Donor Profile: Laurie Warner
by Carolle Carter
To know the people of Opera San José is to know Laurie Warner. Laurie is in her third year as President of the Opera San José Board of Trustees, but her commitment to the company began when she became a board member in Opera San Jose’s first official season – 1984-85. She has been increasingly active with the company since she first met Opera San José founder, Irene Dalis, at a fundraiser for the Opera Workshop in 1982. When Laurie joined Opera San José’s volunteer corp, Friends of Opera, she admits she had only been to one opera, but according to Laurie, “Opera Outreach drew me in. I taught elementary school and I know how important the arts are for young minds.” She has been a dedicated supporter of the company ever since.
Laurie began attending the opera with her husband, Michael, and three daughters, who are now grown. They introduced their children to opera at a fairly young age, subscribing to the San José Community Opera Theatre in 1982, and buying the entire second row at the Montgomery Theater so their girls could bring friends.
Laurie is passionate about the arts and it shows in her profound commitment to Opera San José. “The arts are very important to me. The arts inspire creativity in all fields, and we live in one of the most creative parts of the country. Opera encompasses all the arts. It has the visual in the form of sets, costumes and lighting; it has orchestral music, dancers, memorable choruses and most of all -wonderful classically trained singers who tell interesting stories through their beautiful music.”
Laurie says, “We don’t need to know opera to enjoy it. Most everyone is familiar with much of the music. The more one experiences opera, the more one learns about this wonderful art form.”
As Board President, Laurie is deeply concerned with fundraising. “In our current environment ticket sales only cover 45% of our costs. Raising money for the arts is very challenging, but individuals have always been our best supporters. They provide more than half of our donated income. Several companies will match their employees’ donations.” She encourages patrons to find out if their company matches donations. “It can double your gift!”
Laurie has made it her mission to educate the world about the unique experience that is Opera San José. “Everyone, especially local people, should be thrilled that we have this unique professional organization serving our area. Opera San José is one- of–a-kind. We are the only resident company in the United States. Our resident singers will leave us having learned and sung up to sixteen major roles and go on to sing actively all over the world.”
Thirty years after her first opera experience, Laurie now sees both casts when Opera San José performs, and will even see each cast more than once. High energy, commitment, and above all, a love of opera – this is Laurie Warner.
In addition to her board membership with Opera San José, Laurie and her husband, Mike, are actively involved with the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and San Jose Jazz, where Mike is chairman of the board.