Hi everyone, Emily Murdock here. I’m the Director of Education at Central City Opera, and let me tell you what you already know – 2020 has been unreal. We, along with everyone else in the world, had to do a hard pivot in mid-March when the state of Colorado went into lockdown, and as you all know, we’re not back to regular life yet.
Originally, we cancelled all our education programs in the spring and optimistically planned to reschedule them for the fall. We paid our Touring Artists – the incredibly talented group of local singers, pianists and other musicians who perform our programs around the state – advances for these cancelled programs and promised to reschedule as soon as we could. We all assumed the pandemic would be over by the time school started in late August 2020.
Well, it’s October, and the pandemic is still going strong. Students, parents and teachers all over the country have had to continue adapting to this #NewNormal, and Central City Opera is right there with you. We’ve personally experienced the challenges of adapting our own programs and deeply understand the disappointment of having to cancel or postpone planned events. With that understanding, it’s our goal to support our community the best we can.
Over the spring and summer, my colleague Meg Ozaki Graves (our Education Coordinator) and I worked hard to create online remote learning content. This content includes programs such as a new self-guided online course called “Opera Up Close” which takes you behind the scenes and introduces you to all the cool, important backstage jobs at an opera company as well as the various operatic voice types showcased by diverse artists performing huge range of opera music. The course is narrated by a handful of our talented Touring Artists and there are supplemental activities available as PDF downloads. We now offer a range of free content such as Central City Opera House coloring book pages, a Limerick-writing activity based on a historic property scavenger hunt, five Yoga and the Voice mini-lessons lead by our teaching artist Ruth L. Carver, and more. Meg and I also worked side by side with the full Central City Opera staff to produce a series of outdoor concerts in Central City, starring some of our Touring Artists and even past principal artists. And during all that, we brainstormed and developed new programs for the 2020-2021 school year.
For students, we are excited to launch two virtual programs: Virtual Speaker-in-Classroom and Virtual Master Class. These two programs happen synchronously, meaning they are live over a video conferencing platform, and they can be accessed by a classroom of students or by students learning from home. Experts from across the opera industry can present on a number of different topics, such as opera singing (of course), conducting, stage management, wigs and makeup, costume design, and more. A Virtual Master Class takes a little more coordination between teacher, students, and our teaching artists, but thanks to technology, it can be done, and our teaching artists have been successfully teaching virtual voice lessons and coachings since the beginning of the pandemic.
Singing is an athletic experience as well as an artistic expression. We are continuing to offer our new Yoga and the Voice Workshop to smaller groups of students or adults, virtually or in-person in an outdoor, physically-distanced environment. Teaching Artist Ruth L. Carver leads the class in yoga exercises designed to enhance students’ understanding of the mind/body/spirit connection and confidence in unleashing their own authentic voice and increase awareness of alignment and posture.
Our acclaimed Music! Words! Opera! Residency in which students write, compose and produce their own musical with assistance from Central City Opera Teaching Artists, is still an important part of our programming. This project can be done virtually – we successfully held a teacher training workshop over the summer during which we wrote a musical based on “Little Red Riding Hood” with a pandemic twist.
Missing the thrill of seeing a performance? While we’re not able to perform in front of students right now, we are able to film a Digital Concert with an opera singer and pianist and send it to students. After the video, the performers can join the classroom via video conference for a live Q&A session. The videos range from 10-30 minutes and repertoire can be customized.
And finally, when it is safe to gather again, we are ready to bring opera performances to schools across Colorado. Live performance is truly something that cannot be replaced with videos and playlists. But until we can meet again, we are here with programs that will excite students about opera and will inform learners of all ages about all the interesting jobs that support great opera performances.
You can find details on all our programs and free content at centralcityopera.org/virtual-programming/. Contact us today to find out more!