Posted by John Dean on Jul 30, 2019
President Casey Blair (Financial Services: Private Trading | Feis Options) opened the meeting and welcomed several visiting Rotarians. Brent Cunningham, a member of our Club from 2012 to 2016, was visiting from Reno, NV where he is a member of the Reno Central Club.
We also had several guests, including Andy Fraknoi, a guest of Peter Logan (Law: Insurance | Peter Logan Law Offices). Andy is an astronomer (and long-time opera fan) and previously was a guest speaker at one of our Club luncheons. Hana Xu Wang (Financial Services: Advising | Wang Wealth Management) introduced her guest, Adrian Anderson, a CPA. Christopher Wiseman (Event Planning | Glaucoma Research Foundation) introduced his guest, Bill Gregory. Lilian Tsi-Stielstra (Insurance: Services | Retired) introduced her son Peter, a junior at UC Berkeley, and noted this was his second visit to our Club; the first was when he was three months old! Carol Ede (Homemaker | Retired) introduced her guest, Marilu Klar.
Casey recapped several recent activities, including:
  • July 11: The first evening of “Twilight Golf” at Harding Park. Several members enjoyed a low-key nine holes of golf followed by fellowship and snacks.
  • July 15: Dinner at The Arc. Several members helped prepare dinner for clients of The Arc, then enjoyed eating and socializing with clients and staff.
President Casey noted that the busy summer continues with a number of great upcoming events and activities, including:
  • July 20: Rotary District 5150 Potential Rotary Leaders Seminars. This six-hour training is the basic leadership course for Rotary members. It covers speaking, leadership, organization and other skills.
  • July 21: Rotaplast Bocce Tournament and BBQ.
  • July 25: Twilight Golf at Harding Park. Tee time is 4:30 PM. A quick nine holes, with refreshments and fellowship to follow. Plan ahead: upcoming dates are August 8 and August 22.
  • July 29: SPARK Food Truck Social. Select your food and a beverage from the food truck vendor of your choice, then join fellow Rotarians, prospective members, family, guests, and pets around the fire pit to roast s’mores (s’mores courtesy of our Club).
  • July 30: Celebrate the newly-chartered San Francisco Rotaract Club, the only community-based Rotaract Club in the City. This new club is co-sponsored by our Club and the Rotary Club of San Francisco Evening. The event will be held 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Academy of Art Automobile Museum at 1849 Washington Street in San Francisco. Thanks to Michael Petricca (Education Management | Academy of Art) for arranging access to the Museum.
  • August 14: New Member Welcome Event at the home of Deborah Wakefield (Elder Care and Senior Services | Concierge Senior Care and Family Support). Enjoy a chance to meet and socialize with new members of our Club. All members (new and long-term) and prospective members are invited.
  • August 25: Oakland A’s and Giants Baseball in Oakland. Co-sponsored by several Bay Area Rotary Clubs. We will have a great pre-game BBQ with refreshments, then go into the stadium to watch the game from a block of reserved seats. A great opportunity to socialize with Rotarians from nearby Clubs.
We inducted two new members into our Club:
  • Paul Robertson (Real Estate: Sales | Keller Williams San Francisco) lives and works in San Francisco. He graduated from the University of San Francisco, then lived for ten years in New York City. He is very interested in youth services and Club operations.
  • Terry Pickering (Banking: Management | Retired) recently moved to the Bay Area after retiring as Senior Vice President of America West Bank. He was a long-time Rotarian in the state of Washington, where he previously served as District Governor of District 5030. Terry lives in Lafayette and looks forward to fellowship and continuing his active involvement in Rotary.
Welcome to both of these great new members!
Those making donations of $20 or more included:
  • Rhonda Poppen (Grant Writing | GRANTdog) congratulated Casey on a great start to his term as President and expressed her regrets at missing his first meeting as President last week due to a work commitment.
  • Jianying Chen (Healthcare: Acupuncture | American Institute of Zhizhen Therapy and New Qigong) donated in honor of his wedding. He also presented a gift of two glass swans to Dan Joraanstad (Financial Services: Advising | Retired) in gratitude for Dan’s support.
  • John Mathers (Management Consulting | eVo Associates) donated in celebration of his upcoming fishing trip to Eureka with his grandchildren.
