Ridgecroft students experience interactive opera

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004

AHOSKIE – Yvette Lewis is passionate about the opera, so when she was invited to come to Ridgecroft School to share that passion with young people there, she was delighted.

Having developed a unique, multifaceted program, known as &uot;So This Is Opera,&uot; as a means of introducing young audiences to the musical genre, Lewis travels throughout the country engaging students from Kindergarten to fifth grade in a variety of operatic scores and spellbinding stories of love, triumph and tragedy.

With over 15 years of experience as a music educator, she has traveled up and down the east coast, sharing her expertise with students in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and North and South Carolina and has even conducted teacher workshops in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland.

&uot;My goal is to introduce young people to opera in a way that is positive before the world skews their perception of the art with its stereotype,&uot; said Lewis who spent the week of September 27 with students and teachers at Ridgecroft.

Jean Sharpe, the grandmother of two Ridgecroft alumni, Hunter (2002) and Aubrey (2004) Sharp sponsored the program, which teaches students about the technical and artistic aspects of opera through participatory activities.

&uot;Mrs. Sharp is a devoted and dedicated Ridgecroft supporter and contributor and has served as a faithful board member and development committee member,&uot; said Marti Tyler Director of Development at Ridgecroft School.

&uot;She appreciates the arts and wanted to share this wonderful opportunity with Ridgecroft’s students and in addition to that gift she has made a phenomenal impact on the school with donated funds for the Simpson-Sharp Pre-School Building, which was dedicated to her in 1998. She believes in the future of young people and that is reflected in her continued contributions to Annual Giving Campaigns, Capital Campaigns, Ridgecroft’s Auction, and certainly the cultural arts program.&uot;

As part of the &uot;So This Is Opera&uot; program, Lewis taught students to play xylophones and perform various opera songs in the languages they were originally written, including French, German, Italian, and English.

&uot;It’s a great way to expose young people to other languages as well as the musical style of opera,&uot; said Lewis. &uot;I believe by doing this, we are cultivating future audiences of opera.&uot;

Lewis has performed extensively throughout the eastern seaboard, including appearances with the Washington Opera, the Baltimore Opera, the Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, the Baltimore Symphony and the Spoleto Festival in Melbourne, Australia and has been a finalist in both the Metropolitan Opera Mid-Atlantic Region and the Opera Company of Philadelphia/Luciano Pavarotti competitions.

She also taught elementary general music in Montgomery County, Maryland and Baltimore City, Maryland Public Schools and has written curriculum for Montgomery County elementary general music guide as a means of helping to increase young people’s appreciation and understanding of opera.

&uot;Mrs. Yvette Lewis was truly amazing,&uot; said Tyler. &uot;She captivated the children and had them on the edges of their chairs. It was unbelievable what she taught them in just a few days. She has quite a gift and we are so blessed to have been the benefactor of such a fabulous program.&uot;

She added, &uot;The teachers, as well as the parents, were all in awe. They kept repeating, &uot;How in the world did Mrs. Lewis teach our children so much in so little time. The entire Ridgecroft Family is indebted to Mrs. Sharp for gifting this fabulous opera program to Ridgecroft’s students and allowing them this wonderful cultural arts experience,&uot; said Tyler.

For more information on the program, visit www.operakids.com