Local High School Students Begin Work on an Original Opera

EmpowerYouth at Lyric Opera of Chicago


Final performance - May 31 at the Lyric Opera House

This past September, Lyric Unlimited and the Chicago Urban League announced EmpowerYouth! Igniting Creativity through the Arts, a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership that immerses 30 African American high school students in the creation of an original opera based on their life experiences. The first year of the program culminates in the presentation of a fully staged, youth-centric opera which the students will perform on May 31 at the Lyric Opera House.

In October, the students began meeting weekly after school on-site at the Chicago Urban League headquarters to collaborate with professional artists, including composer Damien Sneed, librettist Patricia Smith, and director Jess McLeod. They work to develop skills in areas such as scriptwriting, singing, acting, and movement/dance. A core component of the program involves the students sharing personal stories of navigating life in Chicago, which will become the basis for the libretto of the new work.

Other mentors include Tanji Harper, choreographer, teacher, and Artistic Director of The Happiness Club; Melissa Foster, Senior Lecturer in Voice at Northwestern University and vocal coach for several Broadway shows in Chicago and nationally; visual artist, painter, and muralist Rubén Aguirre; rapper and lyricist Add-2; actor, educator, and producer Tony Santiago; and Chicago singer-songwriter Daryn Alexus.

We’re so excited to see what these talented students come up with and we hope you’ll join us for the final performance this May. Stay tuned for more updates!


Photos: Geoffrey Black

LyricUnlimitedChicagoUrbanLeague





EmpowerYouth! Igniting Creativity through the Arts is made possible by leadership support from the Centene Charitable Foundation, with additional support from the Lauter McDougal Charitable Fund, Eric and Deb Hirschfield, and the Eisen Family Foundation.

Lyric Unlimited was launched with major catalyst funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and receives major support from the Caerus Foundation, Inc.
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