Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Inc.
1725 Holmes Street
Kansas City MO 64108-1538
Web and Phone Contact
Telephone (816) 4714933
Fax 816- 4710602
Mission Statement

To make Lyric Opera of Kansas City indispensable to the public through:

  • Transformational opera experiences 
  • Broad service which captures the hearts and minds of our communities
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Deborah Sandler
Board Chair Ms. Joanna Burns
Board Chair Company Affiliation Cerner
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1958
Volunteer Opportunities
Ways to donate, support, or volunteer
Check, on-line, phone donations, all major credit cards, in-kind donations.
Volunteer through Lyric Opera Guild.
Financial Summary
Revenue Expense Area Graph

Comparing revenue to expenses shows how the organizations finances fluctuate over time.

Source: IRS Form 990

Net Gain/Loss:    in 
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.
Mission Statement

To make Lyric Opera of Kansas City indispensable to the public through:

  • Transformational opera experiences 
  • Broad service which captures the hearts and minds of our communities
Background Statement

Founded in 1958, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City produces four operas annually between the months of September and May.  We have become one of the nation’s premier regional opera companies, and we reach approximately 40,000 people annually through our artistic programming and our education and community engagement activities.  Our repertoire encompasses original language performances of standard repertory as well as contemporary and American operas. The Company mounts productions that enrich the community it serves, as well as reflect the highest artistic standards of the profession. The Lyric Opera offers innovative programs designed to further music and arts education both in schools and in the community, and serves more than 8,000 students each year.

Repertoire choices encompass original language performances of standard repertory as well as contemporary and American operas. The Company mounts productions that enrich the community it serves, as well as reflect the highest artistic standards of the profession. The Lyric Opera offers innovative and award-winning programs designed to further music and arts education both in schools and in the community, and serves more than 8,000 students each year.

In the Fall of 2011, the Lyric Opera became one of resident companies at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, one of the most acoustically advanced opera venues in the world. In July of 2012, the Lyric Opera moved into the Richard J. Stern Opera Center in Kansas City’s Crossroads District, a move that has greatly enhanced the Lyric Opera’s production, educational, and administrative capabilities, enabling the Lyric Opera to make the most of the state-of-the-art resources at the Kauffman Center.
Impact Statement Our top accomplishments in 2018-19:
  1. We opened the season with an all-new production of West Side Story that featured the original Jerome Robbins choreography and the original orchestral score. We gave our audience the opportunity to see and hear West Side Story at the scale at which it was conceived. This kind of production of West Side Story was unprecedented in the Kansas City area.
  2. Our production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte was conducted by Jane Glover, one of the world’s preeminent conductors and a pioneer for women on the podium since her professional debut in 1975. One of the most respected interpreters of Mozart, she has conducted Mozart operas all over the world.
  3. Our production of The Pearl Fishers featured sets and costumes designed by Zandra Rhodes, the British fashion designer who has designed for Princess Diana, Freddy Mercury, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Helen Mirren, and Prince, among others.
  4. The 2018-19 season of Explorations, our second stage performance series, included Mack the Knife Is the Man I Love, which completely sold out, playing to a standing room only audience.
Our top goals for 2019-20:
  1. Bring the art of opera to life as a living, breathing, relevant expression of humanity that connects with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
  2. Produce the best work possible, whether the production is well known, less known, or new, and work with the most talented artists from around the world to present it.
    Provide youth education programs to make opera accessible to young people in our community.
  3. Provide adult education and community engagement programs that offer current patrons the opportunity to deepen their operatic experience, and that reach people who don’t yet know how opera can offer a new lens to experience the world.
  4. Offer programming that reaches new and more diverse audiences.
Needs Statement
    1. Maintaining the artistic excellence of our mainstage productions
    2. Offering Explorations, our second stage performance series, with programming that crosses musical borders
    3. Offering youth education programs
    4. Offering adult education / community engagement programs
    5. Endowment fund
Service Categories
Arts Education
Performing Arts Centers
Areas of Service
CEO/Executive Director/Board Chair Statement

When the Lyric was founded in 1958, the founders had a vision to make opera accessible to a modern audience. Sixty years later, Lyric Opera of Kansas City is still firmly committed to that vision. We have made it our mission to make opera indispensable to Kansas City through adventurous programming over a wide range of repertoire. Our 2018-19 season is designed to surprise, delight, and inspire the seasoned opera lover and the newcomer alike.

