Staff

James Meena | Artistic Director

James Meena, Opera Carolina’s General Director and Principal Conductor, Toledo Opera’s Artistic Advisor, and Opera Grand Rapids’ Artistic Director, consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium. With extensive experience in opera, ballet, and symphonic music, Mo. Meena held principal and resident conducting posts with the Cleveland Ballet and Toledo Symphony.

Mo. Meena was engaged as guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the United States, Italy, Taipei, Korea, Canada and Mexico including the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Washington Opera, Opera Pacific, Portland Opera and the Utah Opera. On opera stages, he has conducted legendary singers including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, James McCracken, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne, Jerome Hines, Diana Soviero, Jerry Hadley, Mark Delavan and Marcello Giordani.

Meena has demonstrated exceptional leadership, vision and finesse in the area of philanthropic development, having expanded the Opera Carolina season from 3 to 4 main-stage productions, as well as increased their annual budget from $1.9 million to $3.5 million. Learn More

 

Emilee Syrewicze | Executive Director

A native of West Michigan, Emilee Syrewicze previously served as the Executive Director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior, she was Executive Director of the Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing (NMSH) in Traverse City, Michigan. Syrewicze, a classically trained pianist, earned a B.A. at Alma College, Alma, Michigan, in Political Science with concentrations in chemistry and music and a J.D. with a focus on nonprofit and environmental law/policy at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont. During law school, Emilee clerked for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy in Seattle, Washington

 

Angela Freier | Development Director

Angela Freier is an emerging philanthropy professional with a Bachelors in Music Education from Central Michigan University and a Master of Arts Administration from Florida State University. Ms. Freier has experience in both the arts and animal-welfare non-profit sectors with strong event planning and donor relations experience. Angela studied Opera performance throughout both her degrees and has performed in Opera productions in Michigan, Florida, and Indiana. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her Husband, Nathan, and two children, Abigail and Graham.

 

Sarah Watson | Production & Facilities Manager

Sarah Watson is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in Group Social Studies Education and Theatre. She has over 10 years of experience in production work, and began working for Opera Grand Rapids in May 2014 as an Assistant Stage Manager. When not at the opera, Sarah continues to volunteer and work on productions at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Heritage Theatre Group and Jewish Theatre.

 

Sandy Ponsetto | Box Office Manager

Sandy Ponsetto graduated from Western Michigan University where she studied applied behavior analysis and practical writing. In addition to serving as the Box Office Manager at Opera Grand Rapids, Sandy is a Community Development Specialist for the City of Hastings. She is passionate about that arts and has been a part of the Opera Grand Rapids family since her husband, Mike, joined the chorus in 2001. Over the years, she has volunteered in multiple capacities before joining the staff during the summer of 2018.