By Emily Murdock
On March 13, 2020, everyday life in Colorado — and the world — ground to a halt. In the face of COVID-19, opera seemed…frivolous. Pointless. Nonessential. But as time went on and shutdowns continued, people came to realize two things. 1) This pandemic was not going to be over soon, and 2) The arts are powerful, necessary forces in boosting mental health and strengthening coping skills. They are a source of emotional release, inspiration, beauty and community, and Central City Opera’s education team swiftly reimagined and developed programs, intentionally centering those qualities.
We released our first virtual education program, a self-guided online course called Opera Up Close in April of 2020. As teachers and students acclimated to video and online learning, we began using those same tools to partner with schools. “While we didn’t book virtual programs very often in the beginning of the pandemic, teachers have become much more comfortable and confident with this style of learning,” says Education Coordinator Meg Ozaki Graves. “We are now teaching virtual programs every week.”
Since launching that first course, CCO’s education department developed a total of 14 customizable virtual programs. They range from remote masterclasses, to Yoga and the Voice workshops, recorded performances with artist talkbacks, to our newest offering, Storytelling with Sound. Teachers seem to appreciate that we pivoted quickly to provide resources that enhance their existing curriculum. Happily, the team also discovered that remote programs are a great way to reach the farthest corners of Colorado, opening up opportunities to students and teachers in rural communities in a way that we were not able to before. While nothing can replace the magic of live performance, we’ve uncovered many educational tools that work well virtually. That growth is here to stay.
The CCO staff also dove into an unprecedented time of professional development during 2020, immersing ourselves in the resources and community of OPERA America and Alliance for Music Education Equity (AMEE). We are inspired to forge ahead with the diversity, equity, inclusion and access values that are increasingly central to our company and industry.
Starting fall of 2021, Central City Opera’s education team is excited to produce in-person performances of the children’s opera, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World. This new 30-minute work premiered in 2019, commissioned by Fort Worth Opera and written by Joe Illick and Mark Campbell. It tells the true story of a Mexican girl named Mariana, who asks the famous painter Frida Kahlo to paint her portrait. Mariana learns about Frida’s experiences and is inspired to live bravely and boldly, just like Frida.
Learn more about Central City Opera’s education programs, including Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, at centralcityopera.org/education