CASSANDRA HAYES: NYC Native and world traveler

Opera Grand Rapids Board Member Spotlight

Where are you originally from?
New York City

What do you do for a living?
Communications Manager at Amway – Americas Region

Where is your favorite place to travel? Why?
I still have the travel bug after 23 years as a flight attendant. Paris and St. Maarten are my favorite places.

What/Who got you involved with OGR?
(Past and Current)

I was recommended by a former board member when I first moved here in 2013. This is my second term on the board after a two-year hiatus.

What do you like about Opera?
Growing up in New York, I spent a lot of time at Lincoln Center attending the arts that were featured and have fond memories of operas such as The Barber of Seville and Carmen. I found opera more accessible out of all classical music because it was classical music with a narrative and actors. I was also amazed by the “athleticism” of the voices. Opera singers must learn music theory and history, sight-reading, acting, dancing, diction and multiple languages in addition to their vocal studies – it’s quite impressive.

Who/what brought you into the world of Opera?
I had a classmate who studied piano and played at Carnegie Hall at the age of 11. Her parents helped us experience the arts throughout New York City.

What is your favorite form/piece of art? (symphony, opera, painting, book, etc.) Why?
The first aria I remember really paying attention to is “Largo al Factotum” from Barber of Seville and it has remained with me as one of my all-time favorites. “Nessun Dorma” – I love when the tenor hits those glorious notes and the orchestra swells behind him. I would say I’m an opera novice and serving on the board also serves as a profound learning experience for me, too.

Why do you think it is important to have an Opera company in our community?
It is the inspiration behind much of today’s pop culture, for example, Madame Butterfly inspired the musical Miss Saigon and La Boheme inspired RENT; the band Queen uses classical music in some of its songs and the Queen of the Night aria is the centerpiece of a Volvo commercial. Opera is all around us and a community opera company helps to bridge the chasm.