Jim Schaeffer served as the Center for Contemporary Opera’s General and Artistic Director since October 2008. Prior to that, from 2005 – 2008, he was director of Long Leaf Opera in Raleigh, North Carolina, the country’s only opera company dedicated to fully staged operas originally written in English. Between the two companies, Schaeffer produced and/or developed over one hundred operas, the overwhelming majority by living American composers. A retired Air Force senior officer, Schaeffer served in a variety of flying, logistics, and command assignments. His final assignment was as the NATO liaison officer during the siege of Sarajevo where he conveyed NATO’s positions to the warring factions and the United Nations. Schaeffer holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts from Webster University, St. Louis. He was a principal bassoonist of the orchestras of Virginia Beach, Montgomery, Alabama, and Cambridge, England. His compositions have been performed at the American Dance Festival among other venues.
Mark Shapiro is unique among North American conductors for having won an ASCAP Programming Award six times, at the helm of three different ensembles. He has conducted five productions for Juilliard Vocal Arts, including operas by Britten, Poulenc, and Stravinsky. His recording of Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé was an Opera News Editor’s Choice. A sympathetic and impassioned advocate for both contemporary operas and core repertoire, Shapiro has conducted new works with American Opera Projects, The Center for Contemporary Opera, Encompass New Opera Theater, Underworld Opera, and others; and traditional works with the opera departments of Hofstra, Mannes and Rutgers as well as The Opera Company of Middlebury. He has been a teaching artist with the Lindemann Young Artist program of the Metropolitan Opera, and served as Music Director of The Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra from 2012 to 2023. Shapiro is a member of the Steering Committee for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital.