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USC opera studies director receives national mentoring award

Ellen Douglas Schlaefer, University of South Carolina’s director of opera studies and Opera at USC, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Wally Russell Professional Mentoring Award from The United States Institute for Theatre Technology, the national association serving designers and technicians in the entertainment field. The award honors a professional who serves as a guide and mentor to professionals outside of the academy and will be presented to Schlaefer at the 57th annual USITT Conference and Stage Expo in St. Louis, Mo., on March 10. Schlaefer was nominated by several of her peers for her guidance as a director and stage manager. She is only the third recipient of this award, joining Broadway lighting designer Ken Billington, and former production manager of Arena Stage, Guy Bergquist. USITT was founded in 1960 as an organization to promote dialogue, research and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology. Today it has grown to include members at all levels of their careers and has embraced the new technologies being used in entertainment. USITT is now the leader in lifelong learning opportunities for the entertainment design and technology industry. The membership organization aims to advance the skills and knowledge of theatre, entertainment and performing arts professionals involved in the areas of design, production and technology, and to promote their interests.

Spoleto Festival USA holding Porgy and Bess auditions for classically trained African-American singers

Spoleto Festival USA will hold auditions in accordance with the terms established by the Gershwin Estate, for experienced, classically trained African-American singers in all voice categories who seek positions in the opera’s choral ensemble for the 2016 season production of The Gershwins®' Porgy and BessSM. These auditions will take place in Charleston, SC on Friday, February 19 from noon to 5 p.m. Production period: Rehearsals for this production will begin on May 16, 2016. The production will have six performances and the contract period will end no later than June 12, 2016. Auditions: To be considered for an audition, singers should submit a current resume, headshot, and cover letter to Assistant Producer Sara Bennett at the email address provided below. Once your materials are received, we will contact you to set up an audition time. Hard copies of materials may also be sent to the address below: Sara Bennett | Assistant Producer SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA 14 George Street, Charleston, SC 29401 o: 843.720.1107 | e: auditions@spoletousa.org Audition requirements: • Please have two memorized selections to offer; at least one must be an operatic aria, the other should be a selection from the opera Porgy and Bess. • Please bring copies of your headshot and bio during your scheduled audition time. • Prove United States citizenship; permanent residency; or possess, at the time of the audition, legal permission to work in the United States of America during the rehearsal and performance period. Auditions will be held at Second Presbyterian Church Education Building located at 342 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403. For more information, please email auditions@spoletousa.org.

