Letter from Lee Bynum
Dear Minnesota Opera Community,
It is with mixed emotions that I announce my departure from Minnesota Opera, effective January 13, 2023. After much consideration, my husband and I have decided to return to New York, where I will assume the role of Chief Education Officer at Lincoln Center in February.
It has been my honor to shepherd the company’s equity, education, and engagement work for the last two-and-a-half years as the Vice President for Impact. During my tenure with Minnesota Opera, we made diversification a priority, and the percentage of the staff who identified as people of color increased by fifteen percent, including four at the level of director and above. In addition, we worked with the board to reset thinking about its composition, recruitment matrix, committee structures, and minimum gifts, resulting in additional racial and age diversity. We built Minnesota Opera’s access apparatus to begin to address internal policy and artistic programming gaps relative to physical ability and neurodivergence, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, and gender identity. There have been happy artistic consequences to this approach: we were able to program a rediscovered work by Black composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges and the Company’s first New Works Initiative commission by a women composer; MNiatures, our community commissioning program has advanced conversations around who-creates-opera-and-for-whom; and the New York Times¬-recommended The Score podcast—which I cohost with two wonderful colleagues and has been a team effort of the entire Impact department—has introduced Minnesota Opera to a young, diverse, international community of listeners.
Some of the work of which I am most proud has been in the educative space. After conducting a program assessment, we launched the Creative Development Program, which has given Minnesota Opera a fully articulated set of educational programs, from babies to seniors, that are rooted in the values of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access and social emotional learning pedagogy. The programs directly address pipeline issues among underrepresented singers, composers, and technical artists, as well as prioritize de-gendering vocal pedagogy and broaden the canon to normalize the programming of underrepresented composers. Relatedly, we have improved compensation for our teaching artists, while making every educational program free to individual and organizational participants.
As I depart, Minnesota Opera is poised to continue its critical work making the field of opera more equitable for all artists, administrators, and audience members. The organization remains committed to advancing its equity work, and the resources and people remain in place to continue these efforts without interruption. I am grateful to our supportive community, dedicated board, and many passionate colleagues—especially the generous, knowledgeable members of the Impact team—for the openness they have shown to the work, generally, and to me, personally.