The articles in this blog by Central City Opera are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Bit of History on Central City Opera's Education Programming

Editor's Note: Today's blog was written by Deborah Morrow, Director of Education & Community Engagement

In the late 70s Central City Opera began formally offering education programs that toured to schools and other facilities.  Duain Wolfe, who also founded the Colorado Children’s Chorale and Colorado Symphony Chorus, instigated these programs.  He was CCO’s Artistic Administrator at the time and had relationships with singers, teachers and schools in the area.  When Duain Wolfe left CCO in 1993, I was already on staff and was able to continue and expand the programs that Duain had established.  There had been community outreach before us - for example, Florence Lamont Hinman (early CCO Chorusmaster and founder of DU’s Lamont School of Music) and her successor, Robert Dexter Fee, used the local singers from the chorus to present many community programs during the 40s and 50s. 

Because CCO produces in the summer we have some unique challenges in presenting community programs.  First, we don’t own an accessible venue in which to present programs outside the summer.  Most opera companies reach their largest numbers of young and new audiences through student performances, paid dress rehearsals and other performances in their theatres.  Our single Family Matinee only attracts around 400 student and family patrons each year (the rest of the audience consists of company members and older patrons looking for cheap tickets).  So we must take our communityprograms on the road (whether locally or farther afield) in order to reach a viable number of students and new audiences.  
Saints and Sinners, performed in Ouray - Pictured: Bradley Thompson, Jennifer DeDominici, Max Hosmer, Michelle Diggs Thompson. Photo by Erin Joy Swank
The second challenge we face is the fact that we cannot efficiently utilize singers from a Young Artist program for community programs.  Opera companies with traditional seasons have a group of young artists who fill small roles in full productions and spend the rest of their time presenting education programs.  It is not financially feasible for us to retain a group of young artists after the summer festival for education and community programs.  Fortunately, due to the fact that a large number of Colorado colleges offer vocal performance programs (and many performers make their homes in Colorado after college), there is a large pool of local talent to utilize.  We have learned that we can save on costs and use numerous artists on a fee per service basis, rather than hiring a few artists each year for a limited time.  Thus we have about 25 professional artists on our Central City Opera Ensemble roster, allowing flexibility in programming and scheduling, while limiting expenses.

These “deviations” from standard opera company protocol have allowed us to develop unique programming that is mobile and can be offered any time of year.  While we do offer summer programming, the majority of our work occurs from September through June.  Since we’ve just reached the end of a school year, I’ve been reviewing our offerings for the past year.  Here are a few highlights:
  • A robust partnership with Inside the Orchestra – 60-plus performances for families and students in the 2014-15 school year
  • More than 1500 middle school students experienced the bilingual opera En Mis Palabras-In My Own Words.  Student and teacher response was overwhelmingly positive.  The Principal at Hemphill MS in Strasburg commented, “The performance was excellent and shared a great message. It was amazing to be able to expose our students to the message that all cultures struggle with similar issues.
  • A new-for-CCO holiday production of Amahl and the Night Visitors was presented in partnership with St. James United Methodist Church, Highlands Ranch.  This touching family production brought in new (and old) audience members during the holiday season.
  • Our partnership each year with the CCO Guild allows us to offer Opera Teaser, Opera and Art, Opera Inside Out, and Take a Child to the Opera.  We LOVE these opportunities.
  • We presented 185 performances or teaching sessions for students and families in the Denver metro area in the 2014-15 school year
  • While we have drastically cut back on touring due to fewer dedicated grants, we still were able to take run-out programs to Glenwood Springs, Summit County, Ouray, Loveland, Colorado Springs, Strasburg, Montrose, Bailey and southeastern Wyoming.  A full house (family audience) at Ouray’s historic Wright Opera House leaped to their feet at the end of Saints and Sinners, demanding encores. They have requested a repeat visit this Fall.

Opera and Art

When the Pathfinders Came: A Cultural Journey Through Colorful Colorado – C3 3rd grade

  • Some of our favorite projects each year involve working with students to create original “operas” based on curricular studies.  This school year, Emily Murdock worked with 5th grade students and 3rd grade students in two Denver schools to create shows about American Revolutionary history and Colorado history. We know from the teachers who work with those students regularly that they never forget these experiences (or the information they write about in their operas).  A student commented, “I learned that making an opera is a BIG BIG BIG job.” Studies show that students who participate in the Arts become supporters and attenders as adults. 
Find out more about Central City Opera's Education & Community Engagement programs.

No comments:

Post a Comment