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Florida Grand Opera Celebrates a Successful First Year of the New Youth Artist Learning Academy

Florida Grand Opera (FGO) is proud to announce the success of its inaugural year of the Youth Artist Learning Academy (YALA) Summer Vocal Institute. This two-week intensive program led fifteen (15) aspiring opera singers and enthusiasts aged 14 to 19 through courses and coaching with industry professionals to acquaint them with and train them for the opera world. From arias to administration, libretti to lighting design, technique to technical direction, the curriculum exposed participants to the many important elements that make up an opera production.

"This program was intended to inspire students who not only want to be on the stage, but who will be our future designers, directors, and opera supporters," said Rebekah Diaz-Fandrei, Director of Education and Community Engagement at FGO. Traditional classes such as "Opera Fan Fiction" libretto study, "Opera in Infamy" appreciation course, and "Sound Like a Local" diction class gave students a foundation in the stories and language of opera. For other disciplines, hands-on activities in our "Behind the Curtain" workshops for production, makeup, and costuming let these budding divas get creative with design. Each participant received individual and group training from both FGO staff and renowned guest teaching artists in Opera Achievement, Opera in Motion, and Improvisation courses. A Vocal Health Seminar with University of Miami's Singing Health Specialist Adam Lloyd and a Musical Theatre Masterclass with Manny Schwartzman rounded out this robust curriculum.

For those entering their senior year of high school, YALA offered a solution to the stress of their upcoming college auditions: a supplemental "Nailing the Audition" audition preparatory seminar. Casting professionals helped students refine their repertoire, make choices about their approach, and prepare for the inevitable bumps along the way. They showed the point of view from the other side of the casting table, empowering participants to feel confident in whatever audition they have coming next.

Diaz-Fandrei endeavored to make the YALA experience a professional one, in contrast to other programs in the area; the goal, however, was not to intimidate, but to work efficiently and positively. "Every care was taken to create an environment that was supportive and inspiring." Participants flourished in this environment and reflected it through their respect of teachers and peers.

"I mean, this is kind of cheesy, but Florida Grand Opera isn't just an opera house," stated Viviana Freyer, 14 year old YALA participant from Key Biscayne. "Everyone is so nurturing and supportive and really wants you to do your best. It feels more like an opera home."

FGO YALA culminated in the Final Sing Concert where over one hundred (100) people turned out to see the participants perform the scenes and songs from their lessons. After diligently working to learn the staging, memorize the Italian, and perfect the musicality, these students successfully mounted an hour-long presentation in only ten (10) days of rehearsing. Highlights included "Sull'aria" from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, made famous by the movie Shawshank Redemption, as well as "Sing For Your Supper" from The Boys from Syracuse and Follies' "You're Gonna LoveTomorrow/Love Will See Us Through," among others. At the close of the final piece, "Make Our Garden Grow" from Bernstein's Candide, Audience members, staff, and participants alike could attest to the great growth of those students involved.

Parent response to YALA attests to the impact of this program. "I do not have the words to explain how much I appreciate what you are doing for my daughter," said Glenda Lee Maldonado, mother of participant Noelia Lee Luna. "Because of al the staff expanding her horizons, every day she comes home with a new story, excited for the next day of teaching. She absolutely loves it. Thank you to all of you for the seed that you are planting in her life."

After two weeks of hard work and fun, Rebekah Diaz-Fandrei perhaps sums up the YALA experience most eloquently. "In the end I think we on the staff felt perhaps even more inspired than our participants. It's a testament to the parents and teachers of these remarkable participants who have all shown such intelligence, brilliance, maturity, and hope for future generations in the arts."



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