Grantee Spotlight: Pensacola Opera ‘From Words to Music’

Provided by Pensacola Opera

Students in the “Upside of Florida” are creating their own operas – and loving it!

pensacola opera 1

It all began in 2006, when the administration, faculty, students, and parents at Holley-Navarre Elementary School agreed to join the pilot program of a new arts-in-education initiative offered by Pensacola Opera.  Since that time, over 40 world premiere operas have been conceived, created and performed by children as part of Pensacola Opera’s From Words to Music program.

Pensacola Beach Elementary School’s Music Specialist Mary Holway shares, “Our school has been participating in From Words to Music for five years. At this point, I believe I would lose my job if I did not participate! The teachers, parents, and staff all love seeing and hearing our 2nd graders take a book, read it, and turn it into an evening of opera fun every year. They are just learning comprehension as 2nd grade readers, so turning a story from a book into a libretto, characters, songs and sets, is a perfect way to up the ante on their comprehension. Think of it as acting out and singing every book you’ve ever enjoyed….the results are amazing. The parents, in particular, are blown away by the process and the product. They just cannot believe that their children can participate with such enthusiasm and it is usually those kids that are not performers who get the most out of the process. The kids always amaze!”

pensacola opera 2Conductor, pianist, and Director of Education, Cody Martin, along with Pensacola Opera’s five Artists in Residence, provide mentoring and professional musical support throughout the academic year.  The company also provides financial support to help underwrite the production costs associated with the students’ presentations.

Prior to her appointment as Pensacola Opera’s Executive Director, Chandra McKern was Director of Education for Nashville Opera and Pensacola Opera.  She experienced first-hand the positive outcomes possible through participation in the program.  “From Words to Music is a year-long program that allows children to be creative, build confidence, and develop a joy for learning while building academic and social skills.  I remember a child that burst into tears at the end of her performance for her peers.  I walked up to her and asked if she was alright?  Her response was, “I just feel so loved” and she gave me a hug.  Her teacher then told me that she had been moved from foster homes her whole life, and this was a very special moment for her to be on stage. These stories are endless and I truly believe that Pensacola Opera is making a difference with this incredible program.”

pensacola opera 3The success of the program is due in no small part to the enthusiastic support provided by Angela Barberi, the Fine Arts Coordinator for the Escambia County School District, who is a strong advocate for the importance of the program. “Through our partnership with the Opera we are able to provide relevant arts integration professional development for our teachers and bring incredible Opera experiences to our most under resources students through From Words to Music and the Opera in Our Schools program.”

Now celebrating its twelfth continuous year, From Words to Music, continues to invigorate and educate, combining the power of  musical story-telling with the endless create enthusiasm of students and teachers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

To learn more about Pensacola Opera and From Words to Music, visit their website: https://pensacolaopera.com/.


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