For This Production, Lakewood Elementary Students Run the Show

There’s more to music and drama than can be found on MTV. That lesson has not been lost at Lakewood Elementary, where each year 50 sixth-grade students learn all aspects of mounting an opera production.

Karen Kimball, music teacher and co-supervisor of the program, says everything from the lyrics and the music to the script, set and promotional T-shirts is produced by the kids.

“I just give them guidance,” she says. “The whole production is theirs.”

This year, Kimball and 16 of her students were asked to conduct a workshop for the Texas Music Educators Association in San Antonio, where they covered the techniques and  strategies of putting together an opera.

“It is exciting to be able to have the kids participate in a workshop,” says Kimball. “The children really learn from things like that.”

The program began in 1992 when Kimball was selected by the Metropolitan Opera Education Department in New York as one of the music educators from across the country to participate in a teacher training program for opera productions.

After 10 days of training in Alabama, Kimball and co-supervisor Rita Samuels helped students mount the first production in 1993.

At the beginning of each school year, students can apply for a job with the production company. Students vie for jobs as carpenters, electricians, writers, composers, performers, PR representatives and production managers.

Stephen Short, one of the company’s PR representatives, says “I like this because we get to learn a lot about operas and how to run them.”

This year’s production, “A Family Almost Torn Apart,” made its debut in February before an auditorium of Lakewood students and parents. Other guests included students from the Hockaday School, which also produces an opera.

Caitlin Cunniff, the show’s co-production manager, says it was an experience she’s been looking forward to since she came to Lakewood Elementary.

“I’ve been looking forward to being in the sixth grade so I could be in the opera,” she says.  “It’s been a lot of fun.”


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