Columbia high schoolers find their voices at Project Opera Camp

From The State Article by Sarah Ellis, photos by Tracy Glantz

COLUMBIA, SC “The most important thing is don’t stop singing.”
It’s OK to make mistakes, Brenton O’Hara assured the performance cast. But they can’t let the audience see it in their faces, and they must not stop singing. https://youtu.be/vgPFAfA6q9E   Sure, there would be mistakes for the dozen high schoolers who, in the span of just two weeks, had learned to sing and choreograph a 15-minute opera. It’s been a steep learning curve for the teens, most of whom had never even seen an opera, much less performed on a public stage, before attending Project Opera Camp. A first-year program co-founded by University of South Carolina graduates O’Hara and Kate McKinney, the two-week Project Opera Camp has given campers a crash course not only in the arts of opera and on-stage performance, but in self-esteem and life skills. “Within the opera performance itself, there’s just intrinsic value. Music, it warms your heart,” McKinney said. “You have to be assertive in your presentation when you’re on stage in front of people. You’re making yourself vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there.” The camp was born from McKinney and O’Hara’s $20,000 prize-winning pitch in USC’s Proving Ground entrepreneurship competition last fall. The pair had witnessed the benefits musical performance can instill in children while directing an opera during McKinney’s senior year at USC. Both voice-performance majors in college, they wanted to continue spreading the good of the art form, particularly to young people who might not ordinarily be exposed to it. As a result, Project Opera Camp was offered for free to all of its students, many of whom come from schools with large populations of students receiving free and reduced lunches, traditional indicators of poverty. Augmented by life skills workshops on topics such as college readiness, money management and entrepreneurship, the bulk of the camp focused on voice lessons and rehearsing songs and choreography. “People throw the word ‘opera’ around, and you immediately have the idea in your head of, like, the fat lady in the viking hat or something that’s elitist and unapproachable,” McKinney said. “But for the most part, when you really delve into the art form, it’s very accessible. It tells stories. Storytelling is inherently human, and opera does a wonderful job of telling the story through music.” On Thursday, a day before their culminating public performance, 13 campers started rehearsal with a full run-through, punctuated by occasionally forgotten lyrics and fumbling dance steps. But the progress they had made in just under two weeks was evident, and their confidence grew visibly with every repetition. The campers’ rendition of “Inner Light,” an abbreviated performance of the children’s opera by composer Roger Ames, features a loose story reflecting the nature of love and relationships. The music, “takes you into a whole other world,” said Xavier Thompson, an 18-year-old who was encouraged by his Columbia High School music teacher to participate in the camp. “You shall be simple, you shall be right, if only you follow your inner light,” the chorus sang in harmony, somewhat timidly in an early trial then with more boldness as the rehearsal wore on. “I think it sort of encapsulated what we were trying to do (through the camp),” O’Hara said of the opera selection. “Your inner voice has value, and learning how to share it – not just singing, but all these other (skills), too.” The camp has been a self-esteem-building experience for a number of the campers. “My confidence has gone from a ‘one’ to a solid ‘nine,’” 17-year-old Haley Brown said. At the end of the week, 17-year-old soloist Maria Streater was still not entirely comfortable being in the spotlight, she said. Her voice, though, wowed her peers. “I don’t know what you have to be nervous about,” 16-year-old Quest Morris told her in between rehearsals Thursday. Stepping forward during a run-through, Streater fixed her eyes ahead of her and took a confident breath. “I used to dream I was a bird flying high above the earth,” she sang out loudly, clearly, not a quiver in her voice. “And with my wings I’d catch the air and fill it with my song.
Project Opera Camp will perform “Inner Light” Friday (July 31) at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Music Festival Association, 914 Pulaski St., Columbia. The performance is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and seats are first come, first served. Donations will be accepted at the door from anyone wishing to support the camp’s future programming. For more information, visit www.projectoperacamp.org. Image: Camp director Kate McKinney, left, and choreographer Anna Dragoni, offer suggestions during a rehearsal at Project Opera Camp. The camp, in its first year, was started by two USC graduates to offer a music camp that also focuses on life skills, for students who might not otherwise be able to attend such a camp.

Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Missouri, seeks chief development officer

Lyric Opera of Kansas City Application deadline: July 3, 2015 Reporting to the general director & CEO, the chief development officer is Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s senior and leading development professional, responsible for the strategy, implementation, evaluation and achievement of all support revenue goals. Lyric Opera of Kansas City is at a pivotal point in its growth, having recently defined a strategic direction for the company. This direction will require an accomplished, strategic thinker and an individual experienced with comprehensive fund-raising and strong experience in major gifts. The ideal candidate will possess the highest level of professional development knowledge, skill and experience, a collaborative spirit, excellent written and verbal communications skills, and the ability to manage an eclectic team of development professionals. Success in this role requires someone who is imaginative, highly self-motivated and works in a self-directed manner. Working conditions include a combination of general office work, prospecting calls, solicitation calls and community events activities. Work requires attendance at opera performances and other company events. While a majority of work occurs in relation to a long-term plan, the individual will be required to be flexible to changing priorities and additional projects that can require overtime and must have the ability to manage short-term deadlines. Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications. Excellent benefits package. Interested candidates are invited to submit a cover letter and resume with a list of references and salary requirements in confidence to: Ms. Amy Peak, Human Resources and Accounting Manager Lyric Opera of Kansas City 1725 Holmes St. Kansas City, MO 64108 hr@kcopera.org Deadline for applications: July 3, 2015 Complete job advertisement: http://genovesevanderhoof.com/opportunities/chief-development-officer/ For additional information: www.kcopera.org Via: Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Converse College premiere of “Troiades” pushes boundaries of traditional opera

