From 1974 to present day, the Central City Opera Guild has been a pillar of support for the Central City Opera’s mission: To enrich the lives and communities of those we serve and to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment of beauty and meaning. From fundraising events, such as the annual Opera Teaser and L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour, to planting flowers in the opera house gardens and preparing the surrounding properties for our festival artists, the Guild has been a long standing asset in the success of this organization. Today, we talk about the importance of volunteering and how passion can lead to positive impact. Meet Louise Atkinson, our 2022 Central City Opera Guild President!
What is your background with Central City Opera (CCO)?
I have been a volunteer and donor since 2013 when our first daughter, Catherine, was a Flower Girl in the Yellow Rose Ball. From that moment, I was so connected to CCO for its mission and the wonderful people I met that we, as a family, decided to invest our time in volunteering and exploring more parts of CCO. For almost 10 years I have enjoyed driving up to Central City for performances and special events like Dinner on Stage. We even participated in a second Yellow Rose Ball for my younger daughter, Caroline. We have had so many other great experiences.
Whenever I am in Central City, it always brings back memories of driving up on Sunday afternoons with my parents and my sister to visit and experience this small historic mining town. Even today, with Black Hawk down the road and more development, it still feels like the same special place to me and brings back those childhood memories.
How/why did you get involved with the CCO Guild?
As I mentioned, I have been going to Central City with my family since I was a child. My sister and I always wanted to see the Teller House and Face on the Ballroom Floor. We were a little afraid of the picture of Baby Doe for some reason, but the overall family experience when we went to Central City was a very happy one. I was always curious about the historic aspects and interested in how these beautiful, old properties were preserved over time. Growing up, I played both classical flute and piano as well as jazz piano. I always had a love for classical music and was encouraged to attend operas on occasion. It was probably unusual to like opera at a young age, but I was always drawn to it.
My grandparents were immigrants to the U.S. from Italy so my mother would speak Italian occasionally when I was growing up. Because of that, I began to favor Italian operas but over time I experienced and appreciated a variety of others. While I enjoyed music, I did not pursue it as a career because I was also very passionate about being in business. However, I promised myself that no matter what business field I ended up in, I would always have music and the arts in my life.
After MBA school, my first job brought me to San Francisco. While I was there, I always purchased season tickets to the opera. As I progressed quickly and unexpectedly through the executive ranks of my business jobs, I kept that promise to myself to never let go of my love for the arts. I became a member of the Central City Opera Guild in 2013 and never looked back. Our home was on the L’Esprit de Noël tour in 2014 and I continued to participate in the many events the Guild offers its members each year. It was difficult for me to work as a senior executive in the technology industry, and also volunteer, so I had to be selective about my time, treasure and talent. At the top of my list are organizations that have meaning in my life and music is always going to be on that list.
What do you like best about the Guild?
I like so many aspects of the Guild but the friendships I have made are the most meaningful. It is always fun to join up with friends to accomplish something together. Additionally, I like the “hands on” experiences the Guild offers to all its members. If you want to contribute to the mission of the organization, you can help plant flowers in the gardens of Central City Opera House and surrounding properties, as well as work on the historic properties on house warming days. My daughters and I volunteer at L’Esprit de Noël in the morning shifts and then we pick a favorite restaurant for lunch (or Voodoo Donuts) which makes for a lovely mother-daughter date. The Opera Teaser is never missed by my husband Bill. He always enjoys listening to a sneak preview of the wonderful songs that are coming up at the summer Festival. There is something for everyone!
Why do you think it is important to volunteer?
It is important to find something you are passionate about and an organization where you relate directly to the mission. Getting involved and helping an organization move forward and thrive even during challenging economic times is so important and helps to keep it relevant through the years. There are so many ways to contribute and volunteer at the Central City Opera Guild and everyone seems to find a place. The Guild builds a sense of community for our goals to keep opera vibrant in Colorado.
Are there other organizations that you are involved with?
Yes! I am involved in the Denver Ballet Guild and The University of Denver where I received my MBA. The Denver Ballet Guild is a strong arts organization that raises funds to support dance in Colorado. I am a Co-VP of Fundraising but have had a longstanding involvement. The University of Denver is where I was educated, and I have been in leadership roles including President of the Alumni Board. Prior to moving back to Denver after several years and moves in my career (six in total), I was on the Board of Trustees for the American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey. I loved serving in that role, but then I started to raise children and got transferred to different cities with my job so it was challenging to travel, be a senior executive, a good mother and volunteer.
I also have a deep interest and involvement in organizations that support getting more women and girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers so they can have a fulfilling career as well as economic security throughout their life. I am proud to say that both of my daughters have gone into STEM careers - Catherine is finishing up her clinical rotations for her Physician Assistant Master’s Degree and Caroline has another year of undergraduate work to complete her degree as a Bio Medical Engineer with an emphasis in Materials. Both are developing their interests in philanthropy and it’s been so great to watch them create those interests.
What is something interesting that people might not know about the Guild?
We do a lot of work on historic properties in Central City. This includes preparing the houses for the summer singers and staff (kitchen needs, mattress covers, etc.) and closing them after the Festival is finished (including all that laundry)! Planting Day is another great team event in which volunteers join up in Central City to plant all the beautiful flowers surrounding the opera house. L’Esprit de Noël is a holiday home tour and fundraiser just before Thanksgiving where thousands of people walk through beautifully decorated homes for the holidays.
If you are interested in joining the Central City Opera Guild, we welcome you! Please visit centralcityopera.org/guild for more information.