Arizona Horizon Banner

December 5, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Artbeat: Arizona Opera New Director

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Opera has a new director. Arizona Opera General Director Ryan Taylor will talk about his vision for the organization and upcoming productions.
  • Ryan Taylor - General Director, Arizona Opera
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: arizona, opera, arts, productions,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight on our continuing coverage of the arts in Arizona, we meet the new director of the Arizona opera. Ryan Taylor took the helm in July. He's here now to talk about his vision for the organization and upcoming opera productions. Good to see you here.

Ryan Taylor: I appreciate you're having me.

Ted Simons: You are -- This is your first season as general director. How is it going?

Ryan Taylor: It's actually going quite well. I've really enjoyed it.

Ted Simons: What does the general director of an opera do?

Ryan Taylor: Gosh. It's a complicated gig. You have to know something about the artistic product itself, and something about business, you have to wear both hats at the same time and keep all of the elements of the company in play and moving smoothly, and executing a really high quality artistic product.

Ted Simons: Is there drama behind the drama?

Ryan Taylor: Absolutely. There's always drama behind the drama. I think that's part of what makes it fun.

Ted Simons: When you talk about business and art and having to comingle. Did you come up on the business side or artistic side?

Ryan Taylor: A little of both. I have kind of a really varied background. I started my career after college in real estate, both commercial and residential. Fell into opera sort of as a hobby, and actually spent about a decade performing with Columbia artists throughout the world as a baritone on the opera stage, and so in the middle of that career had always been interested sort of more in the business aspect of things, and had an invitation to run a smaller company in western Massachusetts for a season. And did that, and enjoyed it, and went back through two jobs prior to coming to Arizona, one as an artist manager, so I represented artists throughout the world, sort of sold their services to opera and symphonies and like organizations, and then the other job was at wolf trap in D.C., which is in northern Virginia. I was their manager of community development and I worked not only on young artist training, but also on sort of the marketing and development side of an opera company. So I got it from both angles, and leapt in here.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about here. You mentioned real estate. New real estate on central Avenue as far as home.

Ryan Taylor: It's a huge upgrade for the company. This was part of the city's bond initiative in 2006. We -- The company moved in this past March into our offices on Central and McDowell. It sits right on the light rail, provides us with not only some pretty spectacular rehearsal space for our visiting artist who's come from all over the world to perform with us, but also keeps us in the same building with the rest of the staff who works day in and day out to make sure we have company to present these fabulous artists. So it's real convenient for us.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, how is the opera doing financially?

Ryan Taylor: We're doing well. We have a lot of progress to tackle, a lot -- A lot of leftover issues we need to solve and move forward.

Ted Simons: What kind of issues?

Ryan Taylor: Well, when I came to the company in April of this year, as the interim director, I had been running the artistic department, but one of the things I figured out very quickly was we had a little over $3 million worth of debt, our annual budget is somewhere around $5.5 million. So I reduced the annual budget for this year with the help of the staff, we did an emergency fund-raising campaign where we had absolutely unprecedented participation from our board, from the community, from the staff. 100% particpation across the board. Raised a million dollars to pay down part of that debt. And then we have launched through the season and met all of our annual goals so far. So we're about $65,000 ahead and we've just launched the campaign for another million to reduce the debt.

Ted Simons: Is that -- The financial model had to change. Did it change temporarily, has it changed for good? Is there a new direction? What's happening here?

Ryan Taylor: I think part of what's important for arts organizations is that you've got to get not only a financial picture that works, but an artistic picture that works. And the blend of those with any arts organization is how you respond and interact with your community. I think what you'll see is the company will continue to extend itself into the community in new and different ways, especially going into the rest of this season and into next year.

Ted Simons: You talk about extending yourself into the community. We got concerts on first Friday, at least collaborations. Talk to us about that, musical instrument museum, events there as well.

Ryan Taylor: We do. The building itself has been an amazing tool for us to reach out to the community. We have other groups that come in and use the building as a rehearsal space, as an event space. We have a concert Sunday called holiday soundtrack that our studio artists will perform. These are exceptionally talented young singers. We audition about 150 live every year after getting applications from over 600. It is harder to get into this program than it is to get into Harvard. And these six talented young people will sing on Sundays, they also perform main stage for us. So we do some work with them on first Fridays, we've also partnered with the Arizona school for the arts, with the desert botanical garden this year, there's others that escape me at the moment. It really is part of what our mission is about, just to tell all kinds of stories that are worth singing. And some of those are three hours long at symphony hall, and Tucson at the music center, but some are intimate special stories and there's all kinds of different ways to tell them.

