(Los Angeles) July 8, 2022 – LA Opera is proud to announce the addition of five new members to the company's board of directors. Brian P. Brooks, Chaz Hammel-Smith Ebert, Adrian Pessino, Janet Stanford and Ellen G. Strauss were elected at recent board meetings this year.
Brian P. Brooks
Brian Brooks is a lawyer, banker, entrepreneur, technologist and former government official. He served as Acting Comptroller of the Currency from May 2020 until January 2021. He led the government's efforts to provide regulatory clarity for stablecoins, digital asset custody and the development of blockchain payment networks, and he granted the first federal bank charter to a cryptocurrency company.
His long work history in the financial sphere includes roles such as managing partner of the Washington DC office of the global law firm O'Melveny & Myers, vice chairman of OneWest Bank, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of FannieMae, and chief legal officer of Coinbase. He is the CEO of Bitfury Group, one of the largest private infrastructure providers in the blockchain ecosystem. He also serves on the boards of Voyager Digital, Protego Bank, Interfirst Mortgage, Spring Labs and two special purpose acquisition companies. He previously served on the board of Avant, Inc, a marketplace lending and technology platform company.
He served as treasurer on the boards of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale and served on the board of the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. A classical pianist, he also plays keyboard in the Johnny Esquire Band, a classic rock cover band. He holds a degree in government from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.
Chaz Hammel-Smith Ebert
Chaz Ebert is the CEO of the Ebert companies, which publish movie reviews (at RogerEbert.com) and produce television shows and movies (Ebert Productions LLC and Black Leopard Productions). She is a co-founder and producer of the Roger Ebert Film Festival (Ebertfest), entering its 22nd year. Her civic interests include programs to help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, and to provide education and arts for women, children and families, with a global interest in encouraging empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. She carries out these missions partly through the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, where she is the president, and with whom she established a scholarship for African-American students at the DePaul University College of Law.
Previously, as a civil rights attorney, she was named Lawyer of the Year by the Constitutional Rights Foundation and served as a litigator with the EPA, the EEOC and the law firm formerly known as Bell, Boyd and Lloyd (currently, K&L Gates).
Along with her late husband Roger, she is the subject of the award-winning documentary Life Itself. She is a life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago and serves on the boards of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, After School Matters and Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, as well as the honorary board of Family Focus and the advisory board of Facets Multimedia. She served on the lawyers' committees of the presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. She has a degree in political science from the University of Dubuque, a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from DePaul University College of Law.
A native of Italy, Andrea Pessino has lived and worked in California since 1990. He co-founded the video game development studio Ready At Dawn® in 2003 and, until 2020, was the company's chief technical officer, producing technology for all of Ready At Dawn's games to date, from Daxter to The Order 1886 and Lone Echo. He now serves as head of research, pursuing special R&D projects.
From 1998 to 2003, he was a senior software engineer with Blizzard Entertainment® where he authored core technologies for several blockbusters in the WarCraft® video game franchise. Before Blizzard, he was a senior software scientist with MetaCreations®, writing a number of seminal graphics applications, including: Kai’s Power Tools®, Kai’s Photo Soap®, Bryce® and Kai’s Power Goo®, for which he received numerous industry accolades, including the 1996 PC Magazine "Graphics Software of the Year" award.
A classically trained musician, he studied composition, harmony and music theory, and he is an accomplished pianist and composer. His work on the cinematics for Blizzard’s Diablo II® earned him the 2001 IGDA Game Developers Choice Award for "Excellence in Audio."
Janet Stanford is involved with many arts organizations across Los Angeles. She is an active volunteer at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, serving on its board of governors, as a member of the Women’s Committee, and as a docent of both the Japanese Garden and the Library. She has chaired the Huntington's Library Committee and was past docent of the Art Gallery. She serves as a board member of ArtCenter 100 and is a member of The Blue Ribbon and the San Marino League, a nonprofit organization of women committed to philanthropic work in the community and furthering their knowledge of fine arts.
She is a member of the Junior League of Pasadena and is a member of the Pasadena Guild of Children’s Hospital. She is past president of the Parents Council, Westridge School.
She has served as a member of ARCS, a San Francisco non-profit dedicated to securing America’s leadership in science by granting awards to top scholars. She is a former board member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, the Mark Twain Project, Bancroft Library, and the Lincoln Theater in Napa Valley.
A retired real estate agent, she worked with the William Wilson Co. She was educated at Westridge School in Pasadena and graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in international relations.
Dr. Ellen G. Strauss
Ellen Strauss (nee Glowacki) first came to California to be a graduate student in biology at Caltech in 1960. There she met her husband to be, a fellow graduate student named James Strauss, and received her doctorate in 1966. In 1969, Jim and Ellen married in Madison, Wisconsin, and the couple returned to Caltech on the biology faculty and jointly directed a research group for 40 years, studying the molecular biology of insect-borne viruses until their retirements in 2007. They specialized in alphaviruses such as Sindbis virus and Ross River virus, as well as flaviviruses such as yellow fever virus and dengue fever virus. Together they wrote a textbook entitled Viruses and Human Disease in 2001 and a second edition in 2007.
Throughout their careers and into retirement they traveled widely for international scientific meetings, bird watching expeditions on all seven continents, journeys to observe numerous total solar eclipses, and in later years to attend operas primarily in Europe.
Ellen and Jim first subscribed to LA Opera in 1994, and Jim served on the board of directors from 2007 until he passed away in 2021. Ellen and
Jim have been regular guests of the orchestra at rehearsals, where they made many friends. Strong supporters of James Conlon, they made generous gifts in his honor, in addition to providing production underwriting support for The Magic Flute in 2013 and Tannhäuser in 2021.
About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be. Through imaginative new productions, world premiere commissions, and inventive performances that preserve foundational works while making them feel fresh and compelling, LA Opera has become one of America’s most exciting and ambitious opera companies.
In addition to its mainstage performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the company explores unusual repertoire each season through the LA Opera Off Grand initiative, featuring performances in a variety of venues throughout Los Angeles. The LA Opera Connects initiative offers a robust variety of educational programming and community engagement offerings that reaches people throughout every corner of Los Angeles County. The company also offers a multitude of online content via its LA Opera At Home digital offerings, which launched in March 2020. Learn more at LAOpera.org.
LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.