Cincinnati Opera Takes Outreach Program into Schools
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If any Summit Country Day students thought opera was too high brow for them, their misperceptions were erased when the Cincinnati Opera presented a one-hour program as a part of its education outreach program in the school’s chapel in February.
Soprano La’Shelle Allen and baritone Claude Cassion, accompanied by pianist Lisa Hasson, opened eyes as well as ears of the high school students and clearly left them with new impressions about opera.
When a Cassion was asked what kind of songs were on his Ipod, he replied country, jazz and some hip hop. That response drew some laughs and cheers from the students who figured he must be a pretty regular guy.
As school budgets for field trips have decreased and schools face increasing pressure to increase classroom time, student exposure to the arts has suffered. Outreach programs provide that exposure and eliminate transportation and time costs for schools.
The Opera’s outreach program expects to reach 40 schools and more than 8,000 students in 2013 through two productions. Opera Programs for Youth is Cincinnati Opera's annual outreach to PreK through high school students throughout the Greater Cincinnati region, featuring age-appropriate programming created and performed by professional artists.
Find Your Voice, which was presented at Summit, is a Black History Month program that follows two young African-American singers whose lives have been shaped by music. They share their personal and inspiring journeys and perform classics of opera and Broadway, along with spirituals and more.
The other production is a 45-minute reduction of Verdi's opera AIDA told through the use of pre-recorded music and puppets. A narrator takes the audience through the amazing story of a strong woman with themes of love, jealousy, loyalty and sacrifice. There is potential for audience involvement, where students can actively participate in the Triumphal March scene with their own puppets they can craft in a 10 minute workshop before the performance or possibly prepared beforehand as part of a classroom activity. This program is a new collaboration with local puppeteer Jesse Bullock-Mooney.
A $20,000 Dater Foundation grant helps provide free performances to students at inner city schools. The Foundation has funded Cincinnati Opera youth programs since 1990, with 27 grants totaling over $600,000.
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