Opera Isn't Just for Grown Ups

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” –John F. Kennedy, former American President

Hey everyone! My name is Alexandria Carmon and I am the new Educational Outreach Coordinator for Painted Sky Opera. I still don’t think I have come up with appropriate words to describe how excited I am to take on this position. I came on as a social media intern in October of 2016 during the double bill of An Incomplete Education and The Medium and I was so honored when I was asked to expand my responsibilities into educational outreach. I have passions for opera, teaching, and cultivating the future of arts in our state and this position combines all of them into something I could have only built in a dream.

Enough sappy stuff.

Artistic Director Rob Glaubitz and Mary McDowell performing an Outreach to a Summer Arts and Music Camp July 2017.

Artistic Director Rob Glaubitz and Mary McDowell performing an Outreach to a Summer Arts and Music Camp July 2017.

The quote by former president, John F. Kennedy, perfectly embodies my goals as the new Educational Outreach Coordinator for PSO. As we are all aware, budget cuts are pulling art out of schools and removing those outlets from students who need them. I was a student who needed that outlet and fortunately was allowed many opportunities to pursue it but that is a rare position for most students today. I believe that no matter the artform, we must continue to try to reach out to the youth and encourage expression. This year, my goals are to reach as many students in the state of Oklahoma as possible and we are doing that by offering a program that is adaptable to different age levels and time constraints.

For Painted Sky, we are able to use opera as a medium to not only expose children to the wonders of it but also the many other aspects that go into it. Singing is just scraping the surface of opera and it is really cool to see a child’s reaction to experiencing it in a live setting. One of my favorite stories to tell about student’s reaction to our outreach program comes from my previous position as the music assistant at Cashion Schools. I met the class of fourth graders on my first day of class and during introductions, I told them I was an opera singer. One student said, “ummm… Miss Alex, that’s weird”. The class went on for a couple minutes about how strange they thought opera was as a whole and their own perceptions of the art form. A few months later, we brought an outreach program to the school and I have to say, being the voice that makes 80 fourth graders sit up in their seats, eyes wide, jaws dropped is indescribable. After the program, they went back to class and the next day in music they had a million questions about opera and everyone raise their hand to tell me their favorite part of the performance. One of my really soft-spoken students in the class came to me at the end of the lesson and asked, “Miss Alex, can I be an opera singer?”

This for me, is why I love what I do. Not because I want to turn every child into an opera singer, that would be absurd, but to develop an appreciation for the artform that they didn’t realize they would ever have because of what they think opera is. We don’t let children grow up without trying their vegetables and we shouldn’t let kids grow up without an opportunity to decide for themselves their opinions about opera. Our program is slowly but surely breaking down the stereotypes of opera being weird or inaccessible for both children and adults. This is hard but extremely rewarding work and I am ecstatic about what the future holds.

To support our program, connect us with a school, or ask questions about what our programs entail, please contact Alexandria Carmon at outreach@paintedskyopera.org.