As part of its parent organization’s commitment to supporting youth engagement in the arts, Utah Opera announced it will be “adopting” West High School Fine Arts for the 2019-20 season and school year.
The “adoption” includes mentoring opportunities by Utah Opera in-house artisans and crafts people, and rare access for high school arts students in the processes behind creating professional opera productions, from observing rehearsals to learning marketing savvy. Last year, Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer “adopted” Cottonwood High School orchestra students, coming into their classroom for several workshop sessions culminating in a student performance of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite that he conducted live to other Utah schools via live stream.
“Our goal is to raise a broad awareness that Utah Opera is incredibly active in providing music education programs for students in our statewide community,” said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education and Community Outreach Director Paula Fowler. “Utah Opera Resident Artists provide live, professional opera experiences to students in 150-175 Utah schools every year, and we are dedicated to serving all of the school districts across the state on a regular rotation. Our collaboration with West High School this season involves our entire opera staff and helps us provide a deep and multi-layered experience for the performing arts students at one school. We are thrilled to be able to provide this for West High.”
This unique project will draw attention to the Utah Opera’s devotion to music education. Supported in part by legislative funding, Utah Opera Resident Artists performed 163 programs for elementary and high school students across Utah last year; nearly 63,000 Utah students in 2018-19 got to hear the Utah Opera Resident Artists live in their schools. The organization also provides access for students to the final dress rehearsal for each opera, and features programs for special population audiences including a night at the opera for visually impaired audiences, and access for families affected by autism.
“The West High theatre students have had so many opportunities already this year! They have toured the rehearsal and storage space, workshopped with the Technical Director, Head Costumer, and Publicity,” said West High drama teacher Stacey Hutchings, who is overseeing the program implementation at the school. “Some of the students had never experienced opera or live theatre, and they were able to attend a performance of ‘La traviata.’… The experiences and opportunities that these students are participating in are once in a lifetime!”
During the program, West High students will have the opportunity to consult with Senior Technical Director Jared Porter, Principal Coach and Pianist Carol Anderson, and Costume Director Verona Green for their input on the upcoming school production of “Wizard of Oz” in November. The high school music club choral arm will also get a visit from Utah Opera Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta at their “Wizard of Oz” chorus rehearsal, where she will teach different warmup exercises and suggestions to enhance their musical education, diction, and performance expressiveness.
“Paula and Michaella has been a joy to partner with in this “musical” endeavor! Michaella has brought to the chorus a fresh pedagogical perspective that has inspired us to sing with a new level of excitement and articulation,” said West High choral director Melinda Benson. “I have especially appreciated Paula’s willingness and Michaella’s hands on involvement to reach out to us to have Utah opera artists join our A’cappella members in song for our own special concert on March 17th at West High. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your beautiful partnership!”
Technical high school students will have the opportunity to sit backstage to listen to all the stage manager calls during the opera performances and watch the action behind the curtain. Students will also serve without speaking or singing roles as “extras” on stage (called “supernumeraries”) in “The Barber of Seville” in March.
One student who has already had the opportunity to observe all the backstage action during “La traviata” wrote, “There’s no better place to learn and grow than in a professional technical environment. Thank you so much for this unparalleled opportunity.”