By Renee Larr
There’s a belief among many in show business that you shouldn’t start your career in your home town; rather you should venture out see what opportunities await.
Kevin Patterson did just that, but now he’s returned to his home state as the general director of the Indianapolis Opera.
“I loved going away and experiencing a lot of different things in the United States,” he said. “I had a lot of really wonderful experiences that my career has taken me (to), but deep down, when I come home, I’m always a Hoosier.”
Patterson grew up on the southeast side of Indianapolis and graduated from Warren Central High School before attending the Indiana University School of Music. His professional career in opera began in 1993 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. From there, his work took him to Pittsburgh, Austin and Anchorage, along with various other countries throughout the world. But the pull of the Hoosier state was strong. Patterson decided to move his family back to Indiana in August 2014.
“We were living in Anchorage, and we loved it, but Alaska is not the easiest of places to get,” he said. “Family kind of pulls you back.”
Patterson owns a private consultancy company and is also a professional auctioneer. He hoped those two jobs could keep him busy when he moved back to Carmel.
“I moved back to Carmel without any conception that I was going to work for another opera company. Then Indianapolis Opera approached me in December of 2014 at first on a consultancy basis. They were going through an organizational assessment of the company. They were also in talks to engage a potential general director candidate. That didn’t pan out for them, and they asked me if I would consider becoming general director of the company. I took over in February 2015,” Patterson said.
Carol Baker, director of community engagement for the Indianapolis Opera, said Patterson’s presence has already made a big difference in the organization.
“Kevin is known in the opera industry for doing really great work with the opera business as a whole. We really lucked out being able to draw in a person of his caliber to our organization,” Baker said. “It’s truly exceptional in the change that he’s brought about. I’m really excited the kind of work we will do in the next year, as well. I’m excited not only for the company but for our community.”
At the time he was hired, the Indianapolis Opera had recently undergone an organizational assessment to determine its future direction. In an unstable economic climate, many arts programs had shut down. The opera was hoping to prevent that from happening. Armed with the information from the assessment, Patterson and the opera began making some changes.
“There is an entirely new staff. The corporate culture of the old company doesn’t really exist anymore. We’ve moved out of Clowes Hall as our main home. We’re going to take our programming out to the public wherever that public might be,” Patterson said. “In August, we did the opera by Michael Nyman, who was the composer for the music (for) the movie ‘The Piano.’ It tells the story of a man who goes through his life with visual agnosia. We got together with seven mental health and neurology organizations around the city. We used that opera as a way in which to be a catalyst for dialogue in the community. We feel compelled to do more.”
In the future, Patterson hopes to keep some traditional aspects of the Indianapolis Opera but also help it change and grow with its audience. He’s looking to take the opera beyond Indianapolis into Carmel and elsewhere. He hopes to cultivate new talent with a resident artist program.
“You’re going to see a balance in the vision of the company between those traditional chestnuts that we all love and the new work that gets people talking about what’s going on in our community,” Patterson said.
Meet Kevin Patterson
Favorite Carmel restaurant: Bub’s Burgers. Loves the elk burgers.
Family: Wife, Dana, and daughter, Janelle
Pets: Cooper, the family Bichon
Favorite place to visit in the U.S.: “The two years we spent living in Alaska was amazing! Some of the best people on the planet.”
Dream vacation destination: Brewery hopping through Belgium on a bike
Favorite aspect of living in Carmel: It’s a great place to raise children.
Motto to live by: “If you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.”
Hobbies: Genealogy, swimming, biking
Indianapolis Opera schedule
Jan. 30-31 – Opera’s Rising Stars, Schrott Center for the Arts, Butler University
April 10 – Indianapolis Opera presents Resident Artist Company, Basile Opera Center
April 24 – Indianapolis Opera presents Resident Artist Company, Basile Opera Center
May 27 – Second annual Crescendo at White River State Park, The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn
July 16 – Annual Lobster Palooza Party, Basile Opera Center grounds