Our Founders


Thomas Carey

The American baritone, Thomas Carey, was born in South Carolina, and reared in New York. Simultaneous studies at Henry Street Music School and City College of New York were interrupted in his senior year upon being awarded both John Hay Whitney and Martha B. Rockefeller Grants. These enabled him to continue his studies in Europe.

His European home for nearly ten years was Munich, Germany. His career was propelled as the result of his winning the prestigious international vocal competition of Holland. Following numerous engagements with opera companies all over Europe, Thomas Carey came to teach at the University of Oklahoma in 1969 where he stayed until his death in 2002.


Carol Brice Carey

Carol Brice was one of the first African American classical singers to record extensively. Born into a musical family in Sedalia, North Carolina, the American contralto received training at the historical Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, at Talladega College in Alabama (Bachelor of Music, 1939), and from Francis Rogers at the Juilliard School of Music in New York (1939-1943).

She first attracted attention when she sang in The Hot Mikado at the New York World’s Fair with Bill “Bojangles” in 1939. She was also chosen to sing at a concert for President Roosevelt’s 3rd inauguration in 1941 and was the first black American to win the Naumburg Award (1943).

Among her many stage roles were Addie in Regina, Maude in Finian’s Rainbow, Maria in Porgy and Bess, Queenie in Showboat and Harriet Tubman in Gentlemen, be Seated. She was a member of the Vienna Volksoper from 1967 to 1971.  She won a Grammy Award for her recording of Porgy and Bess. She began teaching at the University of  Oklahoma in 1974. With her husband, the baritone Thomas Carey, she founded the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company.

Thomas and Carol Brice Carey in a detail from the lobby mural in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, by Oklahoma artist Mike Larsen .

Thomas and Carol Brice Carey in a detail from the lobby mural in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, by Oklahoma artist Mike Larsen .



Our Staff

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Julia Ayala Harris

Executive Director

Julia has a background in nonprofit management, organizational development, and program evaluation. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. Julia was an international aid worker for several years in Kenya and South Sudan. Upon her return to the U.S. Julia was the Executive Director of a nonprofit for transitional housing for homeless women and children, permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, as well as collaborative initiatives to close the digital divide. Prior to coming to Cimarron Opera, she worked at an alternative to incarceration program for pregnant woman and mothers in Oklahoma county.

Julia is an Executive Council member for the The Episcopal Church, the Board of Directors for the multi-national denomination, where she serves as the Vice-Chair of the Advocacy and Networking Joint Standing Committee.  Julia represented The Episcopal Church as a member of the first official delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in March 2015. In March of 2016, she served as the one provincial delegate from The Episcopal Church on the Anglican Communion Delegation to UNCSW.

Julia’s life mission is to build the capacity of non-profit organizations as well as empower women and girls. 



Kevin W. Smith

Music Director

In 1996 Kevin was chosen by his mentor Thomas Carey to become music director of what was then known as Cimarron Circuit Opera Company. Since that time, he has had the opportunity to collaborate with hundreds of singers, several stage directors, and has racked up well over 1,000 performances of opera, operetta, children’s opera, Broadway and musical theatre shows, recitals, and special presentations. Kevin describes himself as “an incurable teacher” who strives to turn every situation into an opportunity for learning something new or reinforcing something already learned.

In addition to Cimarron Opera, Kevin is also music director and private voice instructor at Lyric Theatre’s Thelma Gaylord Academy in Oklahoma City (since 2004), music director and tour accompanist with Lyric’s Interactive show since its inception in 2007 and has music directed numerous shows at Sooner Theatre, Carpenter Square, Poteet Theatre, Jewelbox, and Kids Alive, among others.

Kevin’s favorite thing: peace.


Mervin Tay

Artistic Director


Mervin Tay received his Masters of Music from the University of Oklahoma in Trumpet Performance and Instrumental Conducting with emphasis in orchestra and opera. While at OU, he studied with Dr. Karl Sievers and Dr. Jonathan Shames.

Mervin is also an active music arranger and composer. Solitarius Press is currently the sole publisher for his chamber works. 


Our Board Members

Board President  

Anne Boone

Board Members

Linda Boatright

Dr. Olivia Burke

Christopher Crouch

Steve Ellis

Mark Laufersweiler

Vicki Lavastida

Mary Martin

Ryan Vaughn