Nashville Opera Guild's FRANCIS ROBINSON AWARD
recognizing outstanding contributions to the art form of opera
Nancy E. Coleman and M. Andrew Valentine
M. Andrew Valentine and Nancy E. Coleman have been deeply involved with Nashville Opera for over 25 years. In 1989, Nancy was contacted by her friend Kathy Killman, asking her to recruit Andy as a Board member to the recently formed Tennessee Opera Theatre. Nancy knew Andy loved music but she had no idea that he was intrigued by operatic music. When he was quite young, his mother had given Andy and his two brothers an album library of various styles of music. Andy claimed the opera albums as his own. He enthusiastically joined the Tennessee Opera Theatre Board and, jointly, they began their promotion and support of the operatic art form in Nashville.
Nancy Coleman is a member of the Nashville Opera Guild and served as president from 2010–2012. She co-chaired La Bella Notte in 2006 and has served in various positions on the Guild Board. She is also a member of Opera Volunteers International and was presented with its Partners in Excellence Award in 2014. Nancy has been a tireless fundraiser and regularly works at opera performances assisting with the Guild Boutique. As a member of the Guild, Nancy has hosted cast parties and for several years held these at her home, Higher Ground. (After the successful production of Der Rosenkavalier, the exuberant cast partied until dawn the following day!)
Nashville Opera’s very successful Mary Ragland Young Artist Program hosts four or five resident singers for two to three months each year. These artists tour Middle Tennessee schools performing a live children's opera for 25,000–30,000 students each winter. Nancy and Andy have housed some of these young artists each year for the past 20 years, personally hosting over 40 young singers. Many of these singers have gone on to successful careers performing on opera stages around the world. Nancy and Andy regularly hear from these artists who call, email, and even drop by to spend a few days between gigs. A modest estimate is that Andy and Nancy have provided, in total, about five years' worth of housing to these young artists.
Andy Valentine joined the Tennessee Opera Theatre Board in 1989. When William O. Whetsell and David McQuiddy contacted Daniel Killman about a possible merger of Nashville Opera and Tennessee Opera Theatre in September 1997, Andy was the current president of the board. Along with Scott McKean, John Gillmor, Dr. Thomas Duncan, and other TOT Board members, the decision was made to unite the two companies into Nashville Opera Association under the direction of Carol Penterman and John Hoomes.
In 1999, Andy became the first president of Nashville Opera Association who originated with the Tennessee Opera Theater. Under his leadership, NOA became a million-dollar opera company for the first time in part due to generous support for the 1999 production of Der Rosenkavalier. The following year the Board decided to set its budget, again, at a million dollars and Nashville Opera entered the ranks of major opera companies.
That year, Nashville Opera was honored for its volunteers who made this breakthrough possible. On behalf of these volunteers, Andy accepted the National Volunteer Award at the OPERA America conference from the presenter President George H. W. Bush.
Andy continued to serve Nashville Opera on both the Board and Advisory Board. He was asked to come back to the Board from the Advisory Board in 2009 and was again elected president in 2010, becoming the only person to serve twice in that office. During his second eventful term, longtime Executive Director Carol Penterman announced her plans to leave her position and a search was conducted for her replacement. Currently Andy serves on the Finance, Foundation, and Strategic Vision Committees.
Nancy and Andy epitomize service to Nashville Opera through their continuing contribution of their time, talents, and resources.
Francis Robinson (1910-1980) loved opera from the very day he heard Enrico Caruso on the Victrola at his school. He began his career in the theatre as an usher at the Ryman Auditorium while he was studying at Vanderbilt. He later worked as a reporter and Sunday editor of the Nashville Banner; a writer, actor, and producer for WSM Radio; and a theatrical press agent for William Fields, where his clients included Katharine Cornell, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, and Cornelia Otis Skinner. After World War II, Robinson was hired by impresario Sol Hurok to help with the Metropolitan Opera annual tours. Robinson’s extraordinary gift for public relations led to the expansion of his duties at the Met to include head of the box office and subscriptions, and in 1954 he was made assistant manager of the company under the legendary Rudolf Bing. He went on to spend more than thirty years at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1978, Robinson became host for the telecast series Live from the Met, reaching out to opera audiences around the country.
Marilyn Shields-Wiltsie and Dr. Theodore E. Wiltsie, 2016
G. Helen Brown, Ph.D., 2015
Shelley Page, 2014
Joseph H. Allen, M.D., 2013
The Judy Liff and Joe Barker Family, 2012
Earl S. Swensson, 2011
June Greer Bogle, 2010
Marion Pickering Couch, 2009
Marguerite Fish, 2008
William O. Whetsell, Jr., M.D., 2007
Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, posthumous, 2006
Carol Penterman, John Hoomes, Cara Schneider, 2005