For the first time in the company’s history, Tulsa Opera received the 2018 Governor’s Arts Award from the Oklahoma Arts Council for Arts in Education. The award recognizes Tulsa Opera for outstanding leadership and service in the arts benefiting youth and/or arts in education with its Raise Your Voice! after-school program.
“Tulsa Opera is so excited to be receiving this prestigious award!” says Board President Kate Davis, who grew up attending Tulsa Opera performances with her family. “We’ve always been a leader in arts education, bringing innovative arts education programs to schools, to our community and to our state. It is a great honor to be receiving this award the same year we are celebrating our 70th anniversary.”
Tulsa Opera launched Raise Your Voice! in September at four Tulsa middle schools, and recently expanded the program into a fifth school. Focused on bringing vocal music training to schools that lacked such programs, the Raise Your Voice! program is funded by an Opera America Innovation Grant, the Flint Family Foundation, QuikTrip, and the Judith and Jean Pape Adams Charitable Foundation. Tulsa Opera hired teachers, supplied pianos, bought uniforms for the kids, and paid to obtain the rights to any music performed.
For the recent The Stars Align 70th Anniversary Gala, 88 children in matching uniforms experienced the thrill of performing on stage with real opera stars, Susan Graham, Sarah Coburn, Aaron Blake, and others.
“The kids were enthralled,” says Michael Broyles, a longtime Oklahoma vocal music teacher hired to teach the Raise Your Voice! program at Hale Junior High School, Monroe Demonstration Academy, and Thoreau Demonstration Academy. Joined by Jeff King and Andrea Fultz, who teach the program at East Junior High School, Broyles helped direct the students as they performed “For Good,” from Wicked, and during the company encore of “Oklahoma.”
“Enrollment is up in all of the schools,” Broyles says. “That is a very exciting thing to see!”
Davis, who has performed various roles with the opera company, believes music touches the heart and soul and plays an important part in a child’s development. “Children at a young age soak up everything. They are eager to experience new things and have no preconceptions. It helps develop self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. This is really important at any age, but I think for our middle school children, vocal music education helps tremendously.”
Want to support the Raise Your Voice! program? Here are 5 ways that Davis suggests you can get involved:
- Visit one of the Raise Your Voice! programs to see first-hand how the vocal music program is working.
- Attend a Raise Your Voice! performance and encourage young singers to continue in or join the program.
- Talk to school principals and encourage schools to support the vocal music program.
- Ask the Raise Your Voice! instructors for specific information on how to help.
- Offer to provide after-school snacks and drinks for children in the program.
“And, of course, we need generous donors and partners to help grow the program so that more young singers have the opportunity to experience the thrill of opera, live musical performances and the joy of singing!” Davis says.
Support Raise Your Voice! by donating to Tulsa Opera today.