This artist development and community focused initiative provides discovery and application of artistic skills that can be transferred from the stage and studio to community-focused work. Through a two-year contract position, CEAs listen, learn, and lead community activation through the arts.

Leaning on the inherent power of the arts to create a safe space and shared experiences, CEAs establish relationships and create programming that is responsive to the needs and goals of partners and communities – all activated by opera.


Our CEAs

Ryan McKeel (pronouns: they/them/theirs) holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Wingate University (where they worked at both the George A. Batte, Jr. Fine Arts Center and the Hinson Art Museum) and they recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with their Masters of Education (M.Ed.)

Currently, Ryan serves as an Assistant Director in the Office of Identity, Equity, and Engagement at UNC Charlotte, working with identity-conscious, equity-minded leadership and career development programs in addition to coordinating cultural heritage programming. Prior to arriving at UNC Charlotte, Ryan worked at both UNC Greensboro and UNC Chapel Hill in the Office of Intercultural Engagement and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, respectively. Ryan’s roots in higher education were planted at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts, where they worked in Residence Life Programs and Housing following their time at Wingate.

Additionally, Ryan is no stranger to the Charlotte arts scene, having served as a Marketing Intern with Blumenthal Performing Arts and as the Social Media Coordinator and Marketing Intern for JazzArts Charlotte. It was at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, MI where Ryan found a passion for Arts Administration, having worked in the student affairs and scheduling offices at the world-renowned arts academy and summer camp.

Ryan minored in music while at Wingate and is a recovering Flute performance major. A self-diagnosed Baritone, Ryan was able to perform in Opera Scenes at Wingate University under the direction of Dr. Jessie Wright-Martin. Outside of the arts and equity + inclusion work, Ryan can be found outdoors, enjoying the Charlotte sun, reading about intersectionality as critical social theory, and thinking of their next big idea.

Tenor Darius Gillard is steadily gaining momentum on regional operatic circuits. Praised for his warm legato and charismatic presence, he excels in the lyric repertoire. To date, he has appeared in supporting and comprimario roles with companies that include the Connecticut Lyric Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera, Greenville Light Opera, Capitol Opera Raleigh, The Comic Opera Guild of Ann Arbor, and Hartford Opera Theatre.

Equally at home on the concert stage, he has also made appearances with the Florence Civic Orchestra, Charleston Chamber Orchestra, Flint Symphony Orchestra, and the Detroit Festival Camerata as a featured soloist in various oratorio works that include Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël, Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore, and Händel’s Messiah. With regard to recital work, Dr. Gillard regularly presents and appears in guest artist and lecture recitals.

Dr. Gillard holds degrees from Claflin University (B.A. 2012), Michigan State University (M.M. 2014), and the University of Michigan (D.M.A. 2020). Presently he serves as Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at Claflin University.