Each year the Guild launches an ambitious Outreach program for Coachella Valley students from first grade through high school. The program introduces the basics of opera to some 17,000 children in schools throughout the Coachella Valley. Artistic Director Andrew Eisenmann oversees the program and bass Nathan Van Arsdale hosts the assemblies with the aid of a group of talented young singers. Louisa Castrodale, PSUSD Visual and Performing Arts Director, co-ordinates the assemblies in the school district.
This year the program will start on May 22, run for a 2 week period and will involve nearly 20 schools in the Palm Springs Unified School District. The singers will be soprano Michelle Drever, soprano Jacquelynne Fontaine, mezzo-soprano Erin Gonzalez, tenor Johar Hernandez, baritone Ben Lowe and bass/emcee Nathan Van Arsdale with accompanist Constance Gordy.
Last year’s performers
Agua Caliente Elementary, Rio Vista Elementary, Desert Hot Springs High School, Bella Vista Elementary, Desert Springs Middle School, Two Bunch Palms Elementary, Cabot Yerxa Middle School, Cathedral City High School, Cathedral City Elementary, Rancho Mirage Elementary, Rancho Mirage High School Performing Arts, Della S. Lindley Elementary, Vista Del Monte Elementary, Cielo Vista Charter, Bubbling Wells Elementary, Landau Elementary, Palm Springs High School and King’s School (private.)
The concept of Outreach as described by Guild Artistic Director Andrew Eisenmann
The current PSOG programs began with a ‘trial run’ in the Desert Sands Unified School District as a 5 day program directed toward the elementary demographic in 2005. When I transferred into the Palm Springs Unified School District in 2006, the superintendent, Dr. Lorri McCune, talked to me about growing the programs to include every elementary school in the district. This conversation ensued because of pending mandatory district budget cuts and music program eliminations. We believed (and still do) that our programs fill a necessary need in educating students about live classical music and opera as an art form.
Since 2006, our programs have been circulating throughout the entire Palm Springs Unified School District, and with help from foundations and Opera Guild members we have been able to continue our in-school outreach mission – to expose, engage, and excite students with various presentations of LIVE OPERA (a most anticipated annual program) performed by some of the best young rising stars on the west coast.
Also part of our success has been in working with the PSUSD Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, Louisa Castrodale. As part of the PSOG/PSUSD partnership, Louisa’s office has now taken the scheduling responsibility and makes certain that each PSUSD school site has the opportunity to experience our programs free of charge.
As a program bridge, the Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert also provides complimentary tickets to both students and families of PSUSD, to attend annual professional opera performances at the McCallum Theatre. These students also have the opportunity to meet the artists, and study the opera plots with a professional singer or docent before the shows.
Project Overview (all include arias, duets, and a grand operatic FINALE) :
K-3 – OPERA POWER
A fun and funny 35-40 minute assembly geared toward our youngest audiences. We use colorful T-shirts with letters that spell, ‘Opera Power’. Students sing along to Bizet, learn vocabulary terms in Italian, and have a GREAT time during their 40-minute journey into LIVE classical music.
4-5 — OPERASSEMBLIES!
The program that started our successful and sought after programs, taking its name from the infamous elementary school ‘Assembly Schedule’, this program reiterates vocabulary, and builds on ‘Opera Power’ to include voice types, languages, recitative, and even more audience participation! This is the most requested program in our repertoire.
6-8 – THE UNITED NATIONS OF OPERA
In our 4th year of working with our middle grades, we are again making changes and modifications to our programs directed towards this ‘kids in the middle’ demographic. Our show and script will revolve around specific areas of opera, plots, and conductors/stage directors who have influenced the art form, and in many cases, the social culture of the times.
Photos from Raymond Cree Middle, Sunny Sands Elementary, Desert Hot Springs High School, Cathedral City Elementary and Agua Caliente Elementary.
CLICK HERE for a glimpse of the children at Agua Caliente Elementary in Cathedral City interacting with Mezzo Lauren Edwards.
CLICK HERE to see all our opera singers at Cathedral City High School.