Photography by Dero Sanford
“I hope to lead a culture where creativity and bold thinking is unleashed. Where our stakeholders know they are trusted, valued and that their work is essential to our organization.”
At Opera in the Rock, the vote was unanimous – Fred Owens is < quite literally > the lead! Vast experience in theater production paired with an impressive resume as a master of management + strategic planning qualify this native Arkansan to continue the vision of Opera in the Rock.
Fred recalls his first encounter as a “chance meeting” with former Chairman Josh Price; Opera in the Rock immediately sparked his interest. After several more conversations, while waiting for COVID to “pass over” New York City, Fred knew he could play a role in the future development of the organization. “What attracted me to Opera in the Rock was its incredible storied past. An opera company with a history of being committed to progressive thought and access is something that you don’t take for granted – particularly in the heart of the South,” he emphasizes, “There’s a lot of work to be done to make the Opera in the Rock experience even more accessible. That’s work that really excites and appeals to me.” Now, Fred considers himself a bi-city dweller – spending his time in Arkansas and New York City.
Established in 2012, Opera in the Rock is the state’s only Professional Company Member of Opera America. A critical component of the organization’s mission fulfillment work includes making opera more inclusive and available to all Arkansans. It’s strategic partnerships – with a shared vision of enriching the culture of Central Arkansas – that is the future of Opera in the Rock. “These values resonate with me and my own life experiences as a performing arts practitioner. It’s a place whose story I can tell from a genuine and authentic place.”
His professional tenure includes Unity Fellowship Breaking Ground President & CEO, work as Project Enterprise Director of Development – providing financial support to small businesses throughout New York City – as well as marketing and public relations expertise for a New York City Broadway production company. Fred brings these credentials as well as a love for The Natural State to this most recent endeavor. “As Opera in the Rock President & CEO, I serve as the organization’s primary spokesperson and ambassador enthusiastically representing opera, engaging in civic activities and promoting our role as a leading community asset. I am also a driver for artistic, educational, social and economic vitality. Additionally, I foster authentic and deeply collaborative relationships with other arts organizations and businesses that advance mutually beneficial initiatives and outcomes. And lastly, I guide and inspire our team to explore new strategies and programs that expand access, increase audiences and ensure our long-term success.”
Under Fred’s leadership, Opera in the Rock will present the highly anticipated Divas in the Rock series featuring Mary Bridget Davis – a wonderful interpreter of Janis Joplin’s music. Performer Mary Bridget Davis received a Best Actress Tony nomination for her role in A Night with Janis Joplin. Fred notes, “This production is very special to us because it’s the 79th birthday of Janis Joplin and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy her many timeless classics.” Guests can expect to experience a night of blues, soul, gospel, rock and country music. The production represents the organization’s vision to create a broad appeal that celebrates the magic of voice + music – “connecting people in a very human way through the arts.” Fred concludes, “The arts connect and teaches us about ourselves and those around us in ways like nothing else can. We must be at the center of daily life, very much a part of urgent conversations and solutions. Opera in the Rock is critical to the arts, it’s critical Arkansas.”