Houston Grand Opera Announces Historic $22MM Gift, Largest in HGO History

Houston Grand Opera

Photo Credit: Houston Grand Opera

The Houston Grand Opera has announced a new fund within the HGO Endowment, created by Sarah and Ernest Butler. The endowment is valued at $22 million and is the largest philanthropic investment in the organization’s history.

The Houston Grand Opera has also announced that its acclaimed training program for young artists has been renamed the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio. “Sarah and I have been Houston Grand Opera subscribers for 35 years, since the company’s first season in the Wortham Theater Center,” says Ernest Butler, “and we’ve been attending performances at HGO much longer.”

“The two of us have followed the HGO Studio since its inception, watching its graduates go on to successful careers in opera. We’ve decided to create a new fund within the HGO Endowment that supports the program, because we’ve seen the endowment’s careful fiscal management firsthand. We have tremendous confidence in HGO and want to help this great company expand its mission and its reach throughout our region and beyond.”

The Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio provides comprehensive career development to young singers and pianist/coaches who have demonstrated potential to make major contributions to the artform. During residencies that last up to three years, artists receive individualized study programs in classical singing, piano, coaching, as well as movement and language instruction.

“The arts are a reflection of who we are,” adds Sarah Butler. “For our society to be healthy, we must invest in art and culture, which is critical to the wellbeing of humanity. With our investment in HGO’s future, Ernest and I want to support the organization through the next century, so that everyone in our part of the world has access to the beauty of grand opera. This gift is a strategic one, because the artistic excellence at HGO supports and elevates cultural endeavors both within, and far beyond Houston.”

Both native Texans, the Butlers attended Baylor University. Sarah is a retired educator, and Ernest is a retired otolaryngologist who founded the Austin Ear Nose and Throat Clinic, as well as Acoustic Systems, a company that manufactures booths for hearing tests, musical practice, and broadcasting.

The Butlers have dedicated the larger part of their lives to their involvement and philanthropy in the arts and sciences, providing generous financial support and leadership to the organizations they support, including Austin Opera, Ballet Austin, Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Texas Cultural Trust, and the University of Texas Butler School of Music, which has carried their name since 2008. They were inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Texas Medal of the Arts in 2011 from the Texas Cultural Trust.