We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Thebaut and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
At a young age I started singing. My mother told me I was a very vocal child, always experimenting with my voice, making funny sounds and constantly singing. I started out in choir, then moved to musical theater and then discovered my love and passion for opera. I decided to pursue a career as an opera singer. I received my Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory and my Masters on Music from San Francisco Conservatory. I had always intended to pursue a career as a performer and this is exactly what these degrees and programs prepare you for. Once I graduated with my Masters, I was suddenly struck by the harsh reality of how competitive, expensive and difficult this career path was. I wanted to sing and perform right away and I wanted to give my fellow colleagues an opportunity to perform as well. This is what led my to my first entrepreneurial endeavor– I created a non-profit “pop-up” opera company in the Bay Area called Opera on the Spot. The organization was comprised of a young group of emerging artists (singers and collaborative pianists) who would perform at unconventional spaces (restaurants, bars, community centers, etc.). Through this, I realized my passion for organizing and creating events that made opera accessible to a wide-ranging audience. By taking opera out of the opera house and into the community, we were able to expose new audiences to opera and really connect with our audiences. I am currently the executive director and co-founder of a Los Angeles based non-profit, New Opera West. NOW seeks to promote the growth and professional development of composers, librettists and performers in the creation of new opera. I love to showcase new voices in opera and think of ways in which to creatively present and expose these works to all types of audiences. There is definitely a stigma around opera that it is expensive, usually in a foreign language and is only for the wealthy or elite. I want to change this by producing opera that tells relative and timely stories and is presented in spaces that are accessible and inviting. We’ve held various performances at local theters around Los Angeles and have presented a variety of works including short comedic operas and dramatic operas in our annual “Pop-Up” Festival, animated operas, operatic short film, as well as other productions.. I love working in the field of arts leadership and entrepreunership because it allows me to have total creative freedom in thinking about how to promote new voices in opera and recruit new audiences. This is what makes me happy!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’m the co-founder and executive director of New Opera West (NOW), which is a Los Angeles based non-profit organization that seeks to promote the growth and professional development of composers, librettists and performers in the creation of new opera. By performing works that explore timely themes and stories that feature opportunities for diverse artists, we strive to not only attract new opera audiences but also work towards the sustainability of opera in the 21st century.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love the outdoors, so I would definitely take my friend on a beautiful hike in the area. One of my favorite hiking spots is in the Santa Monica mountains, where you get a mix of ocean views and desert landscapes. I would start the day by taking my friend to Grand central market for some breakfast and then head out for our hike! I would then head over to Pizzeria Bianco in dtla for some of the most delicious pizza. I would then finish the evening by taking my friend to a performance in the area. I live in Echo Park, so Disney Hall or LA Opera are very close by or I would look for a more intimate performance at a local West Hollywood theater.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people who have inspired and supported me in my journey to becoming an arts leader. Growing up, my parents encouraged me and my sister to stay involved in our community. We performed in community theater, volunteered with local organizations and were always involved in the arts in anyway we could be. Programs such as community Shakespeare camp, after school programs, and local performances had such an impact on me as a child and young adult. I want to bring arts into my current community and think about creating productions that are accessible to everyone. While receiving my doctorate at USC, I had the privilege of working with Kenneth Foster, the head of the arts leadership program who was such an inspiring and encouraging mentor. He not only gave me valuable information on how to create an arts organization but he opened my eyes as to how significant an arts organization can be for its community. I also have learned so much from New Opera West’s board president, Isabella Tang, who is an incredible business woman and friend who has always supported me and been an amazing role model and mentor in my role as executive director.