Description The Lyric Opera stages four main stage productions each season at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The repertoire includes traditional popular works and contemporary opera. The company performs works in their original languages with English subtitles. 
Program Budget $2,320,053.00
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Opera Performances
Population Served General/Unspecified
Short-Term Success The mainstage productions in the 2019-20 season, The Abduction from the Seraglio, La boheme, Lucia di Lammermore, and The Shining, are expected to reach serve approximately 20,000 attendees. The Shining is an exploration of how we can present the operatic experience in fresh and accessible ways. By offering our current audience the opportunity to explore the possibilities of the art form, and by introducing new and more diverse audiences who are not yet familiar with traditional opera, we can both broaden and deepen our role in the cultural life of the community, and increase the accessibility of the operatic experience.
Long-Term Success

The Lyric Opera will continue to develop a dedicated audience of individuals who enjoy an eclectic mix of operatic repertoire and styles of production. The Lyric will contribute to the growth and development of the careers of emerging singers, directors, conductors and designers. The Lyric Opera will receive critical acclaim, both local and national. The Lyric Opera will remain financially stable. 

Program Success Monitored By Positive reviews on a local, regional and national level. Growth in both earned and contributed income. Successful auditions attracting talented individuals to the company to perform.
Examples of Program Success KC Studio’s review of West Side Story stated:
“The Lyric’s production is visually spectacular, thanks in large part to Peter J. Davison’s evocative scenic design and Mark McCullough’s mood-shifting lighting. The creative team opts for wide-screen stage compositions to take advantage of the Muriel Kauffman Theatre’s expansive stage. The power of the music, as performed by the Kansas City Symphony under the baton of David Charles Abell, is irresistible. . . . Costume designer Jessica Jahn suggests the 1950s but she also lends the material a sort of timelessness. At certain moments you can believe it might be happening 60 years ago, while at other times the events could be unfolding last week. . . . And that leads to something I didn’t expect: A surprising degree of relevance to the here and now.”
Similarly, in reviewing Madama Butterfly, KC Studio said the production “made a strong case for the continuing endurance of the opera. The production was majestic, the cast strong and emotive, delivering Puccini’s lyrical gut-punches time and again. The orchestra, conducted by Ryan McAdams, was in powerhouse form.”

Our Explorations performance series, with an eclectic range of works to be performed at at a variety of venues in the community, features adventurous programming that reaches into the world of vocal music beyond the fully staged operas that we produce at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This programming diversity will appeal to a broader audience, extending our reach into the community. And, in addition to expanding our repertory, the intimacy of our Explorations performances will create a new kind of experience for audiences.  Explorations also will showcase the singers in the Lyric’s new Resident Artists Program, which is described below.

