From 2018 Grant Recipient Opera Memphis: We are so grateful to Opera Volunteers International for the $1,000 grant in support of Opera Memphis’ “30 Days of Opera,” a month-long initiative that extends beyond the walls of the opera house in order to develop authentic relationships with the broader community.
Since 2012, #30Days has reached over 200,000 people, most of them new to opera. It is our primary vehicle for pursuing cultural equity and an expanded civic footprint, all while gathering relevant data.
One major addition this year was the launch of The McCleave Project, a collection of initiatives aimed at opening up new avenues of engagement with people of color. The McCleave Project is a multi-pronged effort to celebrate the history of black opera in Memphis and build a more equitable future for the art.
The first phase included a series of conversations and performances produced during #30Days. There were six of these “salons” in neighborhoods throughout the city, each consisting of a 20- minute opera, Menotti’s The Telephone, followed by facilitated discussion and feedback. The opera centers around the constant disruption of cell phones in our lives, a topic which proved effective at launching each post-performance conversation. Our goal was to listen and learn, putting aside all assumptions about what sort of role opera can or should play in the life of Memphis and its citizens. We worked with partners such as Bridges, VECA, and The Memphis Slim Collaboratory to help us extend our reach beyond the walls of the opera house to engage with people not already committed to the art form.
The McCleave Project has already opened up several new avenues of engagement and has deepened others. It is allowing us to move past the basic notion of “audience development” and allow us to better fulfill our mission, which enriches the company on every level.
Opera Maine’s Opera Teens program: Opera Maine’s teen program is very dear to the company in that it offers a place for teens to gather and share a common interest. The ability to explore an art form with guidance and supervision from experts in the field brings a sense of possibility and belonging to teens. Opera Maine shares in their enthusiasm and is grateful to OVI for their help in bringing the Opera Maine Teen program activities and events to life. This year Opera Teens performed in a concert for the community and participated in a vocal masterclass led by Opera Maine Chorus Master Shannon Marsh Chase. Several teens in the program performed in The Marriage of Figaro, and all in the program were given tickets to Figaro and Three Decembers. The teens also provided invaluable office help and acted as volunteer staff at company events.
Muskoka Opera Festival: With the help of OVI’s matching grant, the Muskoka Opera Festival Committee was able to hold a marketing workshop. Designed as a “Marketing Sharing Circle” they invited other volunteer organizations from the area to hear experts from Ontario government and town of Bracebridge share their expertise on marketing resources and strategies and on volunteer recruitment and retention.