Deborah Sandler: Women’s Opera Network Spotlight

Full Name
Deborah Sandler

Current Title
General Director and CEO

Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Time in Current Position
3.5 years

Years Working Professionally in the Field

What was your career path to your current position?
While supposedly working on my Ph.D dissertation in musicology, I started writing grants for a chamber orchestra in Philadelphia. I caught arts administration fever and ultimately became the executive director of what is now known as The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. I took off some time and, after having two fabulous children, relocated to Princeton, where I became involved in a newly started summer opera festival. I became the general director and after 10 years was recruited to Louisville, Kentucky. Then, after a break, I came to Kansas City.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome on that path?
While I consider myself a very energetic person, I would still say that managing the needs of a family and running an opera company, with its 24/7 schedule, require a great deal of time management and personal value setting. I don’t consider this an obstacle, but rather a reality. Life-work balance is an important personal consideration. I don’t think a personal life should be considered a liability.

Who was your greatest advocate or mentor?
David Gockley was a very strong advocate in the early part of my career.

What is the best piece of advice you would offer someone at the start of her/his career?
A desire to create, to make a difference and fear of failure!

What is the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
My advice would be that you need to be self-motivated and aspire to be outstanding. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own excellence and our own achievements. So be the very best you can be.

Anything else you would like to say about being a leader in the arts?
Go for it.