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February 7th 2013

Little Opera Inspires Young Artists & Breaks Barriers

“We need a four syllable word,” stated Erin Bregman, founder of Little Opera, to her first through fifth graders. “Entirely!” one answered quickly. “Justin Bieber,” another hesitantly responded. “I think I heard entirely,” Bregman prompted.  The chorus of young voices then rang out, “Little Opera, we act, we dance, we sing. Little Opera where we do everything, entirely, entire-la, entirely, entire-laaaa …”

Inspired by her work as a teaching artist with the San Francisco Opera, Bregman launched Little Opera during the 2011-2012 school year at West Portal Elementary School.  Supported by individual donors and tuition based on a sliding scale,  Little Opera is a comprehensive seven-month afterschool program that leads each class of students through the creation and performance of an original opera.

I sat in on a class in December and was amazed by the level of participation and engagement of every kid involved. When asked what keeps her going Bregman replied, “The kids. They are so excited it’s hard not get excited yourself.”Assisted by Suzanne Vandelis and Eva Langman, seasoned educators and arts education providers, Bregman envisions Little Opera expanding beyond its current two classrooms. “In my wildest dreams it would be a many armed beast. We’d be in Bayview and West Oakland and kids would be enrolled from the time they are very little through high school.  The kids would be performing multi-year projects and we’d be partnering with youth orchestras, dance studios and art studios. Opera is brilliant because it is every art form in one.”

On their first day of class in September, the students I visited were throwing pieces of paper inscribed with suggestions for the setting of their opera into a hat on the floor.  One finally landed inside: Candyland! Every Tuesday and Thursday over the next several months Bregman’s students received lessons and training from professional artists across various disciplines who share the skills necessary for writing, composing, choreographing, acting, set and costume designing and peer-directing their own production. In March they will perform their opera for an audience of family and friends.

Little Opera is the featured cause and beneficiary of Party Corps’ inaugural 3rd Thursdays Forum on February 21, 2013. We share Bregman’s belief in the effectiveness of creative learning and we’re inspired by Little Opera’s vision of exploding the cultural assumption that opera is not for everyone.  Find out more about ways you can support Little Opera by visiting their website HERE.

Posted by Olivia Swilley


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