Sarasota Opera Offers Affordable and Virtual Youth Summer Camp

Todays News

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAY 29, 2020

In the words of one of America’s finest men of letters, “school’s out for summer.” Unfortunately, where that exclamation once evoked jubilation in the hearts of children everywhere with daydreams of Disney vacations and outdoor summer camps, it now elicits uncertainty. For many parents, a summer in which in-person camps may not be available has them asking, “now what?” One possible answer comes from an institution many would ordinarily believe can only offer itself as an in-person spectacle. This summer, Sarasota Opera has a two-week virtual youth summer camp that will replace their in-person offerings—and at just $25 per student, a highly affordable rate made possible by generous donors, the Opera hopes to increase its outreach and introduce fresh blood into a classic art form.

“The nature of what we do is so in-person,” says Youth Opera Music Director Jesse Martins, “and technology has never really played that big a role in opera.” But, like every arts organization, the Opera has taken this pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine the way it can utilize technology to engage its audience. In this case, the Opera already had its summer curriculum from previous in-person iterations and had to adapt them to the now-ubiquitous Zoom format. “Every year we do what we call a 360-degree experience,” says Martins, “where we cover stagecraft like wigs, make-up, props and costumes in addition to opera history and chorus.” For this summer’s virtual camp, Martins and the Opera’s other instructors also found that one particular element of the camp might lend itself better to the Zoom format than in-person. “Last year we started teaching how to write your own opera,” says Martins, a segment in which students receive a prompt in the form of music, lyrics or a scene, then produce the remaining material. Rather than have to create the material on the spot, students have the opportunity to work on the assignment outside of class and garner a greater understanding of how an opera’s libretto or score relates to its production. 

Of course, the fine print for any successful youth program should also include considerations for the people that provide the students. “We want to make it easy for parents too,” says Martins, “so we had all of our instructors make sure their projects can be done with household items.” That means fewer trips to the craft store for parents already struggling to manage a household in the new 6-foot economy. In addition, the camp’s curriculum will be a blend of live-interactive and prerecorded lessons, allowing for diverse schedules. “We’re really excited about what we’ve put together,” says Martins, “and we hope kids who never really thought they’d be able to do it will give it a try.”

The camp runs June 8th through June 19, from 10 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday. A Zoom account and a device with a camera and microphone are required to participate. No audition is required, and all skill levels are welcome.

Photo courtesy of Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, 941-328-1300

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