Leadership
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James Harp

Artistic Director

James Harp is the artistic director of Maryland Opera, where he is building a comprehensive, innovative opera and opera education/outreach program to serve the entire state of Maryland. He is pursuing and nurturing partnerships and collaborations with local and national arts organizations to sustain the operatic art form in perpetuity. He is also a judge for regional and district Metropolitan Opera auditions.

Harp is well known in the Baltimore area as a pianist, organist, stage director, singer, composer, lecturer, writer and conductor. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Harp was the artistic administrator of the Baltimore Opera Company beginning in 1989, and chorus master starting 1993.

Since 1983 he has served as organist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and since 1987 has been the cantor (organist/choirmaster) for Baltimore’s historic St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, where he also serves as artistic director of the St. Cecilia Society Concert Series. Since 2009, he has been the principal accompanist and chorus master for Baltimore Concert Opera. He is a coach/accompanist with the Wagner Society of Washington, D.C., and is on the opera faculty at the Peabody Conservatory.

 

Knowledgeable in many areas of music, Harp has lectured extensively on opera in many venues, including the Towson Arts Festival, the Maryland Opera Society, the Biblical Archaeology Society, and the Joy of Opera Series.

 

Sought after as an orchestral musician and accompanist, Harp has been featured soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in works ranging from Saint-Saens Organ Symphony to Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. He has appeared as continuo (harpsichord/organ) soloist with many local orchestral and choral groups, where his informed and overly theatrical realizations of baroque figured bass have won acclaim. Accompanist to many local singers, many of whom feature his own compositions, he has also accompanied such artists as Elizabeth Futral, Stephen Costello, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Licia Albanese, Anna Moffo, Chris Merritt, Lucine Amara, and Paul Plishka. His appearance with Miss Futral and Mr. Costello was part of the noted Vocal Arts Society of Washington D.C. series at the Kennedy Center.

 

An aficionado of gardening, theology, genealogy and all things Victorian, Harp lives in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill neighborhood with his three gregarious pugs, Vera, Minnie Lee and Otto.

Steven White

Executive Advisor

Praised by Opera News as a conductor who “squeezes every drop of excitement and pathos from the score,” Steven White is one of North America’s premiere operatic and symphonic conductors. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2010, conducting performances of La traviata starring Angela Gheorghiu. Since then he has conducted a number of Metropolitan Opera performances of La traviata, with such stars as Natalie Dessay, Hei-Kyung Hong, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Dmitri Hvorostovksy and Matthew Polenzani. In the past several seasons he has returned to the Met to participate in critically fêted productions of Don Carlo, Billy Budd, The Rake’s Progress and Elektra.

With a vibrant repertoire of over sixty-five titles, Maestro White’s extensive operatic engagements have included performances with New York City Opera, L’Opera de Montréal, Vancouver Opera, Opera Colorado, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Baltimore Opera, New Orleans Opera, and many others. In recent seasons he has conducted Rigoletto with San Diego Opera, Otello with Austin Opera, La traviata with Utah Opera, and a world premiere staged production of a brand-new Bärenreiter edition of Gounod’s Faust with Opera Omaha.

Among the many orchestras Maestro White has conducted are the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, the Mozarteum und Salzburg Kulturvereinigung Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic, the Fort Worth Symphony and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra for a CHANDOS recording of arias featuring his wife, soprano Elizabeth Futral.

Maestro White is a passionate and dedicated educator. He has served multiple artistic residencies and led productions at such institutions as the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Indiana University, the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Miami Frost School of Music Program in Salzburg, Kennesaw State University and Virginia Tech University. In the summer of 2019 he served as an artist in residence at the Shanghai Conservatory in China and in 2020 he led a critically acclaimed production of La clemenza di Tito for the North Carolina School of the Arts Fletcher Opera Institute. He is in constant demand as an adjudicator of the most prestigious music and vocal competitions, including numerous auditions for the Metropolitan Opera National Council and the Jensen Foundation.