Program Budget $75,000.00
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Musical Performances
Population Served Adults
Short-Term Success The Explorations performance series draws a broader, more diverse audience.
Long-Term Success The broader, more diverse audiences who attend the Explorations performance series also become patrons of the Lyric Opera's main stage productions.
Program Success Monitored By Lyric Opera ticket sales.
Examples of Program Success
Mack the Knife Is the Man I Love, which was staged in the upgraded space in our Production Arts Building as part of our Explorations second stage performance series, played to a standing room only audience. It was also critically well-received: Broadway World’s review of Mack the Knife Is the Man I Love praised the production for the “pleasant surprise” of its “new spins on old classics” and its knack for “bringing us the unexpected.”
Our youth education and professional training programs include:
  • Student Dress Rehearsals of all four productions.
  •  An in-school opera discovery program, in which Lyric Opera artists visit middle and high school classes for a close-up look at different aspects of opera.
  • In our Apprentice Artists Program, graduate students at the University of Missouri – Kansas City participate in productions, classes, and special events.
  • In our Resident Artists Program, singers and a pianist/coach at the start of their career are chosen in a nationwide search, receive performance experience and professional training.
Program Budget $285,455.00
Category Education, General/Other Extracurricular Arts & Culture
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years)
Short-Term Success • There were 9,491 student attendees at our 2018-19 youth educational activities.
• 890 area students attended our Student Dress Rehearsal for West Side Story.
Long-Term Success The special value of opera for youth education is in the breadth of the art form, as it employs multiple forms of artistic expression, including music, movement, language, and storytelling. By incorporating all of these different means of communicating, opera reaches young people on multiple levels. Perhaps most importantly, opera provides them with a view of the human condition beyond the immediate world that they experience in their classroom and in their neighborhood.
Program Success Monitored By Teachers, students and parents are provided with pre- and post-project surveys and evaluations to measure the effectiveness of the program. These evaluations are used to change and fine tune programs to make them more relevant for the participants in the future.
Examples of Program Success Evaluations from participants, students, teachers and parents show the strengths of our education programs. We seek "kindred spirits" of all ages and backgrounds, and serve young people in many school districts in the metropolitan area, including at-risk and underserved populations. The Lyric Opera has received national recognition from Opera America for our education programs, and several are models for other opera companies.
  • At Ease with Opera features speakers who give presentations at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center in conjunction with our mainstage productions. The programs often revolve around an upcoming production, but may also deal with a general topic in the field of opera, offering background and insights into the art form.
  • Opera Previews are presented one hour before every performance at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center. The previews are entertaining and offer a wealth of background about the composer, context, and history of the opera.
  • Opera to Go is a program that brings singers from our Apprentice Artists Program to perform at area retirement communities. These performances allow residents in those communities to hear and learn about traditional favorites as well as less familiar works from the opera repertoire.
  • We also offered production-specific adult education / community engagement programs
Program Budget $20,200.00
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other
Population Served Adults
Short-Term Success

There were 9,269 attendees at our adult education / community engagement programs in the 2018-19 season.

Long-Term Success

The Lyric’s adult education/community engagement programs in the 2019-20 season will further the Lyric’s goal of providing programs that offer current patrons the opportunity to deepen their operatic experience, and to reach people who don’t yet know how opera can offer a new lens to experience the world.

Program Success Monitored By Tracking attendance and eliciting feedback.
Examples of Program Success Thousands of individuals attend these activities each season.
Description Led by Vinson Cole, UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance faculty member and one of the leading artists of his generation, our Resident Artists Program  is an expansion of our highly successful Young Artists Program for graduate students. The launch of RAP, combined with our Apprentice Program, signals the creation of the first-ever resident company for the Lyric Opera. The Resident Artists receive professional performance experience and artistic training.  The Resident Artists will appear in mainstage roles; work with visiting guest artists, conductors, and directors; participate in master classes and career coaching; study leading roles; make musical appearances in the community; and participate our new Explorations series, which will focus on intimate gems of the vocal music repertoire.
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Artists' Services
Population Served Adults
Short-Term Success The musical appearances of the resident artists extend the reach of the Lyric Opera into the community; the professional growth of the resident artists.
Long-Term Success The professional success of the talented young artists nurtured by this program.
Program Success Monitored By The program director will evaluate the program as it progresses; the senior staff will monitor and evaluate program success.
Examples of Program Success The program has just begun its first season.
CEO Comments

We have an organizational vision to bring the best of opera to Kansas City, and to bring the best of Lyric Opera of Kansas City to the world. Our Strategic Plan development keeps this goal in sight as we work through the steps to keep opera relevant and develop new audiences. New programs such as the Studio Artists Program will serve post-graduate voice students and bring more opera to diverse audiences. Long term plans call for us to produce an annual Family Festival that will include "family operas" and activities for children. We look forward to carrying opera into the 21st century.

Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Ms. Deborah Sandler
Term Start July 2012

Deborah Sandler joined Lyric Opera of Kansas City as General Director and CEO on July 1, 2012. She was previously Director of Development and External Affairs at the Kentucky School of Art at Spalding University in Louisville. Before that she was General Director of Kentucky Opera, where she increased the audience more than 43% and individual contributions 136% over seven years. Ms. Sandler also was the General Director of the Opera Festival of New Jersey in Princeton. Over her 10 years with that company, she grew the budget from $500,000 to $1.6 million and successfully led the company into a new performance venue, nearly doubling the audience. She developed extensive touring and educational residency programs for both opera companies.

Former CEOs
Evan LuskinSept 1958 - June 1998
Senior Staff
Title Chief Finance Officer
Experience/Biography Jeff Walker has an M.S. in Accounting, Business Administration and English from William Jewell College.  He earned an MBA from the University of Saint Mary in 2002.  Jeff has spent the majority of his professional career in the nonprofit sector, having worked for the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Community Housing of Wyandotte County, Sunflower House, the National World War I Museum and, most recently, Johnson County Library. He has been a longtime season subscriber of the Lyric Opera and is thrilled to be putting his professional skills to use toward the betterment of opera in Kansas City.  
Title Director of Education and Community Engagement

Linda Ade Brand has directed for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, The American Heartland Theatre, The Coterie, Quality Hill Playhouse, and the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. She taught and directed for five years in the Theatre Department at Avila College, and for ten years in the Conservatory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She spent four seasons with Opera in the Ozarks and thirteen seasons with the Des Moines Metro Opera. She has extensive experience with Lyric Opera education programs, having taught at our Summer and Spring Break Opera Camps and directed numerous family operas.

Title Chief Development Officer

Bellinger has over a decade of experience in fundraising in both San Diego, CA and Kansas City. Most recently in Kansas City, he was the Director of Development and Advancement for Cornerstones of Care, a $58 million family of five agencies serving children and families in Missouri and Kansas.

Title Artistic Administrator
Experience/Biography Prior to joining the Lyric Opera, Trexell spent five years as Director of Artistic Operations and Director of Artistic Planning at Opera Colorado, three years as Artistic Administrator at Royal Danish Opera, and twelve years at San Francisco Opera, eventually becoming Artistic Administrator.
Title Creative Consultant
Experience/Biography Cole, whose career has taken him to major opera houses around the world, has also taught at the University of Washington School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Aspen Music Festival and School, Glimmerglass Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera. Currently, he is a faculty member at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at UMKC.
Title Director of Marketing and Communications
Experience/Biography Debra Bell is an arts administrator with more than twenty years of experience in the field, focusing primarily on marketing & sales, community relations, media relations, and audience development at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Opera, and The Glimmerglass Festival. She is a member of the advisory board of Resonance Works-Pittsburgh. Deb holds M.A. (Arts Administration) and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Cincinnati and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Title Director of Production
Tracy Davis-Singh received her bachelor’s degree in Technical Theatre and Music from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. For three years she was Assistant Stage Manager at Houston Grand Opera, and she continued her career as stage manager at Seattle Opera, Cleveland Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Anchorage Opera, Mobile Opera, Pensacola Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Ms. Davis has stage managed with the Lyric Opera since 2003 and was hired as interim director of production in January of 2007, became full time director in July 2007.
Paid Full-Time Staff 21
Paid Contractors 237
Volunteers 63
Retention Rate 75%
Staff Diversity (Ethnicity)
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 24
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Other (Please Specify) 0
Staff Diversity (Gender)
Female 18
Male 8
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Plans & Policies
Organization Has a Fundraising Plan Yes
Organization Has a Strategic Plan Yes
Management Succession Plan No
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes

The Lyric Opera has recurring community partnerships. The Kansas City Symphony provides the musicians for our mainstage productions. Our Young Artists Program involves graduate students at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. We have also collaborated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kansas City Public Library on community engagement activities associated with specific productions.

Government Licenses
Is your organization licensed by the government? No
CEO Comments
One of our challenges is to develop new audiences for opera, and our organizational vision calls for us to engage many different Kansas City communities beyond the walls of the Kauffman Center, with activities, programs and services designed to excite and engage people who have not yet considered opera as a part of their consciousness and lives.  

