Friday, June 24, 2011

BEHIND THE SCENES with Emmalee Iden, Director of Education

1. What is your role in the organization?
I am the Director of Education. I manage all of the company’s education and outreach initiatives.

2. What are the education offerings at the Opera?
We have educational programs for young children all the way through adulthood. Our programs are divided into four categories: Programs for children and families, In-school programs, professional development, and community programs.

Programs for children and families: Include Opera Family Day, Girl Scout workshops, and other similar programs that are created through community partnerships and change from season to season.

In-School Programs:
• The Atlanta Opera Studio Tour, in which productions of children’s operas go out to all types of schools in the state of Georgia. The schools and students are provided with preparation materials that correspond directly to Georgia Performance Standards in Language Arts and Reading, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics.

• Opera Workshops that feature a singer and accompanist, directors, set and costume designers, or other professionals who contribute to a production and are tailored to meet the needs of a particular class/group and curriculum and are available year-round for schools, camps, youth groups, etc.

• Opera Trunks which are opera-related resources for the classroom, after-school programs, and youth groups. Each Trunk contains both a DVD and CD recording of a featured opera. They also feature additional books, CDs, activities and costume/prop elements which can make opera come alive for students while weaving its study throughout the various classroom subjects.

Professional Development Programs:
• High School Opera Institute, a training program for students, grades 10-12, who are interested in pursuing a career in music. Participants in this eight-month program attend monthly workshops and vocal coachings on topics that include: preparing and auditioning for a role; selecting a music school; characterization; diction; and vocal technique.

• Music! Words! Opera!, an arts-integrated curriculum that promotes opera as an excellent tool to aid students and teachers in their explorations of history, language, literature and music.

• Professional Development Workshops for Teachers.

• Arts Administration Internships that are designed to connect the learning goals of interns to hands-on experiences and training in the field of arts administration.

Community Programs include Opera Chat, which is an informal conversation with singers and artists from our upcoming productions at Barnes & Nobles – Buckhead; Opera 101, a multimedia presentation, hosted by board member Carter Joseph, introducing each of the main stage productions. We also offer Master Classes, National Opera Week activities and special collaborative programs with community partners in conjunction with our mainstage productions.

3. What are the reasons for having education and outreach programs?
The programs support the audience development goals of The Atlanta Opera with the hopes of helping to continue to grow our future audience base. The programming of the Education Department also supports Atlanta’s arts community by supporting arts education programming in the public and private schools and institutions of higher learning throughout Metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

4. What are some of your favorite programs and accomplishments?
I’m really proud of our 24-Hour Opera Project that we started last year. It was so much fun, and I’m looking forward to doing it again this year and in the future to see how it grows and changes. I’m also really excited about our opera commission, Rabbit Tales. This is something that started as a “what if” discussion between myself and a colleague of mine several years ago. It’s really exciting to see it through the process as it starts to take form. I can’t wait to see it in its entirety, and more importantly, to see the community reaction to the piece.

5. Why do you do what you do?
I love music. I love opera. Music education, and the performing arts in general, have always been an extremely important part of my life. I love putting programs together for people to see all of the different aspects of this magical art form. It’s so multi-faceted - there’s really and truly something in it for everyone. My job is so fun! A lot of times it’s just a matter of putting together programs that I would find interesting and entertaining, or things that I think other people would find fun and entertaining!

Friday, June 17, 2011

BEHIND THE SCENES with Greg Carraway, Foundation and Grants Manager

Producing operas and educational outreach programs takes a village, and here at The Atlanta Opera we have a talented group of people who work “behind the scenes” to ensure that the art that sings continues to flourish in the Atlanta community. For those of you who have ever asked, “How’d they do that?” these next installments of The Atlanta Opera Blog are just for you!

This week we go BEHIND THE SCENES with Greg Carraway, our Foundation and Grants Manager. With great precision and creativity, Greg helps us find ways to fund our opera productions and education programs. Grant writing requires a multitude of skills and patience and Greg excels at all of them. So, without further adieu, here’s Greg….

1. What exactly is a grant?A grant is money contributed by a foundation, government entity or corporate charitable giving program to an organization classified by the IRS as not-for-profit. For instance, this year The Atlanta Opera received grants from The Sara Giles Moore Foundation (private foundation), the Georgia Council for the Arts (government entity), and the JPMorgan Chase Bank Foundation (corporate giving program).

2. What is a grant writer?A grant writer is a person who writes the proposals to ask the funding entities described above for a monetary contribution in the form of a grant.

3. What are the different types of grants?Restricted grants are for specific projects or purposes as described in the grant proposal. For instance, the Norfolk Southern Foundation granted money to support our production of Porgy and Bess, which meant their money had to cover expenses for that show only. Unrestricted grants can be used however the Opera sees fit. Within the boundaries of our mission, unrestricted grant monies can go toward the myriad of educational programs the Opera offers, such as the new High School Opera Institute, or toward our main stage programming.

4. How do you decide which grants we should apply for? What is the process?At the beginning of the process, I ask:
• What expense does the Opera have that a grant might pay for?
• What funder might give money to answer the Opera’s needs? Making this determination requires researching the funder’s giving priorities.

If there seems to be a fit between the Opera’s needs and a funder’s priorities, I research to determine:
• If the funder has awarded us a grant before
• If they haven’t supported us or it has been a long time since they did, have they been contributing to non-profits like us?
• Who are their board members, trustees or staff? Do I know any of them? Does anyone on our board or staff know any of them? Are any of them in our database? Have they ever bought a ticket to an opera?
• Do they give grants only to preselected organizations or do they have an open call for proposals?
• What are their application deadlines and when is the next one?
• How much money do they generally give per grant?