A Converse College School of the Arts collaboration is pushing the limits of traditional opera through the use of innovative technologies. TroiadesConverse musicology and composition professor Dr. David Berry, an accomplished composer, and co-creator Dr. Ronald Boudreaux, former director of Converse Opera Theatre, will premiere their opera-oratorio "Troiades" at Converse Jan. 23-25, 2015. For info and tickets, visit culture.converse.edu. Scenery for the production is created with projection mapping, and performers are accompanied by digital orchestration. “These are fairly new and somewhat controversial concepts in the world of opera, but these technologies open up new possibilities for use of space and selection of venue,” said Berry. “In many ways, Troiades is like a laboratory for Converse to explore some approaches that are not being done elsewhere in our state or region.” The setting has a graphic novel (comic book) style. While the term “projection mapping” is not widely recognized by the general public, it will be familiar from its use in such events as the Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, and for Carrie Underwood's costume on stage at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Graphics for the opera's set and action scenes were created by Converse freshman art major Hannah Stewart, who attended the Governor's School for the Arts in Greenville, S.C. prior to coming to Converse. Stewart adapted set designs created by Converse interior design students as a class project. Combined, these technologies push the boundaries of traditional opera and expand the limitations typically dictated by a venue. “Daniel Recital Hall is an intimate setting for an opera, and that would not be possible without the use of these technologies,” said Berry. “This is about exploring new ways to make art and impact the experience of our audiences.” The story of "Troiades" is told through the viewpoint of women who lived through the Trojan War. The female perspective is rarely captured in accounts of early historical times, and Berry was drawn to that angle as a way to honor Converse's mission as a women's college. He blends historical accuracy of the Bronze Age with 21st century twists, like the graphic novel design and a contemporary narrator who provides commentary on the action. “Everything that is happening to the Trojans in this story is happening in our world right now – it is mirrored by today’s news headlines,” said Berry. “That is why the mix between the Bronze Age and 21st century was an important focus for me.” Several notable Converse music alumni will perform alongside students, and the production is directed by Elizabeth Margolius, a 1990 Converse alumna and professional director from Chicago. The production demonstrates how colleges can expand into new arts areas to meet the needs of today's students – a priority for the Converse School of the Arts. “It provides students with a broader range of experiences as they prepare to explore career paths and make their mark as artists," said Berry.

Opera Birmingham seeks general director

Apply by Sept. 15. Opera Birmingham is seeking applications for the position of general director from individuals with a passion for opera and broad practical experience in production and management. Reporting to the board of directors, the general director shall be responsible for all matters required for the successful conduct of the company’s business and shall be the primary leader in fund-raising and building relationships with individuals and organizations in the community. The ideal candidate will have senior management experience in the opera/cultural field and the ability to work cooperatively with volunteers, including the board of directors, and the company’s current staff. Other required skills include experience in the development and management of budgets, marketing, fund-raising, artistic operations, and educational programming, and strategic problem solving. The board of directors is seeking someone who inspires enthusiasm, has a track record of expanding audiences, and who is interested in growing a company over a number of years. Training in opera/music and/or arts management is desirable. A good contact network throughout the opera industry is vital. Salary commensurate with experience. E-mail resume and cover letter with salary requirements and a list of references by Sept. 15, 2014 to gvasearch@gmail.com. For additional information, visit www.OperaBirmingham.org or www.genovesevanderhoof.com. Via: Opera Birmingham

South Arts awards $28,836 to South Carolina arts organizations

South Arts announces a total of $28,836 awarded to South Carolina arts organizations for fiscal year 2013-14 to present touring artists. Through the Regional Touring program, the National Endowment  for the Arts and South Arts partner to offer nonprofit presenting organizations fee support to present artists from outside of their states. Touring support is awarded for theatre, music, opera, musical theatre and dance projects that contain both a public performance and an educational component.

