CEO Dr. Shanté Williams makes history as first woman and person of color to lead Opera Carolina

Dr. Shanté Williams/Photo credit: Dr. Shanté Williams website

Opera Carolina has appointed Dr. Shanté Williams, a Charlotte businesswoman, as its new general director. She will be the first woman and person of color to lead the organization, which was founded in 1946.

Williams will take over from James Meena, who is also the principal conductor. The Charlotte opera company made the announcement on Monday. Meena will remain as artistic director while Williams takes on the role of general director, overseeing business operations at Opera Carolina, according to a news release.

This is the second major Charlotte performing arts group to elevate a person of color to top leadership in recent months, according to the Charlotte Observer. In December, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra named Kwamé Ryan, a 53-year-old Black man from Trinidad, as its new music director, breaking its 91-year tradition of white male leadership.

Williams’ new position commences on July 1. “With a dynamic staff and passionate board, we will embrace and expand the company’s role as a leader in Charlotte’s artistic community and an agent for healing, inspiration, and joy,” Williams stated in the announcement.

Board Chair Carol Kendrick praised Williams for her successful track record in fundraising, business, and support for Opera Carolina. Williams played a key role in producing “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson,” featuring mezzo-soprano opera star Denyce Graves, according to the news release.

The February performance highlighted the life and work of Mary Cardwell Dawson, a North Carolina native and opera pioneer who founded the first commercially successful Black opera company. The production was a passion project for mezzo-soprano Graves.

“I am confident that under her (Williams’) guidance, Opera Carolina will continue to flourish and achieve great success,” Graves said in the news release. “Her commitment to excellence matched with her unwavering determination will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the company and its future.”

Founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club, Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas, serving over 70,000 people across North Carolina, South Carolina, and northern Georgia. The organization offers opera, education, and community programs. Meena has been its maestro since 2000. Opera Carolina will celebrate its 75th season on October 30 with a benefit concert featuring Italian singer Andrea Bocelli.

Williams, CEO of Black Pearl Vision and its parent company Black Pearl Global Investments, a $25 million venture capital fund, has invested in healthcare startups across North America, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Known for her innovative chemotherapy treatments for high-grade invasive brain tumors, Williams has held leadership roles in the healthcare and electric drive vehicle industries. The Charlotte native founded RW Capital Partners, specializing in real estate, technology, startups, and business dispute resolution.

She has received numerous awards for her business and entrepreneurship efforts and serves as chair emeritus of the board of directors for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 26, 2024

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