By Renee Salick, Ed.D.
Some describe Laurel Howat as someone who approaches all responsibilities with 100% vigor when she decides to take on something. Others, affectionately, notice that she sustains her enthusiasm, reacts with a level head to chaos and manages to meet deadlines.
As for Laurel herself? She expresses her gratefulness for any good her volunteer activities accomplish. With her long-lived passion for opera performance and the knowledge that her volunteer activities will make things at least minutely better, she regards herself as immensely fortunate. She knows she is storing her Opera League memories for sharing precious experiences with friends and family for a more distant time in life. She also has an inkling that the young artists she meets today are bound to end up as opera headliners.
When volunteering for the League, there is a plethora of activities to choose from. Why Artist Services? Laurel explains she really loves how unique and personal it is: meet, greet and transport singers, directors and other artistic or production staff to and from the airport, customize goodie bags, maybe even babysit or walk a dog on occasion. “These are all wonderful ways to give back to the artists of the opera company, as well as serve the community.”
In addition to serving on the League as the Artist Services Chair, Laurel is about to take on the role of Vice President. She is also a previous chair of Cast Dinners (see our cover story on that), a role she relished. “It was and still is a wonderful chaos of crowded rooms, groaning tables of food and happy opera folk.” She shares a funny anecdote: “During my tenure as Cast Dinner Czarina, one evening we had more cast members than expected, and we needed to serve the cast to ration out the food. That was the night that Maestro Domingo got one meatball. Being the gentleman that he is, he graciously accepted the meatball as though it were a fine filet mignon.”
Laurel can recommend all new volunteers to the arenas for which she has served. She states that seasoned members have always been nearby to help, encourage and instruct. They’ve always felt like a family to her. She loves to be with new volunteers while sharing new ideas and experiences with the veterans.
Indeed, Laurel is so passionate about this, she’s developed a seven-step guide for encouraging volunteers to try their hand at Artist Services. As she puts it: “1) If you are like me and love to ‘be one’ with the lively, teeming madness of airports, this is for you. 2) The artists you drop off and pick up are grateful and happy to have us there for them. 3) You can practice your foreign language skills if you are meeting a singer or director from abroad. 4) You can indulge your urge to create a custom goodie bag. 5) You can make a new friend. 6) You will learn more about the intricacies of our city streets and freeways. 7) You can handily rack up volunteer hours that go toward a big party at the end of the year and other perks, like discounted dress rehearsal tickets.”
Suffice it to say Laurel is supremely suited as coordinator of Artist Services. After getting her bachelor’s degree in French and master’s in Humanities, she worked at the Getty Villa and USC Medical Center. She currently works at Road Scholar, a not-for-profit educational travel organization. Her special interests are art and architecture. So you can imagine what a perfect fit she is at picking up artists from the airport, even and especially if they are not English speaking, warmly greeting them with her globally sensitive manner and rattling off the top cultural sites in the Los Angeles area.
Laurel’s grandest achievements? That would be a long and blissful marriage and a newlywed son.
“Thank you to all who use my services and all who serve the Opera League.”