ALUMNI CORNER – KHORI DASTOOR
April 24, 2020
LACC is excited to introduce this important new addition to our monthly Accents newsletter. The Alumni Corner is inspired by the many graduates of LACC’s ensembles who continually say “LACC played an important part in my development as a singer, in my chosen career, and as a person.” We are grateful for the opportunity to recognize and re-introduce a few of our former choristers.
This month we are pleased to profile Khori Dastoor (Concert Choir, ’90-’94).
When Opera San José found their new General director last fall, they didn’t have to look very far. That’s because the new helm of the Bay Area opera was chosen from their own ranks, a person with more than a decade of experience both singing with and administering the opera company. That new general director is Khori Dastoor, a soprano who has sung at such venues as Los Angeles Opera, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Opera San José, the Colburn School, Aspen Music Festival, Royce Hall, Lake George Opera, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Dastoor joined Opera San José’s resident ensemble of principal artists in 2007 and toured globally in North America, Europe, and Asia, then returned home in 2012 to pursue a career on the administrative side—joining the artistic staff as an artistic advisor to the general director before being promoted to director of artistic planning. And now, as general director, she’s in charge of the day-to-day operations and long-term planning of the entire opera company.
LACC spoke to the Pasadena native in February to learn more about her own time with the choir—a time when LACC had only one ensemble, Concert Choir, and to see if she had any advice for our current crop of choristers. Read our interview with Dastoor below.
Do you have any fond memories of song in your early life?
When I was younger, I attended Polytechnic, and at the time Rebecca Thompson (LACC co-founder in 1986, conductor and Artistic Director, alumni parent, and former board member) was the music teacher there. From a young age she was my ambassador to the human voice and musical expression. I remember well the songs she’d assign to us for holiday concerts.
She’s the one who encouraged me to try out for LACC. My earliest memory of music is in 3rd or 4th grade singing songs with Rebecca Thompson.
How did you first get involved with LACC?
Rebecca Thompson encouraged me to try out, again, in 3rd or 4th grade—I may have even been younger. It was a big part of my childhood. I remember touring Europe without my parents as a 10 year old, singing with the Vienna Boys Choir, and doing day trips like visiting Auschwitz. It was an incredibly formative time for me. Without knowing it at the time, what I was really receiving was an education in how music births community and the power and catharsis of how music brings humans together, which changed my whole life.
What is a favorite memory, tour, or concert experience with LACC?
The Europe Tour immediately springs to mind. I also think about some of the commercial recordings we did. It was a thrill to meet Dustin Hoffman on the set of Hook and to see the sound stages and the movie set environment. The way I remember it, they recorded some kids singing the song the actress was going to sing in case they couldn’t use her real voice. It was amazing to have music open up and reveal all of these worlds I may not have otherwise seen at such a young age.
How did LACC help prepare you for your current career with Opera San José?
Aside from feeling so at home in that world, and my earliest thoughts about my identity. It’s who I’ve always been, and understanding that we’re individual artists, but also part of the whole and the whole is what’s most important.
As an opera admin my job is often about leveraging talented individuals in part of that whole.
Rebecca was a model and her husband was a model. She exemplified integrity and strength and a commitment to excellence and taught us about the importance of internal standard over external praise. Even then, we learned to hold ourselves to this very high standard—and I like that in people, and in musicians, and I seek that out in the people I work with and hire.
Do you have any advice for current LACC choristers?
One thing to remember when you’re in it—it’s a short amount of your life. The Hollywood Bowl gigs and LA Phil gigs go away, but you have these incredible friendships and those don’t go away. The people I went to Europe with, we still support each other as parents, and friends, and musicians. Whether you pursue a career in music or not, it’s secondary to the friendships you make in the chorus. You’re a part of a family you’ll rely on for a long time.
What’s your favorite song?
I don’t think I could pick just one, but “If Love Were All” (written by Noël Coward and recorded by Julie Garland)—it may not be my all-time favorite, but I love that song. There’s just something really perfect about the song.
How has your experience as a performer prepared you for your current position with Opera San José? What are some of your future goals for Opera San José?
Singing influences everything I do as a leader. Today we announced the Opera San José Artist and Musician Relief Fund, and I had to walk into a room of 100 performers and tell them their livelihood was going away (a result of the cancelation of performances and gatherings due to COVID-19). As a performer, you can be one gig away from not being able to pay rent. I couldn’t think about this institution and its mission without having lived that life. It also helps me think about the mentality of singers—I understand the sacrifices that go into pursuing a career in music.
Those 15 years [as a singer] were training for what I’m doing. It also helps me when selecting artists. It helps me identify performers who will be generous with the audience, and to help find them repertoire that will best highlight their abilities.
The administrative part of my job is equally well informed by the business of singing. I’m very mindful of power hierarchies in the business and how they work in favor or not in favor of artists, and a big part of my work is influencing that in a positive way.
What does LACC mean to you?
LACC was a bridge to who I really was, to who I really am. It was a concrete thing that started as an after-school activity—like a side dish that became the main course. The ability to be a musician at such a young age showed me what was possible: Discipline, excellence, community, and being accountable to others around you is vital to achievement, and LACC taught me so many of those lessons early on.
LACC wants to hear from our alumni! If you or someone you know would be a good fit for the Alumni Corner—where we catch up with alumni who are still finding ways to make beautiful music, please reach out to Jared Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.