OC Stories: Being an Opera Volunteer
The word “opera” is derived from “opus,” meaning work or effort. These works of art truly a labor of love. We would not be able to do it without our whole team, especially our volunteers. We want to celebrate and thank them for the incredible work they do. Let’s meet a few of our volunteers and hear their stories!
Are you interested in volunteering at Opera Colorado? Learn more about how to get involved>>
Meet Volunteer Eric Bard
How long have you been a volunteer? Perhaps ten years.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer with us? I love operas and working with them. The music seems to stay in me afterward.
What is one of your favorite moments as a volunteer with us? In Aida, the singer used to talk to me just before going onstage for his opening.
Meet Volunteer Jeff Brown
How long have you been a volunteer? I’ve been a volunteer for fourteen years.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer with us? I worked and lived in Central City for the summer right after high school (1969) and was able to attend the opera there. I realized I loved an opera with great choral music, so I joined a couple regional choirs after returning to Denver. When the AIDS epidemic surfaced in the 80’s, I volunteered with the Colorado AIDS project. I was with them for about eight years, at which time I decided I needed to volunteer with an organization that nurtured me. I tried food banks, tutoring immigrants, and several other organizations. It finally dawned on me I needed to get music back in my life. That’s the point of volunteering at Opera Colorado.
What kind of events do you like to work? I really enjoy spending time with the kids at backstage workshops. Also, I host artists as they arrive in Denver and that’s a whole different side of the opera world. All the artists I’ve hosted have been fantastic people and I’ve heard a lot of great stories about their careers and productions. I also enjoy helping out with Student Matinees and other special events.
What is one of your favorite moments as a volunteer with us? I recently helped escort a mobility challenged student during the backstage workshop. The Ellie is a maze of stairways, levels, and rooms but we were able to get him to all the points of the tour. I breathed a sigh of relief after that but it’s probably the backstage tour I’ll remember most. Working with students is energizing for me! Most of these kids have never been to an opera house so they get so excited! I love volunteering!
Meet Volunteer Kiplund Kolkmeier
How long have you been a volunteer? I first volunteered before COVID back in 2019, and then sadly we all lost live opera for far too long. It is wonderful to be back!
Why did you decide to become a volunteer with us? I decided to volunteer as a longtime lover of the genre and one who hopes opera lives on for future generations.
What kind of events do you like to work? I really enjoy both light walking and guiding student groups. Lacking the talent to ever be on stage as a performer myself, I love the chance to be up on stage helping set light cues and see the grand sets up close. Similarly, it is wonderful to see the faces of students light up as they walk into the orchestra pit, try out wigs and makeup, and hear the incredible voices of the Artists in Residence. They are seeing for the first time a world they did not know existed.
What is one of your favorite moments as a volunteer with us? My favorite experiences are always when I get a chance to die, or at least collapse, on stage during light walking! What could be more dramatic then lying lifeless on stage as the fantastic light artists create the perfect illumination.
Meet Volunteer Katy McQuaid
How long have you been a volunteer? Two years.
What kind of events do you like to work? I like to volunteer as a supernumerary, light walker and helping at events such as the auditions for the Artist in Residence program.
What is one of your favorite moments as a volunteer with us? Ms. McQuaid was a supernumerary in our 2021 production of Tosca. She shares a bit about her experience in an excerpt from her soon to be published memoir “Humble Yet Fierce: My Life Behind the Curtain of the CIA.”
“The experience began with my costume fitting…Three women pulled out a tape measure, took my measurements, asked if I preferred knee highs or full-length hose, and texted the opera director to see if I should have long or short sleeves on my dress. I was just an extra. I marveled at the professionalism and courtesy the wardrobe staff extended to me….
Three full weeks of rehearsals culminated with the first on-stage rehearsal taking place at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I stepped onto the stage, and I was in an 1800s Basilica in Rome. It was electrifying. I was nervous at every rehearsal, even though my role was simple….I enjoyed every minute of this new experience…
Opening night of Tosca was an emotional ride for everyone. People waited twenty long months for the arts to return to Denver. The audience even gave a standing ovation before the start of Act 3. It was a first for the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Management acknowledged every member of the team during the curtain call, many who hadn’t had a paycheck in almost two years. I got to be a part of it because I said yes. I will always remember the burst of energy and electrifying sensation that went through me at the first rehearsal and stayed with me to the final curtain call. The Tosca experience gave me courage to continue to say yes and seek opportunities to be on other high-performing teams, even where I am a beginner.”
How long have you been a volunteer? I’ve been a volunteer with Opera Colorado for about two years.
What kind of events do you like to work? I love working events that allow interaction with people excited to learn more about the opera.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer with us? I chose to become a volunteer because I love Opera Colorado. They do everything so well; it’s amazing to be part of such an extraordinary crew.
Thanks for the memories
It’s stories like these that really remind you the value of the arts. We thank our volunteers for keeping this glorious art form thriving.
Do you have an experience with Opera Colorado you would like to share with us? Let us know your favorite moment with us in the comments below.