Toledo Opera Appoints New Development Staff

Leah Whitaker

Toledo Opera has appointed Leah Whitaker as Development Officer and Ikpemesi Ogundare as Finance & Development Administrator.

Special to The Truth

As a fundraising professional, Leah Whitaker brings an exuberant passion and curiosity for global diversity, experience, and understanding into her development work for non-profit organizations and private, educational institutions. Wherever she goes, Leah has a rollicking story to tell and finds welcome in most social circles intrigued by her rich life experiences. As such, Leah has successfully campaigned for all types of organizations such as grassroots political groups, international non-governmental organizations, universities, K-12 schools, churches, community centers, environmental & animal groups, and much more.

As Toledo Opera’s Development Officer, Leah is excited to bring together her fundraising expertise with her passion for the operatic artform. “Whatever I can do to make my hometown a happier and healthier place for kids and families, I am happy to help. I believe the Toledo Opera provides a one-of-a-kind experience for our community, and those who listen will find more than just entertainment. Opera has the power to transport you out of the ordinary. The powerful sounds, costumes, and songs convey the weight of human love and hardship, along with the mysteries of the world. I just can’t wait to share that with everyone,” she shared.

Ikpemesi Ogundare has been recognized by her peers and colleagues with multiple awards and honors. Her past professional highlights include serving as the Vice President and President of the Bowling Green State University Graduate Student Senate. In this role she was passionate in advocating for over 3,000 graduate students and sharpened her leadership and administrative talents. Ogundare first joined Toledo Opera as a member of the Toledo Opera chorus.

As Finance & Development Administrator, Ogundare is excited to step into her new role at Toledo Opera: “I am looking forward to bringing about changes that make things easier for our staff in the office and for our donors!”

Ikpemesi Ogundare

Executive Director, Suzanne Rorick shared, “the Toledo Opera staff and board have long prided themselves as being a ‘scrappy, little team.’ We have intentionally functioned with a reduced office staff during the pandemic and the ensuing economic uncertainty. But, we are now very cautiously increasing our bench strength and it is exciting to welcome both Leah and Ikpemesi! Leah has experience, contacts, and expertise to move Toledo Opera forward. Ikpemesi brings a tenacious, cheerful spirit to the Toledo Opera development team. I look forward to introducing them both to the opera patrons. They will absolutely love working with the team.”

Leah Whitaker is a proud Toledo native with deep family ties to the local music scene. She was raised in a choral family and sang soprano/mezzo-soprano in school, church, and community choirs. As a child, Leah attended Toledo Opera’s children’s summer camp with her older brother Bennett. And danced as a toy soldier in the Opera’s production of Babes in Toyland. Following graduation from MVCDS, Leah completed her undergraduate degree at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, in Native American ethnographic studies. Her work with the Native American Community Center of Central Ohio (NAICCO) and participation in Native ceremonies led her to pursue graduate coursework in theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. While earning two master’s degrees, Leah studied abroad in Tanzania and fell in love with the people, the culture, and the East African lifestyle. Returning to Tanzania later in life, Leah worked for two years in various business industries, including helping a Ukrainian-owned international gaming group open East Africa’s largest casino.

Ikpemesi Ogundare (she/her) is a Nigerian-American soprano, poet, and administrator. She has proven to be an artist that can’t be boxed in. Since spending the summer of 2019 singing in Graz, Austria with the American Institute of Music in Graz (AIMS) program. International Opera singer and award-winning poet are just a few feathers in her cap. Her past performance highlights include Calliope in Orpheus in the Underworld, the 2nd Lady in The Magic Flute, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in The State of the Union. Ogundare’s creative achievements can also be seen outside the field of opera and singing. Most recently, she was named a winner of the Black Brilliance Competition for her series of poems titled “Love, Identity and Purpose.” Ogundare recently received her Master of Music Performance from Bowling Green State University and she currently studies with Dr. Jennifer Cresswell.

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