Volunteer Spotlight--Larry Verdugo

By John Welch

Larry is a true Angelino, born and raised in the Crenshaw District, a son of the sprawling metropolis we call Los Angeles. He majored in English Literature at Long Beach State and began his career as a teacher at Dominguez Hills Seminary for the Christian Brothers.

While at Long Beach State, Larry made friends with fellow- student Dina Gossett whom he describes as his "mentor and advisor." He quickly learned the value of her advice and the wisdom behind it.

He earned a Master's in Social Work in his late forties, again at Long Beach State. Dina encouraged Larry to enter that sphere of work, a move that changed the whole direction of his life. It was a huge blow to Larry when she passed away in 1994, ending their 30-year friendship.

Larry worked in the Oncology Department of Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City until he retired. Members of the medical staff relied on his communication skills to help cancer patients and their families cope with the non-physical aspects of the disease. 

Asked about hobbies, Larry said: "I've always been a great movie buff as well as an opera lover!" Those two loves enable him to show how movie directors integrate opera into their films when appropriate. Sports? "I was a fitness buff for 20 years, very involved in body-building and weight-training and becoming an aerobics instructor."

Although a comparatively new member of the Opera League, Larry became involved with programs to encourage young people to attend performances. As Chair of Education and Community Engagement programs, he schedules events and organizes fellow volunteers to help him.  Larry particularly appreciates having young volunteers around because they can be the best communicators during programs for young students. With a list of between 50 and 60 regular volunteers, he can usually cover all his bases.

As if that weren’t enough, Larry enjoys being a League Community Educator and giving talks to community groups. Depending on the opera, research and prep for the talks he gives can take over 50 hours, but Larry manages to fit those hours into his schedule as a labor of love.

Favorite Operas? "Ooh, that's a difficult one," Larry replied. When pushed, he reduced his list to the following five: The Marriage of Figaro, Otello, Madama Butterfly, Pelléas et Mélisande and Salome.  

Remembering how much Larry wants to bring young people to LA Opera, I cannot end this article without telling readers that he has four grand-nephews - Matt (8), Jack (7), Travis (6) and Reed (5) - who are quickly learning to enjoy the fun of opera-going.  With Uncle Larry as their "mentor and advisor," all I can say is that they are four lucky boys! 

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