Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Inc.
1725 Holmes Street
Kansas City MO 64108-1538
Web and Phone Contact
Telephone (816) 4714933
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 Mr. Kenneth V. Hager
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired Executive
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1958
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

Accomplishments in the 2016-17 Season: 

  1. Our artistically inventive production of Hansel and Gretel set in a fantastic carnival world featured stellar performances, set and costumes by a Tony Award winning designer, and members of an acclaimed New York dance company playing the carnival performers.
  2. We built the sets and costumes for our new co-production The Marriage of Figaro, and the result was a visual design which set a new standard of artistic excellence.
  3. Our production of Dead Man Walking, one of the most important and powerful operas of our time, was supplemented with community engagement events that explored the social, political, and artistic dimensions of the work.
  4. We successfully launched a new "second stage" performance series, Explorations, which draws people into the orbit of opera through exposure to a broader range of vocal music performed at an eclectic mix of venues. 

Goals for the 2017-18 Season
  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 newly commissioned, and work with the most talented performers, directors, conductors, and designers from around the world to present it.
  3. Provide education programs to make opera accessible to young people in our community, including both introductory experiences and more intensive programs, offering both depth and breadth.
  4. 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.
Needs Statement
  1. Maintaining the artistic excellence of our productions. 
  2. Offering a comprehensive roster of youth education and adult education/community engagement programs. 
  3. Implementing new initiatives to build, broaden, and diversify our audience.
  4. Completing our capital campaign for the Richard J. Stern Opera Center.
Service Categories
Arts Education
Performing Arts Centers
Areas of Service
Lyric Opera of Kansas City brings high quality live operatic performances to the people of the Kansas City area and a five-state region.
CEO/Executive Director/Board Chair Statement

The Lyric Opera’s 2016-17 season will include Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, a towering German romantic opera based on the classic fairy tale; Mozart’s exquisite comic opera The Marriage of Figaro, the moving contemporary work Dead Man Walking, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s delightful comic operetta The Pirates of Penzance.  The new season is a strong affirmation of our mission and vision, and of our commitment to providing indelible opera experiences that are viscerally exciting, thought-provoking, and entertaining for our audience.  The season also brings some of the most talented artists from across the country and from around the world to the Lyric Opera stage. 

In the 2016-17 season, the Lyric Opera is also moving forward with  exciting new initiatives that will have a transformative effect on the organization. We are introducing our Explorations performance series, which will take place at eclectic venues and present a wider range of vocal music genres than our mainstage productions. The 2016-17 season will also be the inaugural year of our Resident Artists Program, which prepares exceptional young singers for operatic careers, and which creates our first-ever resident company to perform on our mainstage and in the community.
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 2016-17 season will continue the rich history of  the Lyric Opera by producing a varied palette of works with contrasting looks and musical languages spanning over 235 years of operatic composition. From the lush score of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, through the divine genius of Mozart in The Marriage of Figaro, followed by the gripping drama of the now contemporary classic, Dead Man Walking, to the comical antics of Gilbert and Sullivan in The Pirates of Penzance, it will be an extraordinary season.

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

Reviews of Don Giovanni: The Kansas City Star’s opera critic, Libby Hanssen, declared that the film noir setting “works for the opera,” making it a “successful, stylized modernization.” The Independent’s opera critic, Paul Horsley, praised the “excellent singers” in the production. 

Review of Rusalka: Writing in The Kansas City Star, Libby Hanssen was impressed by the technical elements of the production, writing that the scenery, projections, and lighting "added a fantastic dimensionality to the naturalistic aspects of shimmering water, gleaming moonlight, and shadowed forests.”

Review of Carmen: Writing for The Independent, Paul Horsley praised Zanda Svede in the title role: "It is probably not idle to predict she could become one of the Carmens over the next years: she has the voice, the musical verve, and a winning, controlled approach to movement that augur great things.”


The 2016-17 season introduced the Lyric’s Explorations performance series, with an eclectic range of works to be performed at at a variety of venues in the community. Explorations 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 This is the first year of the program.

  • In Lyric Opera Express, students in grades 3 through 6 perform for their school alongside professional opera singers in a highly engaging children’s opera.
  • In our Student Dress Rehearsal program, students in the 5th grade and up attend the final dress rehearsal of a production.
  • In Opera: Up Close and Personal, artists visit schools for a close-up look at different aspects of opera.
  • In Opera Camp, children and teens in grades 3 through 12 are introduced to opera and taught singing and acting skills, culminating in a performance for family and friends.
  • High School Honors Artists is a program in which students receive free professional training.
  • In our Apprentice Program, graduate students at UMKC and KU receive training and participate in our productions.
  • Words + Music brings together teen writers in the Coterie Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Roundtable and students in the Composition Department at the UMKC Conservatory.

Program Budget $285,455.00
Category Education, General/Other Extracurricular Arts & Culture
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years), ,
Short-Term Success Every student, parent, and teacher involved in a program sees a live opera performance. Students develop a knowledge of opera, and an understanding of and ability to discuss complex social issues related to the content of the operas. Issues such as tolerance and integrity are addressed in the hope that young people will apply these life lessons to their daily interactions with others. Students of all abilities receive hands-on vocal and dramatic performance experience.
Long-Term Success Through feedback from teachers, parents and students, we have found that prolonged in-depth experience in arts education programs gives the students a strong connection to the art form of opera, helps them feel ownership of the company, and strengthens their desire to continue to participate in the arts. Many of our students have been participating with us for as many as 10 years, and they and their families have become advocates for the arts. Children are given opportunities to build social and academic skills and participate in the kind of in-depth arts experiences that are lacking in many public schools.
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 discuss an upcoming production or a general topic in the field of opera, offering background and insights into the art form. 
  • Our First Friday Opera Previews, held at the Richard J. Stern Opera Center in the East Crossroads, introduces opera to the diverse crowds that come to the Crossroads District for First Fridays.
  • Opera Previews, presented one hour before every performance, 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 Program to perform at area retirement communities.
  • Opera Goes to the Movies is a collaboration with the UMKC Continuing Education Department. 
  • Our Veterans Chorus, the only such opera activity nationwide, is a chorus featuring military veterans that has performed at the National World War I Museum the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Program Budget $20,200.00
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other
Population Served Adults, ,
Short-Term Success Continued growth in attendance at our adult education/community engagement programming.
Long-Term Success Long-term success is demonstrated by our patrons' greater enjoyment of the opera experience.
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 Apprentice 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 will have full time, 8-month contracts for one or two years and will 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.

