How do you get kids to love¬†Opera? We’re working on it.
El¬†Paso¬†Opera’s¬†focus on education and outreach brings home global perspective and new opportunities through its groundbreaking Children‚Äôs¬†Opera¬†Workshop program.
Children‚Äôs¬†Opera¬†Workshop (CHOW) launched in January 2014 ¬†in¬†El¬†Paso¬†with a group of 32 students, the YoungStars of the future. Participants come from the Border’s¬†diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including the Segundo Barrio and Ciudad¬†Ju√°rez.¬†This three-week, after-school and weekend youth program focuses on the creative choices of the middle and high school students and culminates in an original 40- to 50-minute¬†operacomposed, written, and directed by the student participants themselves. Students from across the region auditioned through their schools to receive a position in this program.
CHOW’s premiere was January 25, with an original production called The Time of My Life.
VIDEO: CHOW 2014: We did it!
His master classes in Bangkok (October 2013) and Harlem (November 2013) were well-spent with young people¬†eager to learn more about¬†opera¬†and their relationship with this art form. Grabarkewitz brought their enthusiasm back to¬†El¬†Paso¬†and immediately applied it to the Children‚Äôs¬†Opera¬†Workshop. ‚ÄúThe passion for children to create is global,‚ÄĚ¬†says Grabarkewitz.¬†‚ÄúThis became clear as I traveled from Bhutan to Thailand to Harlem to Ciudad¬†Ju√°rez.‚ÄĚ
The CHOW workshop begins by teaching children musicality and ensemble theater, based on techniques developed from sources including the International Schools of Theatre Association (I.S.T.A.) and The Berkshire Ensemble for Theatre Arts, and¬†direction from Boston Metro¬†Opera¬†affiliates.
In addition to Grabakewitz, CHOW participants have highly acclaimed theater veterans as mentors.
Roger Ames,¬†Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer, author and artist/mentor, has written musicals and¬†operas¬†for American companies, off-Broadway theaters, London Fringe, and the Hartford Stage.¬†He has been commissioned by Central City¬†Opera, Colorado¬†(En Mis Palabras),;¬†Long Island Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra¬†(In Memoriam:¬†Warsaw 1943);¬†The American Chamber Players,¬†(I Wonder),¬†Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS (Shadows),¬†Lake George¬†Opera¬†(Amarantha),¬†and others.
Jeffry Gilden comes to CHOW with background from the children’s cable TV network¬†Nickelodeon, innovative alternative playwriting courses called STAGES, and collaborative writing and production for four full-length musicals.¬†Jeff has had stories and essays published. His one-act bilingual¬†opera, En Mis Palabras, for which he wrote the libretto, has been performed throughout Colorado by the Central CityOpera¬†Company in Denver.¬†Shadows, a one-act piece commissioned by Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, was produced in New York. His first screenplay,¬†Red Lantern, was a second-prize winner in the All-Access Screenwriting Contest.
Additionally, the program brings local expertise into play with the choreography of Karla Fernandez, instructor and owner of Dancer‚Äôs Studio¬†in¬†El¬†Paso¬†and Ju√°rez.
Consider this a creative empowerment zone.¬†The¬†El¬†Paso¬†Opera¬†team and CHOW endeavor¬†to bring to life the ideas, dreams, and lives of the each young participant, teaching the beauty and rightness of individual choices.
CHOW¬†rehearsals and performances were at 2101 Myrtle Ave, a community space donated by BLAC.