Lyric Young Professionals Board

About

The LYP Board is a passionate group of 16 members focused on engaging the next generation of opera-goers. All LYPs who give at the Contributor level and above are eligible to apply for the Board. If you are a current LYP and interested in applying, please email the Lyric Boards Office at Boards@lyricopera.org.

Requirements
  • Donate at the LYP Contributor level or above
  • Attend quarterly board meetings
  • Serve on the Membership, Fundraising, Events, or Social Media committee
  • Act as an opera ambassador and encourage other young professionals to attend Lyric productions and events
  • Attend annual LYP fundraising events
  • Promote and sell tickets to your network
 

Meet the LYP Board

President

Joe P. Michalak

Joe P. Michalak

Joe Michalak joined the LYP Board in 2017 after having joined the LYP in 2013. He joined the LYP Board in order to help introduce Lyric to the next generation of opera fans, and give back to the arts community in Chicago. Joe is an Officer and Financial Analyst at CIBC, and also serves as the Treasurer of the Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project (ChiMOP), a nonprofit organization which seeks to affect positive social change in young students with limited access to the arts.

Vice President/President Elect

Joan M. Sanborn

Joan M. Sanborn

Joan has always had a love of music and learned to read sheet music before she could read words. Growing up in Houston, she took regular piano and ballet lessons. The first opera she attended was The Marriage of Figaro at age 11, and she’s been a regular opera-goer ever since. Joan does her best to embrace her inner nerd and has self-guided study sessions before she watches a show, but she also just really loves sitting back and enjoying the music. Her favorite aria is “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” from Don Giovanni. Joan currently works on the trade floor at BP. She has always enjoyed hiking and cooking, but she’s been spending her Covid-19 social-distancing time exploring new hobbies like board games, darts, and whittling.

Events Co-Chair

Vindya Dayananda

Vindya Dayananda

Vindya joined the LYP board in 2017 and has embraced the opportunity to learn more about the magical world of opera while engaging with the tight knit community of art lovers and philanthropists in Chicago. In her professional life, Vindya works for William Blair as an Investment Banking Associate focused on the healthcare industry. Prior to Blair, Vindya worked for Cancer Treatment Centers of America in a Corporate Finance role before pursuing her MBA at the University of Chicago. Aside from opera and finance, Vindya is an avid traveler and an aspiring golfer.

Events Co-Chair

Benjamin Wasmuth

Benjamin Wasmuth

Ben joined the Lyric Young Professionals Board in 2020, having been a member for several years prior, but has been regularly attending Lyric Opera performances since 2012 (his favorite opera is Rigoletto). He played both trumpet and piano through high school in the suburbs of Detroit, MI, but best connected with the carillon (a tuned tower bell instrument played by means of a keyboard), playing throughout his time at the University of Florida, where he studied accounting. Ben is currently a Senior Manager with the Washington National Tax office of RSM US LLP, specializing in the taxation of partnerships and financial instruments, having been with the firm since 2012. Outside of work and Lyric, Ben enjoys camping, cycling, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. Ben looks forward to working with the rest of the Lyric Young Professionals Board to advance LYP’s mission throughout this most difficult and unusual time.

Fundraising Chair

Natalie Rae Pace

Natalie Rae Pace

Natalie joined the Lyric Young Professionals Board as a Member at Large in 2018. Although relatively new to the LYP Board, she is not new to Lyric, having attended her first opera here in 1998. In her professional life, Natalie works for Morningstar as a Regional Sales Director focused on the Fintech industry. Prior to Morningstar, Natalie worked for Northwestern Mutual as Director of Recruitment and Development and is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. She has volunteered for many nonprofits in the past such as Young Life and HFS and is excited to bring her experience in fundraising to the Young Professionals.

Membership Chair

Neil Ashwin Dewan, CPA

Neil Ashwin Dewan, CPA

Neil joined the Lyric Young Professionals Board in 2019, after having been a member since 2016. He has attended performances at Lyric since 2007 and has come to depend on the drama, passion, and virtuosity to get him through the winter months. This year, he is most excited to meet new members of LYP and learn what draws them to this art form. In his professional career, Neil is a certified public accountant who specializes in audit and employee benefit plans. Otherwise, he loves trying new foods and visiting Chicago’s lakefront.

Social Media Chair

Lauren Wood

Lauren Wood

Lauren Wood joined the Lyric Young Professionals in 2014, just a few months after moving to Chicago from her native Atlanta. While looking online for volunteer opportunities that might let her step onto the famed Lyric Opera stage without having to sing or perform, she discovered the LYPs and has been a passionate advocate ever since. Lauren works in advertising by day (and often night), writing songs about cleaning supplies and poetic paeans to various prescription medications. She has no professional opera experience, but will weep and tweet upon hearing Leontyne Price sing Verdi.

Secretary

Sunghee (Sunny) Sohn

Sunghee (Sunny) Sohn

Sunny joins the Lyric Young Professionals Board as a Member At Large for the 2020/21 Season. Music has been a lifelong love for Sunny. She grew up with opera thanks to her father who sang tenor arias around the house. She played the cello and piano and sang in various school and church choirs. At Cornell University, she was one of the original members of Hearsay, an all-female a cappella group. She hopes to help the LYP expand the reach of opera to new generations and help increase the accessibility of opera for diverse communities and audiences. Sunny earned her bachelor's degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a graduate degree in Global Affairs from New York University. After more than five years as a Human Resources professional, Sunny earned her law degree from Loyola University Chicago. Sunny is the Assistant General Counsel at Griffith Foods International Inc., a global food seasoning company. She is also on the board of the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago and Hanul Family Alliance, a local non-profit providing comprehensive community-based services to Asian American and immigrant seniors and families in the Chicagoland area.

