Board and Staff


Pensacola Opera is a non-profit, professional company serving Northwest Florida through
mainstage opera performances and a variety of innovative education and community
outreach programs.

Officers and Executive Committee

Brian Baumgardner


Donovan Chau

Vice Chair

Tracy Clark


Malcolm Ballinger


Ruth Orth


Diane Appleyard


Bobby Dunn


Ralph Peterson

Immediate Past Chair

Trustees Emeriti

Don H. Partington

Jan R. Miller

Dr. Nell Potter


Lois Benson
Allan Benton
John Brannan
Megan Burke
Karen Burke
Mark Chastain
Dr. Juliet DeCampos
Nan Harper

Karen Huang
Lyndi Kessler
Philomena Madden
Jane Merrill
Lisa Minshew
Clair Montgomery
Curt Morse
Jenny Noonan

David Richbourg
Michael Riesberg
Ed Siegel
Justine Simoni
Lynne Tobin

Chandra McKern Executive Director

Chandra McKern joined Pensacola Opera in 2015 as the Managing Director and was named Executive Director in 2018. Previously, Chandra served as the Director of Education and Outreach at Nashville Opera since 2012 where she was responsible for all aspects of the Education and Outreach Programs including the Mary Ragland Young Artist Program. Prior to Nashville Opera, Chandra was the Education Director at Pensacola Opera from 2010-2012 and spent four years working for Goldman Sachs and two years at Rockefeller University in New York. Before transitioning to arts administration, Chandra had an extensive performing career working with opera companies including Tulsa Opera, Opera Birmingham, Nevada Opera, Chicago Opera Theater and Central City Opera. Chandra holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master of Music from Indiana University. Chandra is a member of the Leadership Pensacola Class of 2017 and was a member of the 2016 OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive Training Program.

Jerome Shannon Artistic Director, Music Director, Principal Conductor

Praised for his “skill and verve” (New York Times), Shannon celebrates nearly 30 years as a professional operatic pianist, vocal coach, conductor and administrator. During this time, Maestro Shannon has held leadership positions with Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston (Artistic Administrator, Assistant Conductor, Conductor), Virginia Opera (Artistic Administrator, Associate Artistic Director, Conductor), Pensacola Opera (Music Director and Principal Conductor), Shreveport Opera (Music Director and Principal Conductor), Mobile Opera (General and Artistic Director, Principal Conductor) and the Janiec Opera Company of the Brevard Music Center (Resident Conductor and Vocal Coach).

Cody Martin Director of Education, Director of Artists in Residence Program

Cody joined Pensacola Opera in 2017 from professional engagements with Des Moines Metro Opera, Arizona Opera, Hubbard Hall Opera, Florida State Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, Virginia Opera, Janiec Opera Company, and the Brevard Music Center. An active pianist, coach, and conductor, Cody holds a Master’s Degree in Collaborative Piano from Florida State University and a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance from Murray State University. He leads our nationally renowned Artists in Residence Program, in addition to conducting select mainstage performances and leading Pensacola Opera’s education initiatives throughout the region.

Jennifer Knisbell Director of Development

Jennifer Knisbell returned to Pensacola Opera in February 2021 as the Development Director after a six year stint in Los Angeles, California. In LA, Jennifer served as the Manager of Special Events and Philanthropy for ICM Partners, one of the “Big Four” in the world of talent agencies. There she also held the role of Director of the ICM Community Partners Foundation. Prior to her career in Los Angeles, Jennifer spent five years at Pensacola Opera holding many titles throughout that time – Administrative Assistant, Patron Services Manager and most recently Manager of Special Events. Jennifer was born and raised in Pensacola and graduated from the University of Central Florida. She is a proud graduate of the Leadership Pensacola Class of 2011.

Alex Hilkey Director of Marketing & Communications

Alex joined Pensacola Opera in 2022 as the Director of Marketing & Communications, handling all of the company’s advertising, marketing, and public relations. A graduate of Murray State University, she most recently served as the Marketing Director of the Market House Theatre in Paducah, KY.

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