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A Summary of Opera Education in North America
Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink4/20/2009

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As the leader in conducting research and analyses for the field of opera, OPERA America produces annual benchmarking surveys that examine every aspect of the field, from finance to upcoming repertoire. The Opera Education Survey Report focuses on the educational activities of OPERA America’s Professional Company Members.

The 2008 Survey Report is an analysis of survey information that was collected from 53 companies during the 2007-2008 season. The report also includes historical trends for a constant sample group (CSG) of 27 companies that completed the 2004, 2006 and 2008 surveys. A summary of these reports follow.

In 2008, the average annual budget of all responding companies was $7,309,583. Eight responding companies had budgets larger than the average and 45 companies had budgets that are smaller than the average. Total operating expenses for the CSG increased from 2004 to 2008, and educational programming expenses also increased over this period. However, as a percentage, average company expenses used for education declined slightly from 5.59% in 2003-2004 to 5.27% in 2007-2008.

While average company expenses for education have declined to some extent, it is promising to note that, on average, companies reported having two full-time and one part-time staff person working solely in education. These numbers are consistent with data from both 2004 and 2006. In addition, surveyed companies reported that a total of 2,391 volunteers donated 41,013 hours to education programs. A total of 90 in-house student performances and 146 in-house student dress rehearsals were offered by responding companies during the 2007-2008 season, with an average ticket price of $3 per performance and $4 per dress rehearsal. For the sample groups, the average ticket prices for 2007-2008 were lower than in previous years.

94% of surveyed companies offered curriculum materials to accompany their various educational activities. Of those, 71% of the curricula met federal education standards, 84% met state education standards and 86% of the materials were aligned with local education standards. All CSG companies offered curriculum materials. 96% of companies in the 2007-2008 CSG aligned their materials with state standards and 100% with local standards. These numbers have increased from previous years and reflect member companies’ awareness of increased connectivity between the arts and educational standards.

In 2007-2008, adults accounted for 37% of the audiences served by company education programs, which is the second largest number after K-5 students (45%). Lectures, the most popular type of adult education program, were offered by 94% of responding companies. Adult audiences have begun to account for a higher percentage of those participating in education programs in recent years, nearly doubling since the 2003-2004 season according to the sample group.

For questions about the figures in this article, please contact Education@operaamerica.org.

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