Q & A with Education and Community Engagement

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Emily Murdock in her “Blanket Booth” for recording voice-overs on the podcast.

At CCO, Education and Community Engagement is designed to enrich lives and learning at every age. It consists of touring programs, educator workshops, and community and summer festival events. In 2016, ECE also released a series of podcast episodes which shared intimate access to how the summer festival is produced.

Deborah Morrow Director of ECE, and Emily Murdock Associate Director of ECE, are the dynamic tag team who coordinate these programs and events to reach over 40,000 students, families, teachers, and senior citizens each year.

As host and producer of our new podcast series, we asked Emily to answer a few questions about the best of Education and Community Engagement in 2016:

What were some memorable experiences this year?

Every year we have numerous moments with students that make you laugh or even bring joyful tears to your eyes. For example, during a school performance of The Great Opera Mix-up we had a student in the audience shout out, “Opera is fun!” completely unprompted. I think this child was in kindergarten or first grade…definitely brought a huge smile to my face.

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Another amazing situation was with a local Music Words Opera Project, a multi-week residency where students create and perform their own musical story.  One student had a history of “acting out” and was frequently sent to in-school detention, but he fully committed to participating in our project – and he was fantastic! He turned out to be an excellent drummer in our orchestra and also provided lot of great ideas which we used to make MWO more engaging for him and his classmates.

What were some new elements that came out of ECE?

We produced a new work this year titled There’s a Song for That! created by our very own Deb Morrow.  She was inspired by the popular game show Whose Line is It, Anyways? and came up with an opera/music theater version. We’ve all had those moments when a snippet of a song pops into our heads, prompted by someone saying or doing something. There’s a Song for That! capitalizes on that phenomenon, resulting in a fun (and sometimes serious) staged variety concert. We’ve done two performances of it so far, in nearby Golden and also Casper, Wyoming, and will be performing it again in Tabernash, Colorado, this coming March.

Our brand new podcast series, the Central City Opera Podcast, was also quite successful. It featured interviews with artists, directors, designers, production staff, and even patrons around our 2016 Summer Festival. The podcast was meant to “demystify” many misconceptions about opera and humanize the people who create it, but it ended up being so much more we expected. It was an opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” during an uninterrupted and engaging conversation with the people who create such unique artistic experiences in Central City. We ended up with 26 episodes released during the Summer Festival so patrons could listen to them before attending a performance or in their cars on their way to Central City. To date, we’ve had 2,162 downloads from literally around the world – something that still blows me away. All episodes are still available on iTunes, Stitcher, and our website.

Which podcasts did you enjoy recording?

The podcast with Pat Pearce stands out as it was the first we recorded and still is the most downloaded episode to date. He talked about his 20 years with CCO and explained the artistic direction for the Summer Festival. It certainly got me excited! A few others to mention are Director of Production Karen Federing, Music Director John Baril, and Jeanne Richards, who is the most devout patron of CCO in our history. She’s been attending productions since 1953 and for the last 30 years, she has seen every single opera performance and dress rehearsal. She melted the hearts of every listener. But really, every single episode could be called my favorite. It was a joy to sit down with the singers, directors, conductors, designers…everyone who had a hand in creating the magic on the Central City Opera House stage. Hearing their stories was fascinating and truly inspiring. And they are all such great people!

What is does 2017 look like for ECE?

We now have over 30 Ensemble artists who perform in all of our shows and programs. With so many world-class voices, we will be able extend our reach in the community. We’re continuing our strong presence in the Denver Metro area, as well as doing run-out tours to places including Tabernash, Deer Trail, southern Colorado, and the Western Front.

Due to the success of the Central City Opera Podcast, we will be producing the second season of the series for the 2017 Summer Festival. I can’t wait for more episodes – there is so much more discover “behind the curtain.”

Please consider supporting Central City Opera and ECE by making a gift online at coloradogives.org/centralcityopera. A friendly reminder that Tuesday, December 6th is Colorado Gives Day when your gift to CCO goes even further with a $1 Million Incentive Fund! For help scheduling your gift in advance, please read our brief walkthrough.

Thanks to Deb Morrow and Emily Murdock for all their hard work and we look forward to even more from their department in 2017.

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