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Why Opera Camps?
Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink9/21/2009

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From opera creation to after-school programs, opera company education departments offer a wide array of initiatives. According to the most recent Opera Education Survey Report, the number of companies offering opera camps has been steadily increasing over the past few years. Between 2003-2004 and 2007-2008, a surveyed constant sample group of companies that offered opera camps rose from 44% to 59%.

Opera camp activities have been part of Austin Lyric Opera's programming for the past eight years. The camps, hosted through ALO's Armstrong Community Music School, provide opportunities for roughly 100 students each year, ages five through 22. ALO offers a half-day summer camp for five- to seven-year-olds, camps for eight- to 12-year-olds and a week-long workshop for ages 14 to 22.

The camp for younger students, Music on My Own! (MoMO!), allows children to "sing and dance, play basic percussion instruments, hear operatic selections, learn engaging songs from world cultures and become acquainted with the great composers of classical music and their most accessible masterpieces." The camps for eight- to 12-year-olds, of which there are two, focus on creating and performing original works. The children create sets, costumes, music, storylines and other aspects of a live opera performance. The Advanced Summer Vocal Workshop for the oldest students is an "intensive, classical vocal training program designed for the advanced vocal student… who is considering pursuing music in college or as a career."

Opera camps have the ability to stimulate students during the summer months, when most are not focused on learning or school activities. Liz Cass, ALO's education program coordinator, says "[students] learn team-building (one of the biggest skills in my book), creativity, cooperation, musicality; and they are exposed to all kinds of music." Apart from faculty, camps are facilitated with a minimal number of staff. Cass says "We really need one to two people to administrate over the programs. For our Musical Splash and Opera Odyssey camps, I administrate over the program but I have help. We have about three to four teenage helpers or ‘counselors' per camp and most have been in our camps before, so they know the drill. We have one lead teacher, a theater teacher, a music teacher and an art teacher. This setup runs pretty smoothly. For MoMO!, we have an administrator (myself) and two lead teachers, plus two to three teenage helpers."

Summer camps also provide collaborative opportunities for the attending students and other organizations, as is the case at ALO. "We host the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for our daily live performances. Austin Chamber Music Center sends members of their festival each summer to perform. They have sent over The Mendelssohn String Quartet and the Cecilia String Quartet. We have even had classical guitarists from the Austin Classical Guitar Society. We are lucky indeed" says Cass.

OPERA America is interested in learning about other education programs hosted during the summer or after school, and encourages you to contact Education@operaamerica.org with information. The Opera Education Survey Report is a confidential report, disseminated only to OPERA America professional company members who complete the survey. Please contact Education Manager Evan Wildstein at EWildstein@operaamerica.org for questions about the report and how to participate.
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