Detroit Opera and the Detroit Opera House are grateful for all of our volunteers! From tour guides, docents, ambassadors, and more, each volunteer is an integral part of not only our operations, but our family. National Volunteer Week is April 17th through the 23rd, and Detroit Opera would like to give a special shoutout to our ushers, a dedicated group of volunteers who are the first to welcome guests to the Detroit Opera House.
As the chimes hit those four synchronous notes, a sound that for theater goers around the world means only one thing, the Detroit Opera House ushers increase their tempo. It is 15 minutes to curtain! The multitude of patrons milling in the ornate grand lobby are enjoying the gorgeous Italian Renaissance style designs of renowned architect, C. Howard Crane, while strolling in the three-story atrium under Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, but know it is now time to be seated.
Our dedicated, energetic, and diverse team of volunteers has already been busy for a while, but now it is time to really multi-task as those chimes continue amidst the din of the guests converging on the theatre entrance. The volunteer ushers perform a number of vital tasks like scan tickets, seat guests, answer questions, provide directions to everything from the restrooms to the balcony, solve challenges and more to ensure patrons have a marvelous time at the Detroit Opera House. It’s showtime again! As performances resume, however, some volunteers have not returned to their volunteer activities and help is needed.
Currently, Detroit Opera has over 250 volunteers that make up the amazing team of ushers. This is a significant reduction from our normal cohort of over 400. With a full schedule of opera, dance and other live performances, the usher corps needs more volunteers.
As a beacon of arts and culture in the Metro Detroit area, Detroit Opera strives to diversify our production offerings, and we are also taking steps to diversify the usher corps. “We very much want the volunteer corps at Detroit Opera House to reflect the community that it lives in, that it serves and welcomes to every show. This is a marvelous place to share skills you have, learn new skills, enjoy the arts and volunteer with fabulous, friendly people,” explained Alexis Means, director of operations and patron experience.
Becoming an usher for Detroit Opera has its perks. Ushers can view the shows they work for free, and parking is free too. Studies have shown that volunteering can help boost self-confidence, increase social and relationship skills, and even create career opportunities. When Detroit Opera is looking to fill paid usher positions, they hire exclusively within the volunteer corps.
Kathie Booth is one of the most tenured ushers and worked her way up from volunteer to a paid usher staffing position. Booth joined the volunteer corps shortly after the Detroit Opera House renovations in 1996. “I feel like we act as ambassadors for the opera house and the city,” Booth said. “Quite often we’re assisting with directions on where to park, where to eat and where to find other things downtown. That’s the part I enjoy [most].” In addition to her work at Detroit Opera, Booth has also volunteered at several performance venues throughout the city. She’s recently been ramping up her efforts to bring in new members to the Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association (MOTVA).
“We understand that people come [to volunteer] for different reasons but you have to feel good about what you’re doing,” she said. “You may have to answer the question of ‘where’s the restroom’ 50 times an evening but for that guest, it may be the first time they’re visiting the opera house and you’re making sure they have a wonderful experience.”
Solomon Dudley is one of the newest members of the group, having joined during the 2021-22 season. A recent University of Michigan – Dearborn graduate, Dudley wanted to continue his passion for the arts and thought Detroit Opera was the perfect opportunity to do so. “I’ve been doing theatre since I was a little kid,” he said. During the pandemic, Dudley organized virtual concerts with fellow theatre fans to benefit local organizations such as the Detroit Phoenix Center. “Finding that Detroit Opera is aligned with some of the interests and purpose I have is what really got me to become an usher.” The 23-year-old is among the youngest of the corps and hopes that by working in tandem with Detroit Opera, he is helping to create multigenerational relationships.
“It really gives me another sense of teamwork and collaboration,” he said. “The future is bright. People my age have so many opportunities that come our way that may not be income oriented but if you have a love for arts and want to be a part of a community, this is a great way to get involved.”
Everyone has something to contribute. Detroit Opera and Detroit Opera House need you! Signing up to volunteer is super easy. Training times are flexible and we really have fun! Visit our website HERE and fill out the form. We can’t wait to have you join our family.