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Indie Opera Announces Ashley Renee Watkins as New Cohost

Ashley Renee released her first EP project "Roux" under her artist name A. Renee in the fall of 2019.

Indie Opera Announces Ashley Renee Watkins as New Cohost

Indie Opera Productions has announced that vocalist, songwriter and teaching artist Ashley Renee Watkins will join the company as a new co-host. Classically trained and skilled in multiple genres, Watkins has performed Opera, R&B, Jazz, and Soul. Reared in New Orleans and trained with a master's degree in voice at the University of Oklahoma, Ashley Renee has been based in New York City since she appeared on NBC's America's Got Talent with her opera and multi-genre duo ACTE II in 2014. Ashley Renee released her first EP project "Roux" under her artist name A. Renee in the fall of 2019, and she continues an active singing career. Ashley Renee Watkins is currently serving as the Director of Education for Heartbeat Opera's production of "Breathing Free - a virtual song cycle." In this position, Ashley Renee is guiding the education vision, directing a team of teaching artists who will engage students from New York to California in virtual residencies culminating in students viewing the production.

As a teaching artist facilitator, Watkins has served for several years on the teaching artist faculty of Lincoln Center Education, as well as consulting in arts education and equitable practices within cultural institutions throughout the United States. Her priority, as a facilitator, is to co-create a learning community that feels both safe and supported for all learners. She most recently developed and manages The Marguerite Watson National Teaching Artist Cohort, and she also serves as a mentor for the Diversity in Arts Leadership (DIAL) Network for Americans for the Arts. Watkins recently shared her enthusiasm in the wake of the announcement: "I'm excited to add to conversation around our ever-evolving world of opera. Indie Opera Podcast has been a part of stretching that conversation in a range of both serious and hilarious ways, and I'm happy the team has welcomed my voice!"

Ashley Renee joins Indie Opera's other regular co-hosts, including conductor Peter Szep, (Indie Opera's Executive Producer), mezzo soprano Brooke Larimer (Business & Operations Manager for Indie Opera), stage director Walker Lewis, journalist Gregory Moomjy, and composer C. Colby Sachs (Indie Opera Associate Producer). Szep celebrated Ashley's new position with the team: "We are excited to add Ashlee Renée Watkins' deep understanding of opera and her passion to reach new audiences to our podcast family."

Indie Opera Productions educates audiences about the latest activities happening in the opera industry and the challenges faced by those producing opera today. The organization focuses on companies that are creating new operas and that are presenting the classics in new ways for wider audiences, no matter how big or small.

Indie Opera has been best known for their podcast broadcasts, but recently they have broadened their scope beyond the audio medium. According to Forbes.com, "Their insightful, in-depth shows have changed to a streamed video platform for the opera community." The Indie Opera team also plans to produce more live events such as their IndieOperaLive! Women In Opera Panel Discussion in collaboration with New York Opera Alliance. Upcoming episodes will highlight the opera world's reaction to #BlackLivesMatter, and the winners of this year's OperaAmerica Grants for Female Composers. For more information, visit indieopera.com.



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