Education Offerings from OPERA America's Opera Conference 2008
This year, OPERA America's 38th Annual Conference was held in Denver, CO. The Conference, which took place within and beside the second National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC), was an enormous week of events and activities. For a complete list of the sessions and panelists discussed below, please visit operaamerica.org and download the program book.
NPAC gathered over 3,700 individuals from all facets of the performing arts. Of that number, over 500 were opera artists, administrators, educators and more. The education aspects of both the Conference and Convention were plentiful, and kept attendees informed and entertained. During the first full day of programming, an opera-making session titled "Instant Opera with Gourmet Results" was led by composer Roger Ames. Ames was an original author of OPERA America's K-12 curriculum Music! Words! Opera! (M!W!O!) and still leads teacher training workshops throughout the country. "Instant Opera" was attended by composers, poets and education administrators, who came together to create an eight-minute opera about global warming — in under three hours! The session was repeated with much success the following day.
While "Instant Opera" was hosted by NPAC, there were many education offerings at the Opera Conference. Attendees had the option to attend a number of sessions, and this year's education-specific opera sessions dealt with teaching through opera, making the case for programs through research and community intensive projects.
In "Teaching through Opera," panelists from Opera Carolina, Opera Columbus and Fort Worth Opera discussed their experiences and best practices for connecting opera with other content areas. These programs allow students to gain a deeper understanding of opera and the performing arts and also provide a connection to many state learning standards. Attendees posed questions for the panelists throughout the "Using Research to Make the Case for Education Programs" session — Nicolas Reveles from San Diego Opera and Sandra Bernhard from Houston Grand Opera shared their knowledge of garnering internal (board and staff) and external (funder and patron) support for their programming, and also explained how their models could be used both in larger and smaller organizations. Independent program evaluator Patti Saraniero shared the panel and spoke from an advisory perspective. Finally, "Community Creation Projects Take Center Stage" inspired attendees as they learned about different projects with heavy community engagement throughout the world. Representatives from Houston Grand Opera, Vancouver Opera
and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden spoke of their communities' varied religions and cultures, and how these impacted their decisions to produce community projects.
At the close of the Conference, a special bilingual opera double-bill was performed by both Opera Conference 2008 host companies, Opera Colorado and Central City Opera. La Curandera by Robert Xavier Rodriguez and En Mis Palabras (In My Own Words) by Roger Ames were well received by those in attendance, and were inspiring performances by the young artists from both companies.
For more specific information about the programs discussed during these sessions, please e-mail Education@operaamerica.org. The 2009 Opera Conference will take place in Houston, TX, with our host company, Houston Grand Opera.
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