Maestro White has been a part of the operatic fabric of our community for a great while, and we are honored to welcome him as a formal and executive partner in our efforts. He and James Harp will make a great team in bringing high-quality opera performances and events and will enhance our efforts to be a committed, viable, energetic and sustainable arts presence in Maryland.

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Judith Waranch

President

Judith Waranch is a real estate lawyer and senior business executive with over 40 years of experience as a Maryland assistant attorney general, as partner in a large law firm, and as in-house general counsel in multi-million dollar real estate and business transactions.

 

Waranch is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland, and holds a J.D. degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. She attended the Institute for American Universities at Université Aix-Marseille in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is a graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Program. She serves as a Trustee of Stevenson University and is a former Trustee of the Modell-Lyric.

Sharon Wasserman

Treasurer

Sharon Wasserman holds a CPA and has a Masters of Business Administration from The University of Baltimore.  She has held a variety of leadership positions during her career, specializing in Health Care accounting.  Sharon developed her love of opera after having the unique opportunity to be a supernumerary in productions of Elektra and Madama Butterfly for the Baltimore Opera.  In the past she has volunteered for the MS Society of Maryland and is currently a member of Women in Insurance and Finance.  

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Edward Asher

Trustee

Asher is currently director of organization effectiveness for Northrop Grumman’s Corporate and Enterprise Services organization in Falls Church, Virginia. In more than 20 years with Northrop Grumman, he has held positions in organization and leadership development and human resources. Prior to Northrop Grumman, Asher led OE/OD organizations in the retailing, broadcasting and environmental services fields.

 

Asher currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington – Fairfax, and is the organization’s immediate past board chairman. He was previously on the on the board of trustees for the Washington National Opera at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in addition to a stint as board president for the Chamber Dance Project, a modern ballet company based in Washington, D.C.

Sandy Berman

Trustee

Sandra R. Berman is the president of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Charitable Foundation.  She is currently a board member of the Dyslexia Tutoring Program in Maryland, a member of the Healthcare Board for Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and a member of the Woman’s Advisory Council of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital.  She was awarded the Theodor Herzl Commemorative Medallion for the State of Israel Bonds of Baltimore in 2011 and was included in the Who’s Who of American Women.

Mary Chapman

Trustee

Mary Chapman holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and has a Masters of Business Administration from Cornell University, where she sang with the a cappella group Sound Investments. Over her 30-year career in international investing, she invested in over 40 countries. Following her return to Baltimore, she is engaged in STEAM education for elementary and secondary school students. She is a 1979 graduate of The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland. 

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Rob Hair

Trustee

Robert Hair holds a Bachelor of Arts in vocal performance from Converse College in South Carolina, a master’s degree in educational administration, from the University of South Carolina.  He began his career as a music teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, then an administrator at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. He currently serves as the superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind.

 

Mr. Hair has a long history of community service. He volunteered for the Arts Council, the cultural facilities planning committee and the community planning and accessibility committee in South Carolina and was president of the Spartanburg Repertory Company, a community opera performance group. In Boston, he served as a board member of Intermezzo, an organization that commissioned new operatic works. And now is proud to serve on the board of Maryland Opera.

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Howard Sobkov

Trustee

Howard Sobkov’s career spans 25 years in the finance, banking, and commercial real estate fields. He is a 1984 graduate of Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been president of the Alumni Board, and  served a three-year term on the board of trustees of Gilman School. He is past president of the alumni board at Gilman. Sobkov is happily married with two sons. He also teaches wine education to interested parties.

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Peter Williams

Trustee

Dr. Williams earned his medical degree at Harvard. He practiced hospital psychiatry for 20 years before getting an MBA at Johns Hopkins and transitioning into the world of medical benefits administration. He lives in an old house in northern Baltimore County with his wife and keeps close contact with his two adult children and one grandchild.

 

“Since my mother played her Benny Goodman recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, for me before I was five years old, I have been charmed by musical adventures in a very passionate way. However, when I first heard and saw opera, Orfeo at the Metropolitan, I was powerfully and permanently captured. Now, I hope to offer the same transformational experience to many others.”