If I feel the Opera has a ghost of a chance of being invited to submit a grant proposal, I either:
• See that the appropriate board member, staff, volunteer or consultant opens the door for us by setting up a meeting, making a phone call, writing a letter, or sending an email to the funder
• Or contact the funder myself to get the go-ahead (or not) from the horse’s mouth

We stand an infinitely better chance of being awarded grant money, if we take the time to research and talk to the funders first.

This is just one way the process might work. Sometimes a funder calls out of the blue and invites us to apply (the best!). Sometimes a board member contacts me with ready-made instructions for applying to a foundation. Sometimes a foundation we’ve never contacted sends a check accompanied by a cover letter of two short paragraphs (the trick then being to cultivate a relationship). As you can see, grants come about in a variety of ways.

While we’re on the subject of process: it doesn’t stop with submitting a grant proposal. Progress and final reports, invitations to Opera performances and events so that the funder can experience what they’re funding, personal visits to update funders on the state of the Opera, seasonal greetings, all these and more help keep the relationship running smoothly with a funder.

5. What information goes into grants?A typical proposal includes: cover letter, application form, executive summary, narrative (the “ask,” needs statement, description of communities/populations served, description of programs/services, goals, objectives and outcomes, evaluation plan, organizational background), project budget, organization’s operating budget, audit, IRS tax determination letter, board of directors list, support materials (programs, brochures, list of schools served, reviews, photos).

6. What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a grant writer?I especially love grants that I research, cultivate and secure pretty much on my own. These are often not the largest grants, but they do make me feel validated in a way that more collaboratively secured grants may not.

That said, let it be known that securing grants, like all aspects of fundraising, is mostly a collaborative effort. Doors open, ears attune and advocacy on the Opera’s behalf blossoms due to the efforts of our board members, staff, volunteers and consultants.

7. Why do you do what you do?Grant writing is what I know how to do to help make the world a better place. To be happy in my job, it’s important that I feel like I’m helping people and the community.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We laughed, we cried, and we applauded the future of opera....

On Sunday, June 5 at Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, graduates from The Atlanta Opera’s High School Opera Institute showcased their work in a performance featuring arias and small ensemble pieces from some of opera’s greatest works.

The High School Opera Institute is the only preparatory program of its kind offered by an opera company in the nation. Participants in this eight-month program attend monthly workshops and vocal coachings on topics that include: preparing and auditioning for a role; selecting a music school; characterization; diction; and vocal technique. These workshops are taught by leading professionals in the opera field: Atlanta Opera Chorus Master Walter Huff, Stephanie Adrian, Laura English-Robinson, Michael Spassov, and Beverly Blouin.

The packed house was moved is so many ways by the experience of seeing fresh, young talent working to make their dreams come true. Here are some of the highlights.

Tenor Nathan Munson and soprano Elizabeth Claxton joined the ensemble in Guiseppi Verdi's "Brindisi" from La traviata. Photo by Dallas Duncan.

Soprano Carolyn Balkovetz and baritone Samuel Itskov charmed the audience with the Papageno/Papagena Duet from Mozart's The Magic Flute. Carolyn Balkovetz graduated from Starr's Mill High School and will be attending Georgia State University in the fall. Samuel Itskov graduated from Park View High School, and will be attending the Manhattan School of Music. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Becca White, who will be studying vocal performance at Boston University in the fall, sang "In oumini, in soldati" from Mozart's Così fan tutte. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Caroyln Balkovetz (top) and baritone August Bair (middle) performed Gian Carlo Menotti's comedic duet from The Telephone. Photos by Tim Wilkerson.

Tenor Justin Van Scyoc, who will be attending Columbus State University, wowed the audience with not only his singing but his dancing skills as well when he performed Beppe's Aria from Pagliacci. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Ella Radcliffe played the perfect ingénue when she performed "Deh vieni, non tardar" from Le nozze di Figaro. Ella will be attending Boston University. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Kate Kasmier (top left and below) and soprano Kaitlyn Johnson (top right) sang the duet "Sull'aria" from Le nozze di Figaro. Ms. Kasmier followed the duet with another aria from Le nozze di Figaro, "Non so piu." Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Baritone Samuel Itskov performed "Non piu andrai" from Le nozze di Figaro. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Felicia Wilkins (left), who will be attending Dartmouth College, and mezzo-soprano Anne Stillwagon (right), who is a rising senior at Walton High School, performed "Evening Prayer" from Hansel and Gretel. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Bass-baritone Emory Mulick prepared for the daunting "Il faut passer" from Jean-Baptiste Lully's Aceste. Emory will be attending Florida State University. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Kaitlyn Johnson, Becca White, Kate Kasmier, and August Bair performed an excerpt from The Old Maid and the Thief. Photo by Dallas Duncan.

High School Opera Insitute Music Director Walter Huff accompanied the students in the very difficult sextet from Le nozze di Figaro. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

Soprano Kaitlyn Johnson wowed the crowd with the sweepingly romantic "Vilja's Song" from The Merry Widow. Kaitlyn will be attending Rice University in the fall. Photo by Tim Wilkerson.

The concert ended with the touching and appropriate "The Promise of Living" from Aaron Copland's The Tender Land. Photo by Dallas Duncan.