Jésus Garcia (Alfredo) and Corinne Winers (Violetta) in “La Traviata” at the San Diego Opera. Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz Johnson

The California Arts Council has awarded the San Diego Opera four grants totaling $77,000 to help support the company’s community education programs in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The first grant is $20,000 to develop an artist residency program in the City Heights and San Ysidro neighborhoods. San Diego Opera will team up with Casa Familiar and artist Humberto Borboa on an artist residency in the two San Diego communities. Using both original and existing material, Borboa will use his knowledge of the operatic art form to create a musical experience that draws from community members’ stories. The resulting work will seek to reflect issues important and relevant to community members.

Two grants, each for $19,000, will support the company’s Words and Music program at three sites in the community. The first grant is for the summer and after-school program at La Maestra Center for Youth Advancement in City Heights. The second grant will support the program at Lincoln High School and Memorial Preparatory for Scholars and Athletes, serving students at one Title I middle school and one Title I high school in historically underserved areas of San Diego.

The Words and Music program provides students instruction in composition, production and performance; guiding students through the process of telling their own stories through music and drama. It has reached thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students in 34 schools across the San Diego County region since its inception in 2002 with weekly, standards-based arts instruction over the course of the school year.

San Diego Opera expanded the program to offer weekly artist residencies in City Heights in 2015. Following the success of a 2017 summer program at La Maestra Center for Youth Development in this neighborhood, the opera will continue this program in the summer of 2020 as well in after-school programs for the 2020-2021 school year. San Diego Opera will continue to work with Izcalli — a community-based Chicano theater group — and La Maestra Foundation for the program.

“These programs enable students to find their unique voices and fosters self-confidence and student agency,” an opera company statement said. “City Heights is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of San Diego, with a significant population of resettled refugees from Vietnam, Somalia, and Iraq. There is a need for area residents to understand and celebrate its youth. The project activities and performances will highlight the lives of these students and the issues most important to them.”

The final grant of $19,000 is to support the company’s “Student Night at the Opera” program. Student Night at the Opera provides students and their chaperones access to the final dress performance of the company’s main stage productions. The program includes free tickets to the opera and the company reimburses busing from Title I schools.

According to the company, more than 7,500 students attend these performances annually through this program.

–City News Service

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