Co-CEO/Executive Director
Term Start 0
Compensation Last Year
Former CEOs
Evan Luskin Sept 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.
Paid Full-Time Staff 20
Paid Part-Time Staff 6
Volunteers 153
Paid Contractors 0
Retention Rate 75%
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 numerous recurring community partnerships.  The Kansas City Symphony provides the musicians for our mainstage productions.   Our Words + Music program is a collaboration with the Coterie Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Roundtable and the Composition Department at the UMKC Conservatory for Music and Dance.  Our Apprentice Program involves graduate students at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and the University of Kansas.  The Lyric also collaborates with the Kansas City Art Institute, where students in a life drawing class make sketches of models with costumes, sets, and props from Lyric productions and show their drawings and paintings in an end-of-semester showcase.  Our Veterans Chorus has introduced opera to communities represented by the Veterans Administration and the National World War I Museum.  In addition, we collaborate with the Kansas City Museum with Lyric Opera singers performing there in holiday programs. Opera Goes to the Movies is a collaboration with the UMKC Continuing Education Department and the Tivoli Cinemas at Manor Square.  We have also collaborated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kansas City Public Library,

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 Mr. Kenneth V. Hager
Company Affiliation Retired Executive
Term July 2016 to June 2019
Board Members
Mr. Scott Blakesley Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP Partner
Mr. Richard P. Bruening Retired Executive
Dr. Rita M. Burnett-Ferguson Dentist
Mr. Thomas W. Butch Waddell & Reed
Mrs. Una Creditor Community Volunteer
Ms. Ann King Dickinson Dickinson Financial
Ms. Anne W. Elsberry Community Volunteer
Dr. Melinda L. Estes President & CEO, Saint Luke's Health System
Mr. Craig Evans Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Mr. Michael D. Fields Commerce Bank
Mr. Lafayette J. Ford IIISVP, PNC Financial Services Group
Mr. Michael D. Frost Community Volunteer
Mr. Jack Gabriel Retired Executive
Ms. Jane Loftus Gard SVP Commerce Trust Private Banking
Mr. Kenneth V. Hager Retired Executive
Ms. Joyce G. Holland Community Volunteer
Mr. Richard Hu HJM Architects, Inc.
Mrs. Beth Ingram Community Volunteer
Ms. Phyllis G. Leach Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Mr. Carl L. McCaffree McCaffree Financial
Mr. Edward P. Milbank Milbank Mills, Inc
Ms. Sherrill Mulhern Master Craftsmen Foundation
Dr. Ernest Neighbor Physician
Dr. Margaret Nickell Physician
Ms. Michelle N. Ritter Community Volunteer
Mr. J. Michael Sigler Robert W. Baird & Co.
Mr. Kevin R. Sweeney Posinelli Shughart
Mr. Steve Taylor Community Volunteer
Ms. Sarah Tiedt Mariner Wealth Advisors
Mr. Michael Viazzoli CEO and President, Bank of Kansas City
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 27
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 17
Female 13
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
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
CEO Comments
Fiscal Year Start July 01, 2016
Fiscal Year End June 30, 2017
Projected Revenue $7,129,146
Projected Expenses $7,129,146
Endowment Value $8,032,922
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage 3
IRS Letter of Exemption
Foundation Comments
  • FYE 6/30/2016, 2015: Financial data reported using the IRS Form 990.
  • FYE 6/30/2014: Financial data reported using the organization's audited financial statements. 
  • Foundation/corporate revenue line item includes contributions from individuals.  
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 Year201620152014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$168,205$158,422$51,817
Individual Contributions----$0
Investment Income, Net of Losses$668$104$0
Membership Dues$0$0$0
Special Events$468,442$533,019$744,482
Revenue In-Kind$0$40,704$12,473
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$5,686,549$5,713,699$3,478,099
Administration Expense$755,715$748,998$4,522,579
Fundraising Expense$584,882$556,751$654,948
Payments to Affiliates----$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.941.001.00
Program Expense/Total Expenses81%81%40%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue13%11%10%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$18,911,582$19,171,089$27,451,920
Current Assets$18,800,918$19,074,180$3,334,982
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$10,290,000
Current Liabilities$1,004,709$1,204,684$1,252,988
Total Net Assets$17,906,873$17,966,405$15,908,932
Short-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities18.7115.832.66
Long-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%37%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $575,000 --
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $402,500 --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Anonymous $196,000 --
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? Yes
Campaign Purpose The Lyric Opera purchased property at 18th & Charlotte Streets to house rehearsal & education spaces, a scene construction shop, paint shop, wig/costume shop, props area, set storage, and administrative offices.
Goal $10,600,000.00
Dates Jan 2009 to May 2017
Amount Raised to Date $10,200,000.00 as of Oct 2016
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years No
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.
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 Mr. Kenneth V. Hager
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired Executive
Year of Incorporation 1958