Staff

Administration

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. Emilee is currently on the Board of Directors for the Torch Conservation Center.

Miranda Krajniak | Development Director

Krajniak has worked within the arts community since 2007 and comes to Opera Grand Rapids from the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), where she served as executive director. During her nine-year tenure, she worked with an active community-centered committee to engage diverse communities, increasing both audience and artist diversity through equitable initiatives and innovative programming. She held previous positions at both the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
 
Krajniak continues to actively seeks way to support the arts on a local, state and national scale. She currently serves as a Frey Foundation Appointee to the Gerald R. Ford Airport Arts Committee and consistently reads grants for the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sarah Watson | Operations Director

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.

Alexandra Galla | Box Office & Development Manager

Alexandra Galla is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in Vocal Performance. Lexi has performed with Opera Grand Rapids as a chorus member in The Magic Flute and La Traviata, was the winner of the 2018 Collegiate Vocal Competition, and participated in the Opera Grand Rapids Emerging Artist program. Lexi works full time in the box office and hopes to join the professional opera field in the future.

Artistic Team

James Meena | Artistic Director

James Meena consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium in concert, opera and ballet. Mo. Meena serves as Artistic Director for Opera Carolina (Charlotte) and Artistic Director for Opera Grand Rapids. Recent engagements include acclaimed performances of Tosca at the Luglio Festivale Trapani in Sicilia, a double-bill of Rachmaninoff’s rarely-performed Aleko paired with Pagliacci as well as La fanciulla del West, both with the restored New York City Opera; Le nozze di Figaro for Teatro Sociale Rovigo Italy, La fanciulla del West for five prestigious Italian theaters: Teatro del Giglio, Lucca Italy, Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Teatro Alighieri di Ravenna, Teatro Pavarotti di Modena and Teatro Goldoni di Livorno, a Gala concert with Renee Fleming and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra; Porgy & Bess with Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their Summer Festival, La bohèmewith the prestigious Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, La bohème with Opéra de Montréal, and Masterworks Concerts with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, in addition to his productions with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera, and Opera Carolina. Next season, Mo. Meena makes his debut with the Shanghai Opera.

Austin McWilliams | Associate Conductor & Director of Music Education

amcwilliams@operagr.org

Austin McWilliams is a conductor and countertenor who specializes in contemporary vocal music. He strives to present compelling, intriguing art that is directly relevant to the communities in which it is performed. Austin is the Associate Conductor and Education Director at Opera Grand Rapids, where he acts as both chorus master and head of the contemporary opera series. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Choral Studies at Western Michigan University, where he conducts the university operas and teaches several courses. He is the choir director at Fountain Street Church, a non-denominational, non-creedal institution that serves as a venue for heterodox speakers and ideologies, and is a faculty member at Missouri Scholars Academy, an annual, month-long governor’s school for gifted high school juniors in his native state. Favorite projects include Stinney: An American Execution (Frances Pollock), a world premiere opera about 14-year-old black boy George Stinney Jr. who was wrongfully convicted and executed in 1944; Our Trudy (Anna Pidgorna), a world premiere opera about the life of a small-town Kansas art teacher; and Of Rage and Remembrance (John Corigliano), a choral recital on HIV/AIDS awareness. Austin holds degrees in choral conducting and computer engineering.