  • Neeraj Miglani (Hospitality: Restaurants | Zingari Ristorante) donated in celebration of two recent trips. First, he went camping and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Second, he visited Austria and met with several biodynamic wine producers, which allowed him to not only sample fine wines but to gather information to expand the wine program at his restaurant.
  • Lilian Tsi-Stielstra donated in honor of her son’s Peter’s current internship with the San Francisco Shakespeare Company. Peter has a major role in the current production of As You Like It. Lilian encouraged members of the Club to support this great local performing arts company.
  • Peter Logan donated $20 on behalf of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival summer program, noting that the organization is grateful to have Peter Stielstra as an intern.
  • Andi Valo-Espina (Haberdashery | Andrea-E-Soci Custom Tailoring) donated in honor of meeting with her best friend, Esther Lerner (Law: Family | Lerner-Poole), who just arrived. Andi also announced that it was Esther’s birthday, which led to everyone singing Happy Birthday.
  • Raymond Erickson-King (Nonprofit Management | The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Center) donated to celebrate that he won the Hamilton online ticket lottery, which allows the winner to purchase a ticket for only $10. He got a front-row seat. He encouraged everyone to see the show…and to use the lottery to try to avoid the expensive ticket prices.
  • Eric Schmautz (Banking Management | Wells Fargo) donated $100 in honor of the nice article featuring him in the current Rotarian magazine. If you haven’t seen it in your copy of the Rotarian, you can see it here.
President Casey announced that Anita Stangl (Medical Services | Alliance for Smiles) underwent successful knee replacement surgery last week and is resting at home. He also announced that Bob Hermann’s (Information Technology: Administration | Retired) uncle passed away this week.
Our guest speaker today was Sheri Greenawald. Sheri had a distinguished international career as an opera singer. Since 2002, she has been the director of the Merola Opera Program, widely considered to be one of the foremost training programs in the world for aspiring singers and accompanists. She also serves as director of the San Francisco Opera Center. (Interesting footnote: Rick Harrell (Arts Therapy | Heroes’ Voices) was Sheri’s predecessor at the Opera Center.)
Sheri provided a “behind the scenes” look at the Merola Opera Program, including its rigorous selection process. The purpose of Merola is to identify and develop young operatic talent. Virtually every opera program in the United States has Merola graduates in its company. Merola attracts the very best young operatic talent in the United States and the world.
Merola receives 800-900 applications each year. There are only 23 slots for singers (over 500 applicants audition), five slots for pianists, and one slot for a director. Those selected participate in an intense 11-week program where they are coached by the finest opera and stage coaches. Sheri described the training program as “intense” and “aggressive.” At the end of the program students perform in San Francisco Opera productions.
Graduates of Merola receive a $12,000 career grant. Sheri encourages the graduates to use the funds for a European audition tour to further their development by securing a position with one of the many European operatic companies.
Two singers and two pianists are selected annually from the Merola program as Adler Fellows, where they continue to train with the San Francisco Opera as members of the company.
Sheri noted that the future of opera is the subject of very intense discussion. For example, it does not lend itself to viewing on personal electronic devices such as laptops and smart phones. From Sheri’s viewpoint, to develop younger audiences and remain viable, opera companies must do work of the highest quality. In addition, they must look to smaller venues for some productions and they must aggressively market to younger audiences. That includes attractive pricing and targeted marketing efforts.
Rick Harrell noted that he performed with Sheri on several occasions, including at the Santa Fe Opera. He considers her a tremendous singing talent and a fabulous teacher. He noted that she is considered one of the great singing actresses of her generation who has touched many lives and careers through her teaching at Merola.
President Casey presented Sheri with a certificate indicating 100 children have been inoculated against polio in her name.
Past President Rhonda then led a champagne toast in honor of President Casey; champagne courtesy of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.
Our door prize winner was Rick Harrell. The prize, donated by Christopher Wiseman, was two tickets to Merola's world premier performance of If I Were You, tickets to two other Merola events, and a bottle of champagne.
Photos by Nahla Awad (Engineering, Architecture, and Construction | ABA Global) and others
Edited by Scott Plakun (Management Consulting | The Plakun Group)