Community Advocates Ambassador in Community Engagement Opera Kids: SUNY Geneseo Young Artist Workshop
The lights flickered, signaling the buzzing audience of nearly 600 to settle into their plush, velvet seats. The clinking of champagne flutes and the flutter of excited whispers faded as the room darkened. I turned to look at my students, each of them gazing intently at the stage. Ten pairs of eyes widened as a figure dressed in black tails ascended from the orchestra pit. The maestro raised his baton, and with one elegant flick, the glorious overture of Verdi’s La Traviata flooded the room.
My name is Francesca DiGiorgio and I am a senior Vocal Performance and Psychology dual major at SUNY Geneseo. One of my goals is to advocate for music education, and after learning about the Finger Lakes Opera program, I realized applying for an ambassadorship grant though the CIDD would be an excellent way to start this project in my community. In partnership with the Finger Lakes Opera Company, I executed a self-directed project called Opera Kids: SUNY Geneseo Young Artist Workshop.
My objective for Opera Kids was to develop an exciting new educational experience for students in grades 4-5 in the Livingston County area. In this program, the Finger Lakes Opera Company served as the connecting bridge between our classroom and the world of professional opera. The program was unique in that it provided students with an introduction to the world of opera, an opportunity to become familiar with the SUNY Geneseo campus, and tickets to attend a live opera performance. These are experiences that would not normally be available in regular music classrooms. The Opera Kids program mission was to promote and provide the opportunity for a culturally enriching and educational experience for young students in Livingston County. The long-term objective was that participation in this program would make the world of opera more accessible and encourage students and their families to attend musical events at SUNY Geneseo and in their communities.
The Opera Kids program was a two-day event, with the pre-show preparatory workshop on one day, and a chaperoned attendance at the Finger Lakes Opera Company’s production of La Traviata opera the next day. Students participated in games and activities to develop their own performing skills and learned about the basic elements of opera. In addition, the story of La Traviata was broken down into terms younger students could understand, through videos, music clips, games, art projects and role-playing activities.
Students also had the opportunity to meet professionals in the opera world and music majors at Geneseo. Jordan Bachmann ’17 and Brianna Kelly ‘17, both prominent students in the Geneseo Vocal Performance program, performed as part of the cast of La Traviata and made a guest appearance at the workshop. They engaged students in a Q&A session about life as Geneseo music students and their experiences performing professionally with the opera company. This aspect of the workshop was a unique opportunity for students to learn about the diverse educational opportunities offered by the Geneseo Music Department and Finger Lakes Opera. The following day, students attended the 2:00 performance of La Traviata at SUNY Geneseo, under the supervision of myself and the other Opera Kids instructors.
My initial goal in creating the Opera Kids workshop was to inspire young artists to grow as music lovers and contributing members of the SUNY Geneseo performing arts community. Developing and directing this program allowed me to combine my academic disciplines in a way that would not have been possible in a traditional classroom setting and ultimately clarified my goals for graduate study. I am very grateful to the Finger Lakes Opera Company and SUNY Geneseo for providing me with this life changing opportunity. I hope to apply what I have learned from being a SUNY Geneseo Ambassador to my graduate studies in child development and will utilize the Opera Kids program as a model to share with other communities I become a part of in the future.
The Lamron profiled Francesca's work HERE.
The College produced a video about Francesca's project HERE.