Apollo's Fire
Mar 03, 2021 7:30 AM
Howard Bender, Executive Director
Apollo's Fire

Howard Bender's history in arts management began by founding a multi-disciplinary, sister-city, international arts festival, TodiMusicFest, in Hampton Roads, (southeastern) Virginia, producing the Virginia premieres of Aïda, Nabucco and Manon Lescaut. Prior to that, he experienced a 28 year career as an operatic tenor on four continents including four seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Recently, he has served as Chief Development Officer of Florida Grand Opera (Miami/Fort Lauderdale) where he increased Non-Board Individual giving by 68%, met and exceeded a $200,000 matching gift initiative within 5 months, and increased the Foundation sector by 18%. As Vice-President of Virginia Opera, he served a Board leadership of ninety, co-leading this statewide organization with an annual Budget of $5.3 million and mainstage productions in three cities, to consecutive years of balanced budgets, surpassing contributed income goals by 15% in FY17 and 8% in FY18. Contributed revenue during his five year tenure increased 72% in Central and Northern Virginia. He created new contributed revenue streams such as the Adopt-a-School Program and the Virginia is for Opera Lovers tourism initiative that garnered six-figure support, and managed the company’s largest corporate sponsor.  Prior to being recruited by Virginia Opera, Maestro Lorin Maazel chose him to re-configure and reposition the Castleton Festival as Director of Institutional Advancement and External Relations. That tenure afforded him the opportunity to collaborate with a world renowned musical figure, to conceive and execute new artistic and education/outreach programming that increased the bottom line.  The restructuring process included growing its funding base (41%) and its patron base (30%). 

He brings to Apollo’s Fire a thorough knowledge of classical music repertoire and performing arts management, as well as their history, traditions and techniques acquired during his singing career and 20 year management career. He succeeded in securing new revenue streams and new audiences for operatic and symphonic performances, recruiting new board members and major stakeholders in competitive marketplaces such as Metro DC, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Richmond and Hampton Roads, VA.

Bender was a frequent guest at the opera houses of Montréal, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, Pittsburgh, Portland, Spoleto USA, Düsseldorf, Spoleto Festival di Due Mondi, Palermo and Tel Aviv, and with the symphony orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Jerusalem and the Israel Philharmonic. He has collaborated with James Levine, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sir Richard Bonynge, James Conlon, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Asher Fisch, Gerard Schwarz, Harry Bicket, Robert Spano, Bernard Uzan, Ian Judge, Colin Graham, Günter Krämer, and Frédéric Chaslin.  

He holds a Bachelor of Music and a Postgraduate Diploma in Voice from Manhattan School of Music. During his student years, he supported himself as Cantor of two major New York synagogues and during his operatic career, served synagogues throughout Southeastern Florida, Israel, Canada and Germany. In Cleveland, he served frequently as guest Cantor for Temple on the Heights (B’nai Jeshurun) and The Park Synagogue. He has been recognized by Coretta Scott King for extraordinary work in bringing diverse communities together through shared musical experiences. He is a Cleveland native, a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, and was an apprentice to Cleveland’s renowned Master Cantor Saul Meisels.