Artistic Directors


Thomas Bankston
Artistic Director, Dayton Opera

The 2020–2021 season will mark Thomas Bankston’s 25th 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.

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Kathleen Clawson
Artistic Director Designate, Dayton Opera

Kathleen Clawson’s multi-faceted career includes education, directing, and performing. Kathleen has worked with Dayton Opera for over 12 years as Stage Director for 15 performances, including most recently The Barber of Seville and Rigoletto in 2018, an imaginative staging of Salome to close the 2018-2019 season, and a lively production of the beloved La Cenerentola in 2020.

Clawson began stage direction in 1999 with a highly acclaimed production of the Pirates of Penzance. Kathleen began her association with Dayton Opera in 2009, directing L’elisir d’amore and has been back every season since, directing our productions of La Traviata, The Telephone, Faust, Fidelio, La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Great Wagner Concert, Aida, The Magic Flute, Otello, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Il barbiere di siviglia, Rigoletto, Salome, and returned this past season to direct Rossini’s La Cenerentola. In addition, she has directed for The Santa Fe Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Birmingham, The Vortex Theatre, Albuquerque Little Theatre, and Landmark Musicals.

 No stranger to the development of new works, Clawson directed the world premiere of Shoes for the Santo Niño (music by Stephen Paulus, libretto by Andrea Fellows Fineberg) for the Santa Fe Opera in 2011 and served as stage director and dramaturg for the 2016 world premiere of UnShakeable (music by Joseph Illick, libretto by Andrea Fellows Fineberg) for the Santa Fe Opera. She serves as dramaturg and will be the stage director for Finding Wright (music by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Andrea Fellows Fineberg) commissioned by Dayton Opera which is set to premiere next season.

She has worked for the Santa Fe Opera for over eighteen seasons and is the Associate Director of their Apprentice Singer Program and Director of the Young Voices of the Santa Fe Opera. She has served on the faculty of the University of New Mexico Department of Theatre and Dance since 1997, where she teaches courses in musical theater. For University of New Mexico (UNM) she most recently directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Other productions at UNM include Spring Awakening as well as the regional premieres of RENTZanna, Don’t!, and Urinetown the Musical.

Kathleen performed nationally as a classical singer in a wide range of repertoire from Bach and Janácek to Verdi and Wagner, including productions with The Santa Fe Opera and the Dallas Opera. In addition to frequent appearances with the Dayton Philharmonic and New Mexico Symphony, Miss Clawson has been guest soloist with the Symphony Orchestras of Evansville, Grand Rapids, Midland, North Arkansas, Sacramento, San Juan, Santa Fe and Syracuse, among others, as well as the Berkshire Choral Festival, the Calvin College Oratorio Society and the Orchestra of San Antonio.  Her opera credits include the Banff Festival of the Arts, The Dallas Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, New England Lyric Operetta Inc., Four Corners Opera, Dallas Lyric Opera, Opera Southwest and Theater Basel.  She presented the World Première of Lanham Deal’s Weather Songs at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival accompanied by Janos Starker, has recorded De Falla’s El Amor Brujo for a United States tour by Maria Benitez’ Teatro Flamenco and sang the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music with Debby Boone across America and Japan.  She made her New York début at Lincoln Center as soloist in A Herbert Centennial with The Little Orchestra Society with whom she later starred in a rare performance of Herbert’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

Clawson holds a Master of Music Degree from the University of New Mexico (Vocal Performance) a Bachelor of Music from the University of New Mexico (Vocal Pedagogy, Vocal Performance). She trained at the University of Southern California, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Banff Centre for Fine Arts Opera Program, and was a member of the Merola Program of the San Francisco Opera. She was a Metropolitan Opera Auditions National Semi- Finalist and was one of three winners of the Dewar’s Profiles in Performance Award.