Backstage Life: Meaghan Stainback

Meaghan Stainback - Philanthropy Officer

What is your role here at Lyric, and how long have you held the position?

My current role is Philanthropy Officer. I started as an intern in the Women’s Board office in 2009, and went fulltime in the Chapters and Guild Board office several months later. I’ve served all of the volunteer boards in some capacity. In 2014, I began my journey to becoming a frontline fundraiser.


What led you to work at Lyric?

I studied voice at Northwestern University but it became clear that a career as a singer was not for me. I stumbled upon my internship shortly after graduating college, not really knowing what a development department was. I’m so lucky that I landed at Lyric and that I’ve been able to learn how to be a fundraiser at an institution in which I strongly believe. It’s a joy to spend my days working with people who love this art form and who are passionate about ensuring that it remains a vital cultural offering in this great city.


What’s a typical day like for you?

No day is the same, which I like. I’m often in my office fielding calls from donors in my portfolio and making appointments to visit people around town. My primary focus is raising money for The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, so I attend all of the Ensemble’s concerts and events and keep up to date with what they’re doing. I work with the Ryan Opera Center Board and staff to create meaningful opportunities for donors to connect with Ensemble members, and to craft opportunities for support that are interesting and fulfilling. Donations to the program fully fund its activities, and we’re always thinking of ways to make it the best program of its kind. The Board and other Ryan Opera Center supporters are
extremely passionate about our artists, and they often know where our alumni are singing before we do! It’s important for me to know everything Lyric is doing outside of the Ryan Opera Center as well, so I keep tabs on our education programs, community-engagement initiatives, and the mainstage, too. I also eat a lot of dinners in the Graham Room!


What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Remembering every little detail I learn about the people I meet. I’ve discovered that if I don’t write something down before I go to bed at night, I’m likely to forget. Thank goodness for voice dictation software! The wonderful thing about working for Lyric is that I instantly have something in common with all of our patrons – a love of opera. With that as a starting point, I can generally keep a conversation going with questions about their Lyric experiences. It’s fun to hear people recall favorite productions and singers over the years. You can tell a lot about a person based on their operatic preferences!

 
What keeps you committed to the work you do?

The people. This job requires long hours and lots of evening and weekend commitments. If I didn’t have outstanding colleagues, a world-class product, and passionate donors to work alongside, it would be impossible!

 

What’s something about your job that people might not know?

It’s not all just party planning and fancy dinners! My colleagues and I are doing important work to ensure the financial stability of this organization. That means we must connect people to the product in a genuine way that inspires them to give transformationally, whatever that means for them. We’re fortunate to have fantastic partners in this endeavor, from all the administrative staff who excel at their jobs, to the countless artists and artisans who continue to produce at the highest levels onstage and off. It’s because we can count on every piece of the puzzle working together that we can confidently ask people to invest in the future of this great institution.

 
Favorite Lyric moment?

Oh, there are so many! In general, I enjoy seeing beloved artists return year after year to sing at Lyric and watching them develop genuine relationships with our patrons. This is especially true for Ryan Opera Center members and alumni who are part of the Lyric family. I swell with pride every time I see one of them perform because I know what wonderful people they are – in addition to being amazing artists – and that Lyric played a pivotal role in their successes.


Beyond opera, what are your other passions?

I recently completed my first full Ironman, and I’ve done more than a dozen other triathlons, swimming, and running races. I’m signed up for a 10K swim this summer, so that’s next on the horizon. Training helps balance all the yummy food I eat at work! I sing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and other places around town. I’m a proud dog mom to Remy, a collie mix rescued from PAWS last fall. I’m on a mission to see more theater and dance, and I love catching a show at the various music venues around town and spending time with friends.

With the cancellation of the 19/20 Season's RING cycle, what are your warmest memories of the project as a whole? 

Almost everything we do is a team effort, but this, more than anything else, has pulled the company together in an extraordinary way. The cancelation, too, brought us together, and I am inspired by the empathy and encouragement from my colleagues and most especially our donors. Overall, I loved watching that massive production come to life, having seen the original models from the late, great Johan Engels, and having watched our brilliant technical colleagues materialize this magical world. The inflatables were definitely my favorite element.


What are you most looking forward to in the 2020/21 season?
 

I have sung in the chorus for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Cavalleria rusticana, so I'm particularly excited to see that come to life onstage. Christine Goerke is one of my favorite artists and people, so her recital will be amazing, as will the celebration of our dear Sir Andrew Davis.

Photo: Kyle Flubacker, Todd Rosenberg