we are Catalyst
We believe that the future of classical music is bright, so long as we're intentional about keeping the flame alive.
We exist to catalyze the creation, development, and performance of innovative new works that push the boundaries of what classical music is, what it can achieve, and what it can communicate in a meaningful way with diverse audiences.
We will center voices that have been historically underrepresented, and we will never assume whiteness, maleness, heteronormativity, or able-bodiedness as "default" in our storytelling or as we build our team of creators and musicians.
Praised for his “clarion, luxuriously Italianate voice, tenor Omar Najmi enjoys a versatile career in opera and concert. A regular favorite at the Boston Lyric Opera, Omar has been featured in over fifteen of their productions including appearances as Nick in The Handmaid’s Tale, Vanya Kudrjas in Katya Kabanova, Beppe in Pagliacci, Goro in the Madama Butterfly process, Reverend Harrington in Lizzie Borden, and more. He recently made his European debut creating the title role in the world-premiere of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet with Bulgaria’s State Opera Ruse. Omar’s many other operatic appearances have included: Tito in La Clemenza di Tito (Opera Steamboat), Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (student matinée), and Joe in La Fanciulla del West (Opera Colorado), Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Arbace in Idomeneo, and Camille de Rossilon in The Merry Widow (Opera NEO), Bill in Flight, and Laurie in Little Women (Opera Fayetteville), El Gobernador in La Reina (American Lyric Theatre), Aufidio in Lucio Silla (Odyssey Opera), Sumeida in Sumeida’s Song (Opera Maine) and many more. He has additionally performed with Chautauqua Opera, Opera Saratoga, Annapolis Opera, Opera North, Opera Providence, MassOpera, and Boston Opera Collaborative.
Omar made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2018 as the tenor soloist in Mark Hayes’ Gloria . He has since returned as the tenor soloist in Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living, and as a featured soloist in Talents of the World Inc.’s Caruso Tribute Concert. His additional concert repertoire includes Bach’s Magnificat, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Missa Solemnis, Mass in C, and Choral Fantasy, Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings, Handel’s Messiah, and Dixit Dominus, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang, and Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, Mozart’s Requiem, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and Petite Messe Solennelle, and Verdi’s Requiem. Omar is the recipient of the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellowship from Emmanuel Music, the Stephen Shrestinian Award from Boston Lyric Opera, and the Harold Norblom Award from Opera Colorado. He has been a prizewinner from the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and the Talents of the World International Voice Competition.
Omar is also active as a composer - he premiered his first opera En la ardiente oscuridad in 2019, and his newest opera This is not that dawn will be receive a workshop performance in 2022. During the 2020/2021 season, Omar was brought on as Boston Lyric Opera's first ever Emerging Composer. During his time with BLO, Omar composed and premiered his song cycle my name is Alondra, settings of poetry by Boston's Youth Poet Laureate, Alondra Bobadilla.
Omar holds a M.M. from Boston University, and a B.M. from Ithaca College.
Pianist, vocal coach, and conductor, Brendon Shapiro, is quickly garnering a reputation from coast to coast as a champion of new music and opera of the 20th and 21st centuries.
He is a recent alumnus of LA Opera's Young Artist Program where he worked with such artists as Renée Fleming and Susan Graham and played a key role in the musical preparation for the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice, along with productions of La Traviata, El gato montés, La Clemenza di Tito, The Light in the Piazza, and Satyagraha. He is also an Emerging Artist Alum with Boston Lyric Opera where he has served as pianist and coach for The Rape of Lucretia, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, and The Butterfly Process, as well as performing the world premiere of Omar Najmi's song cycle, my name is Alondra.
Coming up, Brendon will serve as pianist and coach for X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, a joint production of Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera, as well as Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra's La Traviata.
Brendon has been on the music staff at numerous summer festivals around the United States, including Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, Opera Maine, Opera Steamboat, Opera North, and Opera NEO and this summer will be joining Bard SummerScape as coach for Richard Strauss' Die Schweigsame Frau.
