The recent hiring of Joseph Specter as Arizona Opera’s new general director isn’t the first time in this last year that Phoenix and Austin have shared organizational arts leaders. Last December, the former director of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Cory Baker, began a VP role at Austin’s Long Center for the Arts. Now, Arizona Opera is getting Specter, who served as Austin Opera’s general director since 2012.
Specter is busy preparing for his upcoming move to Arizona this summer, saying the transition is a “whirlwind of the best kind.” Strengthening the core of an arts organization has long been a part of his career path. Prior to his time in Austin, Specter worked at the famed Metropolitan Opera as the director of institutional relations. He also spent time working on Wall Street with institutional investors, but the opera arena is the one he prefers the most. Specter is a former professional baritone with quite a list of performance accomplishments under his belt.
“Music is my passion,” Specter says. “I started singing when I was 6, in choirs. I began singing at the Kennedy Center at age 10.”
He studied political science at Tufts University and also attended the New England Conservatory of Music. He stuck with music after graduation, and his achievements include singing with the Metropolitan Opera for three seasons.
“I am always interested in bridging the gap between where opera is today and the communities it serves,” he says. “I have always loved every minute of that part of this work, and now I am really thrilled to be able to have a chance to do that for both Phoenix and Tucson – it’s an incredible opportunity for which I am very grateful.”
Though it’s the same job title and position he held in Austin, Specter sees the differences, along with the similarities, but is mostly looking at the potential.
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“A lot of great things were realized by Arizona Opera’s former general director, Ryan Taylor,” Specter says. “This is a role I love filling, and I think there’s so much opportunity to continue in those positive directions.”
Turns out, Taylor is another former baritone and the two were “young artists coming up through the ranks at the same time." Taylor is headed north to become president and general director at Minnesota Opera.
Specter gets the old adage, “There’s no ‘I’ in team,” noting that fostering diverse unions is beneficial on many levels.
“It’s never about one person,” he says. “It is about believing the mission of an organization and believing in the community that really deserves to be served by that organization. Getting to be a part of facilitating those connections is like nothing else, and for me, it’s an honor to be able to come and do that for the Arizona Opera."