REACHing Local Art Center Students with Opera

MSU Opera Theatre Program acquaints kids with the world of opera

School-age students from REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing’s REO town experienced opera up close and personal thanks to a special outreach effort by the Michigan State University Opera Theatre.

In November, Director of Opera Theatre and Professor of Voice Melanie Helton arranged for youth to experience an invitation-only dress rehearsal of “The Magic Flute” in the newly renovated Fairchild Theatre. The performance, she says, was a first for both the students from REACH and from MSU, and helped underscore the value of arts education in Michigan.

“Our students were affected as much as the kids from REACH,” says Helton whose efforts were supported by a mini-grant from ArtServe Michigan. “Many of our vocal arts students are going into music education, so it just confirmed their choice even more to see how engaged these kids were.”

Helton says that about 60 people were bussed in from REACH to attend the “soft opening” at Fairchild. En route to Fairchild, the charter bus stopped at the College of Music for dinner courtesy of Domino’s Pizza, as well as an informal question and answer time with the cast. REACH students, too, were treated to “singing demonstrations” and a guided tour of the stage before the 2.5-hour performance.

“It was a wonderful field trip for our kids and tied right in with some of their art projects where they are making and designing costumes,” says Alice Brinkman, executive director of REACH. “Many of our kids didn’t have a clue as to what an opera was, so it was a great experience for them to see.”

Both Brinkman and Helton agreed that the experience was 100 percent positive for everyone and are exploring the possibility of collaborating again in the spring.

“I heard later that one of the little boys had written a comment that said ‘I never knew men singing together could be so powerful,’” Helton says. “I thought that was so wonderfully heartbreaking—that he saw the essence of six or seven men singing together in such a positive way.”

Photos courtesy of REACH Studio Art Center, Lansing Michigan.

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