In New England, Brendon has been on faculty at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, UMass Amherst, and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, served as conductor and pianist for MassOpera, Boston Opera Collaborative, as well as pianist/coach for Juventas New Music Ensemble, and NEMPAC (North End Music & Performing Arts Center).
Brendon is a co-founder, co-artistic director, and music director of Catalyst New Music, where he was the pianist for the workshop performance of Omar Najmi's En la ardiente oscuridad, and will conduct the upcoming workshop of Najmi's This is not that dawn. Additionally, Brendon is the Executive Director of Boston Singers' Resource, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing classical singers with the tools they need as they pursue their careers.
Equally at home in theatre and opera, Katy is a stage director, actor, and mezzo-soprano based in Brooklyn. In a time that calls for such urgent tasks as dismantling white supremacy, she makes politically relevant and personally resonant work that endeavors to shift our communities away from violence and towards care. Katy is thrilled to be working with collaborators in New York, New England and beyond.
Recent directing credits include a site-specific La Traviata at the Eustis Estate in Milton, MA (MassOpera); a staged workshop production of Omar Najmi's new opera, En la ardiente oscuridad; and assistant directing Nico Muhly's opera, Dark Sisters (Opera Fayetteville) with dir. Andreas Hager.
Recent acting credits include Olga in Rebecca Miller Kratzer's 2nd year MFA directing production of The Three Sisters at Columbia University; Tori in Santino DeAngelo's new play, The Outposters at The Tank in NYC; and workshopping scenes from The Trojan Women and training with the Polish folk opera company, The Song of the Goat Theater.
When not directing or performing, Katy works as an arts administrator at The Actors Center, a workshop company of 250+ professional actors in NYC, assisting executive director Alex Birnie and as a project manager at On Belay Health Solutions in the field of healthcare.
She holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and vocal performance from Oberlin College & Conservatory.
Zakiyyah is an artist-activist who utilizes music and visual media to explore themes that centralize marginalized communities via her production company, Black and Bold Productions. As an actress and classically-trained singer who is well-versed in Opera, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and R&B, she employs her extremely versatile skill-set to reach a broad range of audiences and craft a sound that is uniquely her own--including her most well-known, "Hip-Hopera". She’s had the pleasure of bringing these sounds to numerous audiences from the House of Blues to more recently, the United Nations. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Political Science and Sociology, she worked in politics for City Councilor Tito Jackson and later Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins. During her time there she created D.A.S.H. (Defensive Aids in Situations of Help); a women’s self-defense program that travels throughout Boston and neighboring cities. She also serves as a trustee for the Free for All Concert Fund, an organization charged with providing the necessary funding to make classical music accessible to the masses. She shares this honor with former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and other dignitaries.
After departing from politics, Zakiyyah still remained civically engaged, serving as an elected delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She then spent a year pursuing her artistic and scholastic ambitions in the Czech Republic, Thailand, South Africa, and Colombia, hosting Black Lives Matter events in the latter two countries and even recording with Grammy-nominated group Explosión Negra. She also has a commitment to education, having worked as an administrator at Conservatory Lab Charter School, offering private voice training via Harvard’s Holden Voice Program and the Hamilton Garrett Music and Arts Academy, and even creating an arts-activism program for teens in 2020 entitled “Creative Revolution”. In addition to her artistic practice, Zakiyyah currently works as a racial equity consultant with Arts Connect International, helping arts organizations reassess their practices through the lens of equity and creative justice. These experiences, coupled with her artistic versatility, make her uniquely qualified to use her art as a catalyst for social change. Her upcoming album, African Import, provides a window into both the beauty and complexity of the black diaspora, and the significance of its consumption by mainstream society.
Composer, vocalist and instrumentalist Laura Intravia is internationally renowned for her multi-faceted musical career in opera, concert music and video game/film soundtracks.
A coloratura soprano with “bright ping,” Laura's love of new music and contemporary opera has lead her to several role world premieres, including Young Iphis in The Body Politic (Juventas New Music Ensemble) and Elisa in Omar Najmi's debut opera En la ardiente oscuridad. She has frequently collaborated with MetroWest Opera (now MassOpera), appearing as Amy in Little Women, Leonora in The Beautiful Bridegroom and Queer Kid in the 2018 workshop performance of Kamala Sakaram's Taking Up Serpents. Laura also appeared with Beth Morrison Projects as quintet soprano in Missy Mazzoli's Song from the Uproar.