South Carolina grant recipients and amounts:
  • Arts Center of Coastal Carolina (Hilton Head), $5,475
  • City of Charleston (Charleston), $3,525
  • Clemson University (Clemson), $3,861
  • Peace Center Foundation (Greenville), $6,100
  • Rock Hill School District (Rock Hill),$3,825
  • University of South Carolina Educational Foundation (Columbia), $2,860
  • Walhalla Civic Auditorium (Walhalla), $3,190
A total of 126 applications were submitted from South Arts’ nine-state region, and 100 projects totaling $433,193 in funding will be supported by grants. The following states are in South Arts’ region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. About South Arts South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to our region, and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts.
Via: South Arts

Spoleto Festival USA May 24 – June 9 in Charleston

[gallery link="file"] For 17 days and nights beginning Friday, May 24 through Sunday, June 9, Spoleto Festival USA fills the historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces in Charleston, South Carolina with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers. Take your choice of opera, theater, music theater, dance and visual arts, plus chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. The 37th annual Festival will feature one of Spoleto’s largest lineups in recent history, with expanded dance and theater offerings and two original opera productions, as well as a wide range of classical and contemporary music.
The Opening Ceremonies take place at noon in front of Charleston’s City Hall. The newly retrofitted TD Arena will see its first performances on Friday night as Compagnie Käfig presents a program of hip-hop-influenced Brazilian dance. Following the evening’s performances, the Spoleto Opening Night Fête kicks off the 2013 season with an elegant street party with cocktail supper, live music, a full bar, and the company of Festival artists and patrons. Spoleto Festival USA is known for introducing audiences to new and groundbreaking work, and the 2013 Festival offers a number of American premieres in a variety of genres, beginning with the contemporary opera Matsukaze by Toshio Hosokawa, one of Japan’s most prominent living composers. In dance, young tap virtuoso Jared Grimes makes his Spoleto debut premieringa new evening-length work created especially for the Festival. The theater program offers the American premiere of a production of  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by England’s Bristol Old Vic in association with South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. One half of the operatic double-bill—Umberto Giordano’s Mese Mariano—will receive its first fully staged U.S. production. On the music front, John Kennedy, Spoleto Festival USA’s resident conductor and director of orchestral activities, will lead the Festival Orchestra in the American premiere performances of Pierre Boulez’s arrangement of Ravel’s Frontispice and Pēteris Vasks’Credo; and the Bank of America Chamber Music Series will feature the world premiere of a new work by composer-in-residence Samuel Carl Adams (son of composer John Adams, whose landmark piece Harmonielehre is being performed in a separate orchestral concert). Find the full schedule and ticket information on the Spoleto USA website.  