Ted Simons: You mentioned young people auditioning. So many folks are interested. I think that's encouraging for folks who do like the finer arts, classical music, opera, ballet, what do you see out there as far as the future? Because we keep hearing classical music on its deathbed, opera can't go on. What are you seeing?

Ryan Taylor: It's interesting. The classical music on its deathbed has been a refrain that's been rung for three or four hundred-years now. If you go back and look at Mozart's publishers, and some of his wife's notes, their worry was his music would never be heard in the future because the audiences were aging and maybe new audiences weren't coming forward. And Tchaikovsky wrote the same thing a few years later. It has to do with stage of life. If you have experience and you have culture in your life from the time a parent sings you a lullaby, then you have something that stays with you your entire lifelong, and you will learn to love when people sing to you. Who doesn't love a great tune? And a great story. So I think it's something that I'm not worried about, the longevity of the art form itself. It will be with us in one for another, I think when we go out and look at auditioning young singers, what is becoming more and more important is not just the voice. But it is something that has to do with your presentation and your connection to your community, and what sorts of stories do you as an artist want to tell that will affect our community? And how does that resonate throughout the state of Arizona? We're one of only a handful of companies in the United States that produces much opera as we do, and we're the only one that does two major metropolitan cities.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, about 30 seconds left, talk about the rest of the season, what you got coming up.

Ryan Taylor: It's fantastic. We have "La Bohème," the greatest love story ever sung, "La Traviata," which is roughly the same story as "Pretty Woman" if you remember the movie with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. And finally, "Don Pasquale," which is an amazing story, same rough characters, you can almost draw a line between the characters in "Don Pasquale" and "Frazier." And we've updated this piece because it is a comedy and isn't a specific time period. We've updated it to 1950 and have taken a bit of artistic inspiration from the Hollywood retrospective going on in the museum at the same time.

Ted Simons: Sounds like good stuff, and things are happening. Congratulations, and good luck.

Ryan Taylor: I appreciate it very much.

CPS Forum

  |   Video
  • Following the discovery of 6,000 uninvestigated child abuse cases, hundreds of people showed up at a forum in Phoenix Tuesday to talk about problems with Child Protective Services. The forum was spearheaded by the Children’s Action Alliance, and Beth Rosenberg, the director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Policy for the Alliance, will discuss what people talked about at the forum.
  • Beth Rosenberg - Director, Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Policy for Children’s Action Alliance
Category: Community   |   Keywords: CPS, phoenix, forum, cases,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Hundreds of people showed up at forum Phoenix this week to address the latest problems with child protective services. The forum was led by the children's action alliance and follows a discovery that CPS failed to investigate 6500 reported cases of child abuse and neglect. Beth Rosenberg is the director of child welfare and juvenile justice policy for the alliance. Ted Simons: She joins us now. It's good to have you. Thank you so much for joining us. This happened on Tuesday. What was the goal of the forum?

Beth Rosenberg: The goal of the forum was to bring concerned citizens to come to the forum and to present constructive ideas in terms of how we can move forward. Not to look at the past, not to look at the problems we have recently discovered, but see what solutions we might have for the future.

Ted Simons: Did it wind up rehashing a bit of the past?

Beth Rosenberg: Just a little bit. I think you need to start for where we are today, but really the ideas and solutions that people had and the issues they say caused some of the difficulties we're having today came forward and we had good ideas.

Ted Simons: Who was involved?

Beth Rosenberg: We had about -- We had 10 partner agencies that helped us coordinate the forum, and it was done in very short notice. And at the forum were concerned citizen, court personnel, foster care review board, foster parents, casas, court appointed special advocates, and provider agencies that have worked with these children and families through the years.

Ted Simons: It sounds like a theme at the forum was do something to increase social services, family services, the kinds of things that get to these kids and families before they wind up at CPS.

Beth Rosenberg: Absolutely. Absolutely. We know one of the root causes of some of the problems now are just the workload for workers is much too high. They can’t do everything. That they're mandated to do. And the other thing is the fact that we have gotten rid of a lot of prevention and basic needs kind of services that we've had in the past that helped struggling families and we've heard that we need to restore some of those services.

Ted Simons: and I heard it again at the forum, social service, hit by budget cuts?

Beth Rosenberg: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Any idea what -- One dollar of prevention beats $10 down road?

Beth Rosenberg: Absolutely. Yes.

Ted Simons: As far as caseworkers, 77% above standard. We know that, we hear that, are solutions being offered there? At your forum, what did you hear?

