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

Vertical for website.jpg

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 Smith was chosen by his mentor Thomas Carey to become music director of Cimarron Circuit Opera Company. Since that time, he has had the opportunity to work 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. Some of his favorites include: Hansel & GretelAmahl & the Night VisitorsCosi fan tutteThe Pearl FishersMarthaThe Merry WidowLa Pizza con Funghi and seven Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

In addition to Cimarron Opera, Kevin is also music director and voice instructor at Lyric Theatre’s Thelma Gaylord Academy in Oklahoma City, tours with Lyric’s Interactive show and has music directed shows at Sooner Theatre, Carpenter Square, Poteet, and Jewelbox, among others. He is also a sought-after accompanist and vocal coach.


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. He currently performs with the Boulevard Brass, freelances with theatres and churches in the Norman and Oklahoma City metro areas, and teaches privately.

Mervin has served as Music Director to the OU Civic Orchestra and assistant conductor to the University Symphony Orchestra and University Opera Productions. In the summers, he collaborates with vocalists, instrumentalists and choreographers in Cimarron Opera Summer productions, acting both as Assistant Music Director and Conductor. He has also served as Music Director, conductor or arranger in recent Sooner Theatre productions of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Meet Me In St. Louis and Magic To Do.


Mervin is also an active music arranger and composer. His works have been performed by the Boulevard Brass Quintet, Oklahoma Brass Quintet, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Symphony and chamber ensembles at the University of Oklahoma, Lyric Theatre Oklahoma, Cimarron Opera, the Norman Philharmonic Orchestra, Sooner Theatre in Norman, Poteet Theatre in Oklahoma City and international conferences such as the recent International Trumpet Guild 2015 and National Trumpet Competition. The Norman Philharmonic has commissioned him regularly; these works includes the Norman Anthem, performed since the inaugural concert.  Solitarius Press is currently the sole publisher for his chamber works. 



Our Board Members

Board President  

Steve Ellis


Ole Andreassen


Zev Trachtenberg

Board Members

Dr. Donna Mitchell-Cox
Mary Martin
Anne Boone
Linda Boatright                                                                     Ryan Vaughn

Dr. Olivia Burke