Opera Grand Rapids Invests in Future By Introducing Opera to Local Children

By Katharine Baran

Whenever someone thinks of opera, children and teenagers aren’t usually their first thought. However, Opera Grand Rapids, in collaboration with their Emerging artists, and Ellington Academy, Creative Connections, has put a program together that reaches out to younger students and introduces them to the art form.

“Children’s Sketch Days,” incorporates 50 students that are split up into classes that acclimate them to the process of being involved in an opera. The program started in February of this year and caters to sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students.

Since then there have been several planning sessions, or “theme storming” as Opera Grand Rapids refers to it. With about 18 students per class, each group is made up of students all going to school for different things.

For instance, there are visual arts students, dance, art, and more, all included in this process. “I think that’s what makes this program so cool and unique,” Marketing Director Ashely Roberts said.

Jill Collier Warne plays a large role in coordinating it all. She is the Director and Founder of Creative Connections. The same goes for Dale Schriemer, Head of Emerging Artists at Opera Grand Rapids.

However, the new resident emerging artists at Opera Grand Rapids are the local hands on leaders and teachers of the classes. Towards the end of the program, there’s an intensive week where the students get to experience the full process, by building sets, rehearsals, costumes, and more.

This is the second year that Opera Grand Rapids is doing “Children’s Sketch Days,” and this year the company is doing a true opera. By introducing this beautiful art form at a young age, hopefully, more and more younger people will be involved in carrying on this tradition.