Thursday, June 08, 2023

NIC instructor takes new role at Inland Northwest Opera

Staff Writer | May 5, 2023 1:00 AM

Maximiano "Max" Mendez will fill the role of general director for the Inland Northwest Opera beginning June 12.

“The universe sort of aligned itself,” Mendez said about being hired for the position. “I’m always looking for opportunities to grow as an artist.”

But as a result of the exciting promotion opportunity, Mendez is also retiring from his role as director of choirs and instructor at North Idaho College to assume the role at INO. Mendez has been at NIC for 18 years.

“I feel not only connected to the campus and students, but I’ve been connected to the community through NIC,” Mendez said.

But Mendez in some ways is returning to his roots by joining the opera. Before NIC, he worked with INO early in his career, first as a singer and as chorus master with the founders, Mark and Marlo Faulkner and Ann Monzo. Rejoining now is an opportunity to give back to the community and make opera accessible to everyone.

“Max is a longtime friend and supporter of the organization,” said INO Board Chair Mary Velasquez in an email to members. “His love of opera and the Inland Northwest, plus his knowledge, skills and experience make him uniquely qualified to lead INO into the future along with our artistic director, Dan Wallace Miller.”

Mendez has been active in the Inland Northwest music community for nearly 25 years and has acted as division chair of Communication and Fine Arts for NIC.

His vision for the opera incorporates inclusivity, an emphasis on community, blending local cultures and incorporating local voices into the path forward.

“One of the things I’ve always believed in is connecting our community with the power of storytelling,” Mendez said. “It’s an important part of building community.”

Mendez believes passionately in the awesome and profound power of music to bring people together and he’ll aspire to connect the opera to everyone, with a traveling opera truck, through collaborations in Spokane or with the Fox Theatre, and with local exciting shows selected by Miller.

“I’m really big on collaborations,” Mendez said. “So I’m really looking for collaborations with cultural groups.”

Mendez has worked in the opera world for the last 33 years, starting as a developing artist in the chorus of Opera Pacific, Orange County, Calif. Mendez has also served as chorus master for the INO from 2001-2019. He served on the Board of Directors for Spokane Public Radio and is currently on the board of the Coeur d’Alene Arts & Culture Alliance. As an arts administrator, he was a founder and artistic director of Spokane Choral Artists.

Mendez still believes in the mission and purpose of North Idaho College, he said, but joining the INO in June will be the next logical step in his career.

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