Beth Rosenberg: We heard, number one, we need to rebuild the safety net. The community services, one thing that came loud and clear is that in the budget cuts in 2009 they cut child care subsidies, so low-income working families no longer have an opportunity to get help to put their children in safe environments during the day while they work. So we need to restore some of those opportunities for parents to keep their kids safe. We also need to rethink -- Everybody was saying what CPS and child welfare services is all about. It's more than just investigations. It's keeping kids safe in their homes, and once a child comes into foster care, trying to figure out what it is that will either reunite them with their families or provide permanent homes for them. We had in years past, and we're looking at it again, what's called a differential response system, so it's not just every report you get in to the CPS hotline, but you would need to do a full-blown investigation that particularly potential abuse and neglect reports that come in are low-risk reports that come in, you get a community response. You have somebody going to that family and trying to engage that family and find out what their needs are, and connecting them with services. And I think the third thing we heard was caseworkers are doing an incredible job with the resources they have, but we need to lower case loads. There's an issue about the pay for case loads, and support for those workers.

Ted Simons: An issue with turnover regarding caseworkers as well.

Beth Rosenberg: Right.

Ted Simons: Was that addressed?

Beth Rosenberg: A little bit, saying that the case loads, there's -- People are expected to do 100% of what they're mandated to do, and they can't do it. Pay was another issue. Saying you come into CPS, maybe your salary, entry salary is $35,000, you can go to a hospital and make $50,000 there. And you don't have to work overtime and you're not -- It's not a life and death kind of thing, you're the social worker trying to provide services.

Ted Simons: The backlog of cases, 10,000 cases backlogged for the past 60 days. 12,00 cases haven't been opened this year that should be opened. Now there are 6500 cases that are obviously on the fast track. So many cases in the pipeline waiting for -- Was that addressed, and were solutions offered?

Beth Rosenberg: I think -- Yeah, the solutions I mentioned, some of the things offered. I think what we all recognize is that we've been following these issues for a long time. And there have been years past and certain periods of time when we have not investigated 100% of the reports. But that was the department shared that with the community, with the legislature, with the governor's office, it was very open that this -- They didn't have the resources to do it. And we got more resources when that was needed. This time it was not clear these were totally not investigated reports. And that's -- I think that's some of the concern. But it's beyond just investigating these reports. It's what happens to those kids and families afterwards. The 10,000 inactive cases that you're mentioned, those are cases that are in the system that's -- That nobody has dealt with for two months. The 12,000 cases are investigations that have in fact been open but nobody has closed them. Way beyond the time period they're allowed by law to close a case.

Ted Simons: Were there changes to CPS that were emphasized, there's a lot of talk now, get it out of DES, make it a standalone agency, get more of a law enforcement presence, get less than a law enforcement presence. What did you hear?

Beth Rosenberg: I think we heard that law enforcement certainly is helpful. In these kind of situations. Certainly the office of child welfare investigations have instituted some protocols that are helpful. But the increase in the reports and the increases kids coming into foster care is due to neglect. So it's not an increase in physical or sexual abuse, it's because these kids don't have the resources they need in the community to keep them safe. So that's what we hear. For years we've talked about separating out CPS and other children's services from the department of economic security. Which is a huge agency. And I think we can consider that, and we need to take a look at that, but it is not the panacea. Just taking that service, or -- You can take that, behavioral health, juvenile justice, all sorts of children's services, and put them in a separate agency, but that doesn't -- You might be moving the chairs on the "Titanic," you don't necessarily prevent "Titanic" from sinking.

Ted Simons: Yet some will say, and I know money was address there'd getting more resources into CPS in particular, DES in general, but some would say money is not a panacea either. How do you work that dynamic?

Beth Rosenberg: I think it's a combination of a number of things. Money and just looking at the service array, looking at the policies and practices that DES has. The differential response program I talked about, having -- Using on some resources in the community to avoid those cases being investigated. That will take some money to get that started. But -- And to provide services to families. A lot of that is contracted out, the community providers that have worked with these children and families and they'll have engaged them. But that will take money, but in the long run it will prevent children from coming into foster care, which is far more expensive and we don't have enough foster homes today. We're putting these kids into facilities that cost a lot of money, and siblings coming into foster care, they're not all being placed in the same foster home or even in the same group home. They're spread around the valley. Which increases the workers have to have because they -- You know.

Ted Simons: Last question, do you know of certain states that are doing a great job, that are known for having a child protective service type organization, that is really doing good work? And if we know of those states, is there any movement at all to just copy what they're doing and quit trying to reinvent the wheel in Arizona?

Beth Rosenberg: I think every state is different, and I don't know if there's one state that does it totally right. They might do sort of investigations right, but might not do foster care or adoption very well. So I think there are some reforms that have happened in other states, and we need to take a look at that. Children's action alliance and others have called for bringing in some national experts to help advise the governor, the legislature, the community on what it is we can do to improve our services to children and families and keep kids safe but preserve families as well.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here.

Beth Rosenberg: Thank you so much.