On the concert stage, in addition to her voice, Laura has taken her classical flute, world flutes and Electronic Wind Instrument across the globe on the Video Games Live international concert tour. Appearing as a principal soloist since 2009, Laura has performed with over 40 orchestras worldwide, including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Utah Symphony, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional de España, Polish National Radio Symphony, U.A.E. National Symphony and the Qatar Philharmonic. She made her debuts at the Palais des Congrès in Paris in 2009, Wolf Trap in Virginia in 2013, and Konzerthaus in Vienna in 2016. She has also performed as a guest soloist with the Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions world tour, making her Madison Square Garden debut with the show in 2015. Laura also performed at the world premiere of Journey: LIVE with Fifth House Ensemble, under the baton of composer Austin Wintory.
Equally at home in her recording studio, Laura's work as a remote session musician has appeared in over 60 video game and film soundtracks. Her versatility in various vocal styles has lead to an equally wide range of recording projects; from the classic soprano sound of Destiny, Destiny 2, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Honor of Kings, ReCore; to pop-inspired belting in Code Vein, Arknights, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Erica; to genre-bending, world music vocals in Darksiders 3 and Mortal Kombat 11. In addition to her studio choir work on projects such as God Eater 3 and The iDOLM@STER – Cinderella Master, Laura is well-versed in the techniques of vocal multi-tracking, emulating the effect of childrens' choir in projects such as Kaladin, Buttons and Super Lucky's Tale. Her classical, jazz and world flute techniques can be heard in games such as Rainbow Billy, Mages of Mystralia, Otomedius Excellent, Tin Hearts and Cornerstone: Song of Tyrim.
A composer as well as a lyricist, Laura has won several awards for her original works, including the Jack Downey Vocal Composition Prize and 2nd place in the New York Treble Singers Composition Competition. An avid arranger, Laura's solo piano arrangements of Austin Wintory's Grammy-nominated score Journey were published by Alfred Music in 2013. Laura has arranged and orchestrated several pieces on the Video Games Live album series, and has released two solo piano video game arrangement albums, Through Time and Space and Shall We Play?, both featuring pianist Brendon Shapiro. Laura made her video game debut in 2018 by composing additional music for the indie point-and-click adventure Arkhangel: House of the Seven Stars, as well as co-writing the game's end credits song with lead composer Chad Seiter. She also collaborated with composer Sterling Maffe on "Dawn of the Moon" for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, providing lyrics and vocals for the commemorative 5th anniversary song.
Born and raised on Long Island, Laura holds degrees in Composition and Vocal Performance from Ithaca College, where she was awarded the Philip J. Lang Composition Scholarship and Hockett Composition Scholarship. She was a finalist in the 2018 MetroWest Opera Vocal Competition for Emerging Artists. Laura is also a core member of the video game music funk/jazz band DiscoCactus, on vocals/winds.
Indonesian-American soprano Amanda Densmoor is a recent graduate of the Maryland Opera Studio. As a concert soloist, Amanda has sung in Carissimi’s Jephte, Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis, and Mozart’s Requiem. Her recent roles include Valentina Scarcella (Later the Same Evening), the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito), Nella (Gianni Schicchi), Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica), Patience (Patience), Counsel (Trial by Jury), Second Woman (Dido and Aeneas), and Kate (The Pirates of Penzance). Amanda is passionate about new music, and has premiered the roles of Mother in Joseph C. Phillip Jr.’s Four Freedoms, and Meera in Omar Najmi’s This Is Not That Dawn.
Equally at home as a choral singer, Amanda has sung many large choral works with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Highlights of her choral repertoire include Mozart's Requiem, Holst's The Planets, Rossini's Stabat Mater, Liszt's Dante Symphony, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, and the world premiere of Roxanna Panufnik's Across the Line of Dreams.
