Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Michael Solomon

December 5, 2023 | By Hannah Edgar

Director of Media Relations
Lyric Opera of Chicago

Earlier this year, Lyric Opera of Chicago made headlines when it became the first opera company in the world to provide wearable haptic technology as a regular offering for d/Deaf patrons. 

As the company’s media relations director, Michael Solomon generated much of  the press for that SoundShirt initiative. A passionate advocate for accessibility at the company since joining Lyric in 2021, he was one of the few opera professionals to attend the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) conference in Boston earlier this year.

Creating accessibility was high on the agenda—the conference was held in what he describes as “the most deliberately accessible space I had ever been in. And they made it seem like the easiest thing in the world.” He returned to Chicago bursting with ideas.

A self-described “opera snob,” Solomon says his first exposure to the disability issue came when he worked for Austin Opera on an Opera America grant as its audience experience director. There, he learned more about patron needs, and how they were—or weren’t—being met. Later, accessibility work became personal: Solomon had a lower limb amputation in early 2020, while working as a press manager at the Metropolitan Opera. He jokes that the experience made him an early adopter of remote work: There wasn’t an ADA-accessible bathroom on his floor, so he worked from home during recovery. 

Solomon says losing his leg “changed the trajectory of my life in ways that are really fantastic.” He remembers the ecstasy he felt when he ran his first 10K last year. He recognized the same emotion on the faces of patrons donning SoundShirts at a recent Lyric production.

“Accessibility isn’t just about following the law. It’s about customer service. And—drumroll please—it can be joyful,” he says.




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