October 23, 1998

Opera Launches New Program for Children and Families of Inner-city Schools

Today San Diego Opera General Director Ian D. Campbell announced a revolutionary new program, conceived and directed by the Opera's Education and Outreach Department, which will change the face of music education in San Diego's elementary schools.

"The San Diego Opera New Voices/Nuevas Voces Program" will bring opera programs and an on-site, after-school music class, "I Can Sing!," to eight elementary schools in one of the most economically challenged areas of the city. It is a three-year program designed to keep music and arts in the classrooms and encourage musically gifted students to develop their talents.

The eight participating schools are Balboa Elementary, Cesar Chavez Elementary, The Community Preparatory School, Emerson Elementary, Logan Elementary, Our Lady's School, Perkins Elementary and St. Jude Academy.

"It's a sad reality of our times that music and arts education has become a low priority in our educational system," Campbell said. "San Diego Opera has been deeply committed for years to bringing opera education to the schools and the community in as many different ways as we can, but we have found over the years that even the token fees for our education and outreach programs were beyond the reach of some schools. Now we are taking decisive action to not only make sure those underserved schools have the same opportunities to enjoy these programs as their better-funded counterparts, but that the students who want to learn about music and how to sing will have the chance to do so.

"We are particularly encouraged by the strong commitment of the special Steering Committee from the local community which is assisting us to shape the program and assess its impact," Campbell continued. "This is grass-roots support at its most effective."

Coordinating the project is music teacher and community activist Joe Barry, who has been extremely active for years in bringing students to music and arts performances as well as bringing arts organizations into the schools. Liaising with the principals, teachers and parents of the eight schools in the program, he hopes to create a stronger community bond focused around music education.

"Our target community is young and full of hope for a new future," Barry said. "The goal of New Voices/Nuevas Voces is to match these high aspirations with equally great opportunities."

The program includes tailoring the Opera's exciting programs, such as "Opera For Kids" and the Puppet Program, to the individual communities, and hiring experienced music teachers to teach the after-school classes. Students' parents will be asked to participate actively by joining an opera guild, volunteering as docents or dress rehearsal ushers, and keeping a close eye on their children's progress in the class.

"To my knowledge, no other opera company in the country is carrying out a program of this type and scope," said Director of Education and Outreach Nicolas Reveles. "There is no precedent or model, so we will be learning and adjusting the program as we go. We hope to learn as much from the community as they will from us."

The New Voices/Nuevas Voces Project will be funded entirely by donations and grants to the Opera. Main donors to date include The Parker Foundation, the California Arts Council Challenge Program and the City of San Diego Neighborhood Arts Program.

The New Voices/Nuevas Voces Project began Oct. 5 with the start of an "Opera For Kids... By Kids" in-school residency program at St. Jude Academy.

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