Department of Music, Opera Edwardsville Collaborate to Bring Opera to Local Schools

For many people, their exposure to classical music forms such as opera come much later in life than elementary school. Thanks to a partnership between the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Department of Music and Opera Edwardsville this fall, more than 1,000 local elementary students have experienced opera in the form of a beloved children’s story: “Pinocchio.”

Led by SIUE Professor of Voice Marc Schapman, PhD, and Opera Edwardsville Artistic Director Chase Hopkins, a cast of SIUE graduate and undergraduate vocal students put their own spin on the children’s classic. Through the Opera Workshop program, they took their operatic adaptation of “Pinocchio” on the road this fall to elementary schools throughout the Edwardsville School District.

“As an introduction to opera and classical music, this adaptation repurposes famous arias and excepts from opera’s greatest hits, with new words to fit the story,” said Hopkins. “It’s important that this experience is tailored to [young students]… ‘Pinocchio’ hits on major themes of being truthful and messages of anti-bullying. These are important messages for elementary students, told musically through opera and the story of ‘Pinocchio.’”

The Opera Workshop project is the first of what Schapman hopes will be many opportunities to partner with Opera Edwardsville in the future. The Department of Music has performed outreach operas at elementary schools in the past, but they have lacked the financial support to continue these performances on an ongoing basis. This year’s collaboration was made possible through the financial support of the SIUE Meridian Society, which bestowed a Meridian Grant to Schapman and Hopkins in 2019.

“The Meridian Award has allowed us to bring back the opera outreach project and partner with Opera Edwardsville,” said Schapman. “We have forged a strong connection with Opera Edwardsville through this program and I look forward to many more collaborations in the future.”

Hopkins, who founded Opera Edwardsville in 2018, also hopes for future opportunities to collaborate with the SIUE Department of Music.

“When I started Opera Edwardsville, I outlined a possible timeline for making proposals to collaborate with SIUE down the road,” explained Hopkins. “I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve managed to collaborate years ahead of what I imagined, and I’m grateful for Marc’s enthusiasm to get this project going. I’m also incredibly impressed with the work Marc and others at SIUE are doing – the students are incredibly talented and have been a joy to work with for this project.”

The Opera Workshop’s culminating performance of “Pinocchio” was held on Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. In addition to Schapman and Hopkins, other key players in the production included SIUE alumni Joe Welch, PhD, music director, and Rebecca Koebbe, pianist; SIUE faculty member Roger Speidel, set designer; and SIUE student Nathan Beilsmith, costume designer. Cast members included SIUE students Evan Babel, Stephanie Mossinghof, Xavier Ojeda, Deborah Pedigo, Kristy Saddler, Cady Thomas and Miles Wadlington.

Photo: From left, SIUE freshman Milles Wadlington, graduate student Stephanie Mossinghof and junior Kristy Saddler perform an operatic adaptation of “Pinocchio” at Glen Carbon Elementary School.


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