The 2016–2017 season is Thomas Bankston's 21st year providing artistic leadership for Dayton Opera. From 1996 to 2001, his wide-ranging knowledge of the field of opera was shared between Dayton Opera and Cincinnati Opera. At the start of the 2001–2002 season, he assumed the position of Artistic Director for Dayton Opera on a full-time basis. In 2004, he was named General & Artistic Director of Dayton Opera.
In July 2012, the Dayton Opera merged with the Dayton Ballet and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra to form the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, where he continues his artistic leadership as Artistic Director for the Dayton Opera.
With responsibility for the selection of artists, creative and production staffs, season productions, and repertory for Dayton Opera, he brings to that position his many years of expertise in the field of opera, ranging from his experience as a singer to his varied and extensive experience as an arts administrator. In his 19 years on the staff of Cincinnati Opera he served as Production Manager, Director of Education and Outreach, Director of Operations and Artistic Administrator.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, he received his Bachelor of Music in voice from Birmingham-Southern College and his Master of Music in voice from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, followed by further doctoral studies there. He also trained at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. He studied voice with renowned teachers Andrew Gainey and Andrew White, vocal coaching with Metropolitan Opera tenor John Alexander, Robert K. Evans and John Spong, and opera with legendary bass Italo Tajo. Prior to his professional move into the world of arts administration, he sang as an operatic baritone and appeared with such companies as Pittsburgh Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburgh Chamber Opera Theater and Whitewater Opera. He is also a sought-after adjudicator for vocal competitions throughout the region. In June 2004, he was honored by the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Bankston lives in Centerville, OH with his wife, Frances Golson Bankston, a pianist and retired elementary music educator. In that community he also serves as a member of the Centerville Arts Commission.