Donor Profile: Jeanne McCann

by Carolle Carter

Jeanne McCannOpera San José Board member Jeanne McCann had the good fortune to be born into a musical family in Atlanta, Georgia. Her mother played the piano and her father a baritone horn. Often they played music together and Jeanne sang along. When she was old enough, she sang in the church choir and she says, “Later I did some small performing. Music has always talked to me, opened doors for me, spoken to my soul. Music has enlarged my world.”

Jeanne and her late husband, Jack, came to San Jose in 1972.  That was about the time Irene Dalis, who is retiring at the end of next season, returned to her home town and became involved with the Music Department at San Jose State University. “Our lives crossed when I joined the Friends of the Opera,” Jeanne said. This was a guild that volunteers had started to support the Opera Workshop, which ultimately developed into Opera San José.

Currently President of the Endowment Fund and Vice-President for Planned Giving, Jeanne is committed to activities that benefit the community. That includes financial support for the arts because, she says, “There are no pockets in shrouds.”

“Money is always a problem for opera companies, but our farsighted management has made OSJ a success. We like to say Irene ‘knows how to sharpen her pencil.’

“About ten years ago I became Vice-President for Planned Giving and Endowment.  We call it the PG&E.  Now, the Endowment Fund is kept as a separate 501C3 foundation.”

She emphasizes that OSJ is a special company. “There is no other like it,” she says, “and the Board recognizes this uniqueness. We start every meeting by reading our mission statement so we don’t forget it. Irene has built a fantastic organization. She is irreplaceable.” Dalis will continue to be emerita and to participate in OSJ.

In addition to her Board responsibilities, Jeanne underwrites a Fellowship for one or two of the resident singers. This year Evan Brummel and Nicole Birkland are McCann Fellows.  She says that over the years the Fellows have been special to her and she tries to follow their careers.

“I like to open the doors to opera for people,” she said.  “Opera is musical soap opera.  It opens up the world and gives memorable experiences to those who partake of it. It is a tool of communication and creative undertaking, like art in a museum.”