American Opera Project Announces New Board & Staff Leadership

By David Salazar

The American Opera Project (AOP) has announced new additions to its board and staff.

Joining the board will be Emily Manzo and Christina B. Murphy. Meanwhile, Takesha Meshee Kizart-Thomas will be the Director of Development, while Alexa Dexa and Caitlin Mead will join as Grant Writers for the organization.

“AOP has a long tradition of providing opportunities to talented artists interested in expanding their skill sets and creativity to working behind the scenes in artistic administration,” AOP General Director Matt Gray said in an official press statement. “Takesha, Alexa, and Caitlin continue this tradition, each bringing with them an extraordinary amount of unique ideas and knowledge to AOP based on their experiences as artists and their desires to see valuable change in our art form. We are honored and excited that they have chosen AOP as that instrument of change.”

Manzo, who served as AOP’s Director of Development between April 2020 and July 2021, is a musician, fundraiser, and arts administrator who has toured with such organizations as Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner, Christy & Emily and Arooj Aftab’s band. As a pianist, she recorded the Chopin Preludes and complete works of Webern for piano and soprano, alongside Jody Pou.

Murphy works as Program Officer for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and previously worked in healthcare communication.

Kizart-Thomas is an artist who has performed lead roles with such companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Sydney Opera House. She has also performed alongside such artists as Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis.

Dexa is an “xXgrandmacoreXx, queer, femme non-binary, and disabled electroacoustic composer-performer creating sound-based rituals that honor belonging in our own unique identities” and in 2018 received the Discovery Grant as part of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

Mead is a performer and vocalist who has appeared with iSING International Festival and the Center for Contemporary Opera, among other venues. She is also the Co-Artistic Director of the Madison New Music Festival.