Cheryl Hickman, General & Artistic Director, Opera on the Avalon

Cheryl Hickman, General & Artistic Director, Opera on the Avalon

Cheryl is the General and Artistic Director, Opera on the Avalon in St. John’s Newfoundland 

What is your morning routine?

I’m an early riser. My morning routine consists of taking my dogs for a walk, getting a flat white coffee ASAP, and then yoga. I’m usually answering emails by 7 am.

Tell us about your career path

I was educated as a classical opera singer, and sang professionally all over the world before starting my own company. My profession is General and Artistic Director of Opera on the Avalon. Opera on the Avalon is the only professional opera company in Canada that has an official diversity/parity mandate and is one of the only female-led opera companies in the country. One area of focus for me is giving women and diverse populations equal and positive representation – through hiring practices both on and off the stage.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

My industry is dominated by men. There are not enough women in senior arts administration roles, and very few female conductors, directors, designers, etc. Looking at opera companies as a whole, less than 10% of General, Artistic, or Music Directors are women. Clearly changes have to be made, and made quickly. It can be difficult for women to gain access to this industry – women are unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) seen and perceived as risky – companies will often take a chance on a young man but women are seldom, if ever, offered this opportunity. Women are given fewer opportunities – and the lack of opportunity is a huge obstacle.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Find a powerful mentor who will encourage you along every step of your career path. Mentors, both male and female, are essential to your growth in this industry. Work hard. There is no substitute for hard work, hustle, and determination. Give 100% effort all the time, and remember that every person working with or for you is deserving of equal respect. There is no job too big or too small! Be determined, persistent, and absolutely tenacious!

How do you separate work life from your personal life? 

I try to turn off my computer on the weekend, and not check my work emails until I am in production. I try :). And I remember to try and not take things personally in my work life. Don’t take things personally that are about work! It’s not always about you – in fact, it usually isn’t.

What inspires you?

The creative process in its entirety, and the risk involved in bringing new creations to life! I am also inspired by the world around me, and am grateful every day for the life and opportunity that I have.

When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

Riding horses, crime novels, and travel!


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