Music speaks a universal language, but for children especially, music can open an entirely new world. To experience it firsthand in a live setting can be something memorable and life changing for a child. Opera Quest Northwest, a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization, brings this power of music to school-age children around the Northwest through interactive music education.
Founded in 2013, Opera Quest Northwest allows kids to experience full opera performances in a fun and exciting way. Their 50-minute interactive show entitled “Opera the Great” features five young professional singers and a pianist. The show is aimed to reach third through fifth graders, and blends script and music together. Kathryn Hobbie, president of the board, explains that the educational component to the show is part of what makes it unique.
“It has specific educational goals — for example, students learn about opera history, characters and famous melodies,” Hobbie said. “Since kids learn best through participation, our script lets them try out operatic gestures and singing styles and become part of the chorus. Some even get to come onstage as opera characters.”
Hobbie shares that the community is learning more about the show and interest is growing among schools and the county at large. When Opera Quest Northwest first began, they visited a total of five schools in one district. Last year, they were able to perform in 20 schools in six different school districts. In 2018, they aim to perform in 25 schools. Hobbie also said that the reactions they get from the audiences who see the shows are a great reflection of the success of their program.
“The children are uniformly enthusiastic, and we get appreciative comments from their teachers and administrators as well,” Hobbie said.
The organization has no employees, but instead, the performance coordinator and performers work as independent contractors. There are between eight to 10 regular volunteers, including those that serve in administrative roles, and there is a five-person board of directors. The shows are offered to public schools at little or no cost, which is something that Opera Quest Northwest feels is a very important part of their program.
“Going in, we felt strongly that we wanted to provide our show to schools at little or no cost to the school,” Hobbie said. “In a time when many schools are forced to cut funding for music, initiatives like ours are especially important.”
Opera Quest Northwest is made possible by strong community support from businesses and foundations in the area, as well as generous individual and corporate donors. The donor base is growing steadily, and the organization was recently invited to present to organizations such as Rotary and AAUW. They also appeared on “Hello Vancouver!” and they have also received partnership support from WSU Vancouver, the Boys and Girls Club and the Vancouver Symphony. Warehouse 23 recently supported a Cashback Day for the fourth time to help them raise money as well.
As for the future of Opera Quest Northwest, Hobbie said that they are considering expanding into Woodland and/or Longview, and they would also like to reach out to senior communities. They plan on developing follow-up offerings for schools that they’ve already performed in, possibly including an Artist in Residence program, and they would also eventually like to develop a middle school show.
Learn more about Opera Quest Northwest at https://www.operaquestnw.org/.