Congratulations to the 2019/20 EmpowerYouth! Ensemble

EmpowerYouth!: Igniting creativity through the Arts—an ongoing partnership between Lyric Opera and the Chicago Urban League that immerses 30 high school students each year in the creation of an original production—entered its third year last fall, without any warning of an impending global pandemic. When the spring of 2020 unfolded, both the EmpowerYouth! program creators and student artists made the choice to finish the program, even if it would look a little different than expected.

Beginning in mid-March, facilitators of the program held weekly sessions virtually, working tirelessly to maintain program goals, consistency and normalcy for the participants, and the artistic integrity that made this program collaborative and heartfelt. Participants began building a final presentation that accurately conveyed their eight months of vigorous work, vulnerability and creativity. They knew the task of translating their creative visions to a digital format, accessible to their friends and family, would not be easy. On June 3, the young artists of EmpowerYouth! did exactly that. Families, friends, and Lyric staff "gathered" to see the EmpowerYouth! ensemble come together in an exhilarating virtual performance on Zoom. A mix of music, dance, and acting, the presentation consisted of stories relevant to the participants’ experiences in Chicago, their experiences together, and their excitement for experiences to come. It also showcased portions of the libretto created by Kristiana Rae Colón.

After their exuberant final bow, members of the program talked about their process over the last eight months in a lively Q&A session:

Judgment doesn’t exist here. We could exchange stories or tell something personal, and there wouldn’t be any judgment. We were able to be who we really are, who we wanted to be, and it didn’t matter. It was always 'be you, do you, let’s come together and create something special.'"

Dyvon "Juice" Robinson, EmpowerYouth! participant

The audience learned more about the program and the young artists' love for storytelling, and they witnessed the adaptability of art and live performance. This program would not have been possible without the vision and guidance of the Chicago Urban League, the EmpowerYouth! program staff, mentors, creative team, and of course the 30 participants that made this program possible. Everyone at Lyric is so proud of the EmpowerYouth! team!


Interested in supporting EmpowerYouth!? We are currently seeking opportunities for our youth with internships and scholarships. If this is something you can lend resources to, and are interested in helping with, please email empoweryouth@lyricopera.org.

You can also support EmpowerYouth! and Lyric Unlimited – Learning and Creative Engagement through our donation page

EmpowerYouth! 2019/20 Program Highlights

Highlights from the 2019/20 Season's EmpowerYouth! program.

We hope you enjoy walking through this year's program with us, which launched in October 2019 and culminated with a final performance experience in June 2020. 

Music provided by Kedrick Armstrong. Professional photos taken by Kyle Flubacker. 

Photos: Kyle Flubacker

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