Learning through the arts – Satchel Ford opera a vehicle for student learning

This article by Julie Turner appears in the May 2013 issue of Columbia Metropolitan Magazine. Reprinted with permission. Photos by Jeff Amberg. Six years ago, Nicholas Smith, the former music director and conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic, found himself on new musical ground. He stood before one of his toughest audiences to date and rapped on the music stand. As the children hushed and their curious eyes focused on him, he wondered if he could pull off what he was about to attempt — performing opera with 7 year olds. “Susan Yelverton, then the drama teacher at Satchel Ford Elementary School, and I had talked about how the performing arts could be an educational medium as well as a cultural experience for students,” Nicholas says. By close of their next conversation, Nicholas had agreed to work with students at Satchel Ford to create an opera. “That’s when Susan dropped the bombshell,” he laughs. “I’d be working with the second graders — all of them! I couldn’t imagine how seven-year-olds would manage with the whole concept of opera.” Seven operas later, Nicholas is still on the podium at Satchel Ford, although he now lives in the English village of Langley. When he’s not creating operas about health, weather and magnets, he serves as the principal conductor of the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra, directs guest concerts and is preparing to open a crêperie with his French partner, Veronique. Satchel Ford’s long-time music teacher, Ann Perry, is deeply involved in the annual production, held in the spring. “Each year we look at the second grade science standards to come up with a theme for our opera. This year we selected fitness and nutrition,” she says. Once a theme is in place, Nicholas begins the arduous task of composing an opera from scratch in the fall. “I work on the Dick Goodwin Principle: if the pen isn’t moving you can’t compose. So I set up my computer, and I start by adding a time signature, a key signature, a tempo and the first note,” he says. “After that it usually happens. I write the words as well, and, as a musician, that’s often the most enjoyable part.” Songs in this year’s production included “Daily Exercises,” “Sleep,” “Water” and “Dance When You Can.” “In January, Mr. Smith comes to the school and introduces the music to the students,” says Ann. “He also meets with the art, dance, drama and music teachers to decide on costumes, choreography, music order and the story that ties everything together.” When Nicholas returns to England, the school’s teachers keep the production humming. “I teach the songs to the students, and the dance teacher choreographs and begins teaching the dances,” says Ann. “The drama teacher works with the students to create choral poems they will perform during the opera, and the visual arts teacher guides the children in creating and painting their costumes.” A week before the show, Nicholas returns to the United States to help the teachers and students refine the production. The students then stage two full performances — one for fellow students and another for second grade parents — supported by Nicholas, Ann on piano, and a cellist. Principal Connie Derrick believes arts education, like opera, is essential to education. “When I first started my career, the school where I taught only offered music lessons every two weeks for 30 minutes,” she says. “Here, we are much more fortunate. Richland School District One values the arts and has been very supportive.” Both Ann and Connie have a front row seat to the many benefits of incorporating the arts within an educational curriculum. “Academic learning is often about spatial concepts and patterns,” says Connie. “The arts reinforce those academic concepts in a different way. Students learn so much through the arts. With music, students practice reading fluency and thinking skills, learn rhythm, rhyme, timing and work on enunciation.” The opera, notes Ann, also opens children to new avenues of learning. “Math and English Language Arts teach you how to earn a living,” she says. “The arts teach you how to make a life and enjoy it.” Ann also sees how success in the arts can fuel progress in other subject areas. “Students participating in the arts often display unique abilities and potential not revealed in other settings. The arts create new opportunities for success to students who may not be performing well in other subjects,” she says. Connie notes that the original opera brought the first cast a unique opportunity. “Nicholas took our production to the school where he lives in England,” she says. “Our children, who had performed the opera here, got to watch a live broadcast of the English children performing their opera. Then the children got to speak to each other and ask questions. It was such a wonderful experience for them.” The opera is funded primarily through state grant money. Since 2004, the South Carolina Arts Commission has recognized Satchel Ford as an Arts in Basic Curriculum school. Satchel Ford is also a six-time recipient of the S.C. State Department of Education’s Distinguished Arts Program grant. Supportive school-based groups, including the Brave Arts booster organization and PTO, supplement the grant funds. This year’s performance is a milestone for Connie and Ann. Both educators are retiring at the end of the school year. Connie still recalls the day Nicholas first stood before the second graders. “I remember his standing up at the music stand tap-tap-tapping his baton,” she laughs. “The kids just looked at him. They’d never seen anything like that before.” Ann proudly recalls how the school’s music program has grown beyond simply providing classroom music in 1989. “Now we have seven yearly musical theatre productions, opportunities to sing in chorus, audition for district and state level choirs, play tone chimes and learn to play recorder and harmonica, as well as many other musical options for students.” The opera has also been an education for Nicholas, who wondered if 7 year olds could even grasp the concept of an opera. “I seriously underestimated them,” he says. “And year after year, they seem capable of more and more.” Via: Columbia Metropolitan Magazine  

Columbia College to host Metropolitan Opera auditions

Columbia College is one of the locations for the 60th annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the largest and longest running singing competition in America. Singers from across the country will come to campus to perform in front of three judges provided by the Metropolitan Opera. More than 1,500 singers between the ages of 20 and 30 will participate in the National Council Auditions in locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The public is invited to enjoy the music and hear outstanding talent. The competition begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at the R. Wright Spears Center for the Arts. Admission is free. Three winners will be chosen from South Carolina, and each will receive $1,000 and the right to go to the Southeastern Regional Auditions in Atlanta. The Atlanta winner will compete in the Grand National Finals on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York before an audience that includes representatives of opera houses from around the world. Winners of the Grand National Finals each receive an award of $15,000 and great exposure for their operatic careers. Previous winners include Renee Flemming, Deborah Voight, Thomas Hampson, Jessye Norman and South Carolina’s own David Daniels, who is currently one of the most popular counter-tenors in the world. For more information, visit Columbia College's website. Via: Columbia College