Member at Large

Natasha Buksh

Natasha Buksh

Natasha has been a member of the Lyric Young Professionals since 2020 and a member of the board since 2021. Her earliest memory of opera was hearing Pavarotti at home, and her most memorable performance was at the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil. Natasha is a native Washingtonian and loves connecting with other arts advocates in Chicago and beyond.

Member at Large

Sara Dix

Sara Dix

Sara works at CH Robinson. She has great passion for opera, and Lyric specifically; attending performances at Lyric from a young age. She has a deep passion for introducing new audiences to the opera, and embracing the idea of “Opera for All.” Notably, Sara has a history of bringing her friends to their first performance, and changing perspectives on the operagoing experience. Sara has a history of volunteerism and civic involvement dating back to high school, and most recently working with The Simple Good Chicago on event planning, fundraising, and corporate partnerships.

Member at Large

Lauren Neal

Lauren Neal

Lauren joined the Lyric Young Professionals Board as a Member at Large in 2019. New to LYP, she has been attending opera at the Lyric for many years, starting at a relatively young age. Lauren earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin followed by a Masters of Science from the University of Kansas.  In her professional experience, Lauren has worked in digital advertising for over 8 years, and currently works at Nextdoor, a social networking service for neighborhoods.

Member at Large

Marne Smiley

Marne Smiley

Marne feels at home with her LYP family. The more people she met who are involved with the opera, the more she wanted to contribute. She felt like the people who love opera have a curiosity about the world, whether it be traveling, community involvement, or language. She could feel the many countless and unnoticed hours that go into the opera and she really connected with that. She really loves the opera, but most importantly she loves what it brings out in the people involved in it.

In her non-opera life she is an entrepreneur, passionate about life and the people in it. She has a marketing and consulting agency, where she helps people and companies become better version of themselves. She currently serves on the Board of Governors at the Mid-America Club and is Co-Chair of the Philanthropy group at Union League. She is also an active member the Otoe-Missouria tribe and is starting a non-profit focused on homelessness. She climbs mountains, races mountain bikes, runs, has a few Chicago-to-Mackinaw sailing races under belt, and does not drink caffeine.

Member at Large

Orlando Deodato Jr.

Orlando Deodato Jr.

Orlando is a Digital Strategist at Bosch, and a long standing LYP member. Orlando’s digital, communications, and social media skills, along with his passion for Opera and the arts will make him an invaluable asset to LYP as a potential successor to Lauren Wood. Orlando has expressed a passion bringing new audiences to Lyric. Additionally, Orlando is an active member of Bosch’s LGBT@Bosch Employee Resource Group.

Member at Large

Sara Junya

Sara Junya

Sara has been a member of Lyric Young Professionals since 2016 after returning to Chicago from her residency in New Orleans. As a medical student at Rush Medical College, she found a great amount of joy and solace in going to Lyric to not only escape from medical textbooks for a couple of hours, but also to delight in the wonders of a Lyric performance. Once returning, Sara knew she wanted to continue her involvement with Lyric and became an LYP Member at Large in 2019. Her favorite opera is Pagliacci, which goes to show that great experiences can come in small packages. Outside of attending operas, Sara is an obstetrician and gynecologist and recently relocated to San Diego to join Sharp Rees-Stealy medical group. She enjoys travel, culinary adventures, and can always be found post-yoga.

Member at Large

Brian Shumaker

Brian Shumaker

Brian Shumaker may have fallen asleep at his first opera (Madama Butterfly) at age 14, but no worries, he's a huge fan anyway. A native of Louisville, KY, he first joined LYP in 2011. As a "retired" classical tenor, he loves interacting with new people at all stages of their opera development through LYP and being an ambassador for the art form. He performs regularly with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and even still sings professionally on occasion. He works in learning design and development for a corporate training firm.

Member at Large

Linda Marie Spadlowski

Linda Marie Spadlowski

Linda joined the Board of Lyric Young Professionals as a Member at Large in 2021. Linda’s love of opera originated in the pages of her favorite mystery story, The Phantom of the Opera. Intrigued by its parallels to the legend of Faust, she was transformed into an opera devotee by the discovery of a recording of Gounod’s Faust which remains the cherished favorite of her music collection. In 2008, she realized a long held dream when she attended her first opera, Bizet’s Carmen, at Lyric Opera of Chicago and has since become a loyal subscriber. She works as a teacher, librarian, and tech-specialist at Carol Stream Elementary School and has devoted herself to the pursuit and advocacy of arts and education having earned her B.A. in English Literature and Theatre Performance from North Central College and graduated with merit from the University of Leicester with an M.A. in Victorian Studies, specializing in Gothic and Romantic Literature. Her natural affinity for the string section of the orchestra has inspired her to become an amateur violinist and harpist. She is also a passionate admirer of Hector Berlioz and his music.