Drawing from years of work experience in music therapy and classical voice, Summer Ward is joining Inland Northwest Opera’s management team as executive director.
Starting midway through INO’s 2022 season, Ward had her work cut out for her, marketing director Melody Heaton said.
“We threw her in at the deep end,” Heaton said. “Jumping into the middle of a season – it’s never easy for anyone. And we just really, really appreciate her.”
Ward replaces Dawn Wolski, who stepped down last month after five years at the helm of Inland Northwest Opera to spend more time with her family.
As “the air clears,” Ward, 31, looks forward to exploring the Inland Northwest and finding new ways to make the arts accessible.
“On a fundamental level, I’m looking forward to making connections, personally with our sponsors and donors, making connections with other organizations and businesses … really developing the community we’re part of,” she said.
Today, Ward is more likely to spend her free time singing a bluegrass tune than an aria. But, one way or another, “music has always been the center of my sphere,” she said.
Ward grew up in Denver surrounded by her father’s eclectic taste and musicianship.
“I always really enjoyed the complexity and the level of technique within classical music,” she said. “For me, as a musician, that foundation really allowed me to branch into whatever else I wanted to explore within the world of music.”
Ward began studying classical voice at 10 years old and continued her studies through her undergraduate years. But the life of a touring musician wasn’t for her.
“As much as I love music, I also really enjoy structure … and in the sciences, I found a fusion of those two worlds,” she said, explaining her path into music therapy.
Over the years, as she began stepping into administration and health care alongside her musical career, moving into a leadership position felt like a logical next move – a challenge she was ready to meet.
“As a music therapist, a lot of my job is education and programming … and those are two things that I know … will be really easy to fuse together.”
Ward’s experience in the world of music therapy, specializing in mental health and neurology, has offered her a wealth of new ideas for the company. But now, her focus at Inland Northwest Opera is more structural.
“The priority is to make sure that we are operating smoothly as is – that we have the groundwork ready to go,” she said. But in the future, she has hopes for expansion.
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