masks to the children preceded the finale, a children’s performance of a mini-aria about pasta performed by the children. In honor of Black History Month and to help introduce minority students to opera, mezzo AnnMarie Sandy performed arias from “Gabriel’s Daughter,” an opera based on a true story of a freed slave. The author of the book on which the opera was based attended and autographed copies of his book. The event was deemed a success: twice as many attended than the committee had expected.

Special Mention

Artists’ Keepsake Booklet

Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association

The Artists’ Volunteer committee was created to help visiting artists while they are in this area. The artists meet the opera company staff and the volunteers at a buffet dinner prepared by the committee. During this event the artists are photographed, using digital cameras and without flash photography, enjoying this social event. These pictures are edited, cropped then published in an 8 to 12-page Artists’ Photo Keepsake Booklet and copies of the booklet are given to the artists. The photography and preparation of the photographs and text for publication are all done by members of the Artists’ Volunteer Committee. The Committee has published 17 different booklets each containing 20 to 40 photographs.