2024 Top 20 Impact Makers Honorees
2024 Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker Award
Saturday, April 27, 2024
Four Seasons Hotel Houston
Khori Dastoor is an innovative arts administrator and a true believer in the Houston community.
Khori has served as general director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera, and held the company’s Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, since August 2021. Khori brings credentials as a lyric soprano and trailblazing arts administrator with her to HGO. She is the previous general director of Opera San José (OSJ), where she began as artistic advisor in 2013.
Khori’s journey with opera began when she was very young. Growing up in California, she sang with a children’s choir. After earning her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and master’s degree in opera studies from the University of California, she performed as an opera singer for 15 years before transitioning to foundation work and arts administration.
At HGO, Khori’s focus is on creating profoundly enriching experiences for diverse audiences centered around the human voice. She believes that if that is successful, everything else, including reaching the company’s artistic goals; fostering the careers of the most promising emerging artists in opera; growing audiences throughout Houston; securing HGO’s fiscal health; maintaining a culture of diversity, equity, and belonging; and creating an overall sustainable future, will follow. Her fundamental job, she says, is to drive HGO’s vision and mission, while maximizing resources to achieve the company’s goals.
“Khori is a true visionary for the art of opera,” says Claire Liu, chair of the HGO Board of Directors. “Her experience singing with international opera companies, working for a philanthropist focused on the arts and humanities, and leading an opera company has given her a unique perspective when it comes to inspiring the employees, the audience, and donors. Her energy and enthusiasm for HGO is contagious. It has been a pleasure to work alongside her as we craft a strategy to make opera accessible for all Houstonians.”
During her first season with HGO, Khori oversaw the expansion of the online art-sharing initiative, HGO Digital, to include a livestream of the production, The Snowy Day, which aired in 35 countries and was the first-ever livestream of a company world premiere. In 2022, under Khori’s leadership, HGO commissioned a new mainstage production of The Wreckers, an opera composed by Ethel Smyth in 1906. The production marked the first-ever staging of the forgotten masterpiece by an American opera company. In October 2023, Khori led HGO to open its new season with a world-premiere opera—Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Intelligence—for the first time in company history.
Since joining HGO, Khori has made it her priority to broaden the company’s scope and deepen its partnerships throughout the city to welcome new Houstonians to the art form. The company collaborated with a record 140 community organizations, with art presented at 32 venues across Houston, during the 2022-23 season, including Giving Voice at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and company world-premiere chamber opera Another City at Ecclesia Houston. In February 2024, HGO will present its 76th world premiere, The Big Swim, in partnership with Asia Society Texas.
In fall 2023, HGO announced its new partnership with Apple Music Classical, Apple Music’s new app for classical music lovers, with the aim of sharing its world-class music-making with a broader audience than ever before. “As an international company serving an international city, one that each season hosts singers and musicians of peerless artistry,” says Khori, “we invite you to join us from around the globe.” HGO, the second American opera company to join forces with the brand, will be sharing new releases on the platform alongside selections from its rich back catalogue of recordings.
Khori’s influence on the operatic world extends beyond her current and prior company appointments. She is a member of the board of directors for OPERA America, cochair of its Learning and Leadership Council, and a founding member of its Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color. The keynote speaker for the 2023 National Opera Alliance conference, last season she served as a judge for the Richard Tucker Awards and the Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition.
Khori has had little trouble transitioning from California to Houston. She is delighted to raise her two girls in a city with such delicious food, world-class artistic offerings, and warm and kind people.
Khori believes HGO is uniquely positioned to advance the future of grand opera, and that fills her with optimism. She hopes to bust myths surrounding the art form and around who classical music is for, while inspiring future generations of opera lovers. She says her job gives her the chance to do that, and she is very excited to go to work every day.
It is for all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, that Khori Dastoor has been named a Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker for 2024.