The Vision part of our statement sees the Lyric Opera of Kansas City bringing not only the best of opera to Kansas City but the best of Lyric Opera of Kansas City to the world. Opera becomes a transformational experience when the best of talent and production standards meet, offering Quality, Innovation, Consistency, and Inspiration. By creating what is of value to the world of opera here in Kansas City, we establish our own unique identity and reputation.  

The Values part of our statement calls for us to perform at the highest level of professionalism through a spectrum of activities which include: Artistic Excellence, Education, Community Engagement, and Operational and Fiscal Responsibility. 

Artistic Excellence extends throughout all of our programs: 

  • To produce the highest quality of work which represents the entire spectrum of opera repertoire. This includes the performance of standard repertoire, underperformed works, and new works deserving of an audience, thus contributing the sustenance of the art form. 
Finally, we need to participate in the ongoing vitality of the opera field by developing new work, either as an originator or partner.
Board Chair
Board Chair Ms. Joanna Burns
Company Affiliation Cerner
Board Members
Mark BenedictHusch Blackwell
Richard BrueningRetired Attorney
Rita Burnett-FergusonSwope Health Services
Thomas ButchWaddell & Reed
Una CreditorRetired
Melinda EstesSaint Luke's Health System
Karen FenaroliFenaroli & Associates
Michael FieldsCommerce Bank
Lafayette FordFifth Third Bank
Kenneth HagerRetired
Richard HuHJM Architects
Phyllis LeachHallmark Cards, Inc.
Amy McAnarneyHallmark Cards, Inc.
Mira MdivaniCorporate Immigration Law Firm
Edward MillbankMillbank Mills, Inc.
Michael SiglerRobert W. Baird & Co.
Steve TaylorRetired Attorney
Julie YoakumHelzberg Diamonds
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 23
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 17
Female 9
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 66%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 95%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 75%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 10
Standing Committees
Strategic Planning / Strategic Direction
Capital Campaign
CEO Comments
Fiscal Year Start July 01, 2019
Fiscal Year End June 30, 2020
Projected Revenue $7,174,453
Projected Expenses $7,174,453
Endowment Value $8,521,566
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage 3
IRS Letter of Exemption
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201820172016
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$103,396$175,069$168,205
Individual Contributions------
Investment Income, Net of Losses$3,666$1,136$668
Membership Dues$0--$0
Special Events$578,717$577,923$468,442
Revenue In-Kind$122,373$5,307$0
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201820172016
Program Expense$5,530,884$5,451,705$5,686,549
Administration Expense$693,674$715,926$755,715
Fundraising Expense$511,400$546,961$584,882
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.900.970.94
Program Expense/Total Expenses82%81%81%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue------
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201820172016
Total Assets$20,813,574$19,633,366$18,911,582
Current Assets$18,945,517$19,374,530$18,800,918
Long-Term Liabilities$29,535$102,599$0
Current Liabilities$1,077,211$965,620$1,004,709
Total Net Assets$19,706,828$18,565,147$17,906,873
Short-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201820172016
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities17.5920.0618.71
Long-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201820172016
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%1%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201820172016
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $788,500 --
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $650,000 --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $550,000 --
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Dates Jan to May
Amount Raised to Date as of Oct
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years Yes
Organization Comments
Our move into the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts has presented us with incredible artistic opportunities and financial challenges. The new venue enables us to produce opera on an entirely new artistic and technological level, attracting world-class singers to Kansas City. We are now able to partner with opera companies such as the San Francisco Opera and Washington National Opera. The technical capabilities of the new hall give us many new tools to use in realizing the theatrical side of opera, just as the acoustics in the theater enhance our musical values.  We are always seeking ways to keep our expenses under control when production costs increase. Our new Opera Center, which accommodates all of our operations in one location, also helps us control costs. Careful management of these growth years is crucial to maximize our artistic potential, in a financially responsible manner.
Other Documents
Organization Name Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Inc.
Address 1725 Holmes Street
Kansas City, MO 641081538
Primary Phone (816) 4714933
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Deborah Sandler
Board Chair Ms. Joanna Burns
Board Chair Company Affiliation Cerner
Year of Incorporation 1958