Amanda earned her Master of Music from the University of Maryland's Maryland Opera Studio, and also earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, summa cum laude, from the University of Maryland.
Meet the board of directors
With a career spanning theatre, musical theatre, and opera, Johnathon Pape has directed a wide range of productions throughout the U.S. and abroad. Career highlights include directing the world premiere of Griffelkin by Lukas Foss for New York City Opera; the U.S. premiere of Daniel Catán’s La Hija de Rappaccini for San Diego Opera; the Los Angeles premiere of Richard Greenberg’s Eastern Standard; Terrence McNally’s Master Class for HaBimah, the National Theater of Israel; Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney for an Irish Arts Festival; the Los Angeles premiere of Shirley Lauro’s A Piece of My Heart—a special installation production mounted in the Los Angeles National Cemetery; and Janáček’s Jenůfa for Portland Opera. Most recently, he has co-written and directed Carmen Inside Out—a one-woman version of Carmen that he created with mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chavez. It premiered in the U.K. and has played in France, various locations in the U.S., and Japan, and is currently being adapted for film, in a partnership with Dallas Opera.
Pape joined the faculty of Boston Conservatory in the fall of 2011 as the Director of Opera Studies and Professor of Opera. In addition to directing productions and providing leadership for the opera program, he revised the graduate opera curriculum to serve as a model for the training of young singers, focusing on the skills necessary for a career in today’s opera industry. He has taught workshops and masterclasses for a variety of companies and training programs. He has a special affinity for the Czech repertoire, having received a Fulbright Research Grant in opera and theater to the Czech Republic in 1994. Pape is a long-standing member of SDC—the Stage Directors and Choreographer’s Society—and AGMA—the American Guild of Musical Artists, as well as the Performers Development Forum with Opera America. Prior to his appointment at Boston Conservatory, he was on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.
American mezzo-soprano JoAnna Pope (she/her/hers) has been praised as an “authoritative mezzo” by OperaWire and is quickly gaining acclaim on stages across the United States. Some operatic roles Ms. Pope has performed include Siébel (Faust) with the Savannah VOICE Festival; Mrs. Nolan (The Medium) and La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi) with Opera Mississippi; the Second Witch and Spirit of Mercury (Dido and Aeneas) with Sarasota Opera; Proserpina and the Nymph in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Ozarks Lyric Opera; Carmen (Carmen) and Hansel (Hansel and
Gretel) with Opera51; Prince Charmant (Cendrillon) with Opera del West; she originated the role of D-Do in the world premiere of Michael Ching’s The Birthday Clown in collaboration with Savannah Opera; Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) with Vox New England; and Mrs. Bass (Emmeline) with the Boston University Opera Institute.
Professional cover roles include La Marquise de Berkenfield (La fille du régiment) with Sarasota Opera and Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia) with Opera on the James. Ms. Pope will make her role debut as Charlotte in Massenet’s opera, Werther with BARN Opera located in Brandon, Vermont, later this winter in 2023.
In addition to her operatic journey, JoAnna also works in Investor Relations at the private equity firm, Coller Capital, in Manhattan, and enjoys working as a freelance Social Media Coordinator for several artists and other non-profits within the classical music industry. Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, she currently resides in New York City.
Dr. Weslee Glenn is a scientist, music enthusiast, and staunch optimist. Throughout his training, Wes has won many awards, including the Ford Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, the United Negro College
Fund/ Merck Post-Doctoral Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, MIT’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, the MIT Institute Fellowship, the Henry Hill Research Award, and a Presidential Scholarship from Hampton University.
Dr. Glenn is currently serving as Head of Platform Development at Ayana Bio, a biotech startup in Boston, where he builds plant-based technologies to access health and wellness ingredients. Wes has had a longstanding interest in sustainable agriculture and environmental management and proudly served a term on the Environmental Advisory Commission for the City of Pasadena before returning to Massachusetts. Wes is also deeply involved in and committed to promoting diversity in STEM fields.
Outside of his professional responsibilities, Wes has been an avid concert goer for decades and has performed as both a chorister and soloist in multiple groups. He’s excited to work with Catalyst New Music. If you see him around, be sure to say hi!