While some of our programs dedicated to Learning and Creative engagement are suspended this fall due to the ongoing health crisis, many will continue this season. We have revamped continuing programs to the virtual space, while maintaining program goals, relationships with our schools and community partners, and while meeting the needs of our participants and audience members. Below is a list of what we are offering. 

Questions? Please email Lyric Unlimited at LyricUnlimited@lyricopera.org.


We are proud to begin the fourth year of our partnership with the Chicago Urban League. EmpowerYouth! focuses on engaging approximately 30 Black youth in telling personal stories through the performing arts. Participants will meet weekly and virtually with program staff, and will engage in conversations with Black multi-disciplinary artists. The program will culminate in a recorded Zoom performance screened at the end of May. EmpowerYouth! begins October 14.

This season’s program will consist of members of the 2019/20 ensemble building on principles of performance, art, and life skills. Similar to previous years, the final performance will be fully assembled by the participants, with guidance from the professional artistic staff. Kristiana Rae Colon is returning as EmpowerYouth!'s librettist and Lyric welcomes Shawn Wallace to the program as this year’s composer. Jacob Watson returns as program facilitator with Tanji Harper, Osiris Khepera and Emorja Roberson serving as artist mentors.

Opera Residencies for Schools

Lyric Unlimited is proud to be designated a Chicago Public School Tier 1 Remote Learning Partner! This means our Teaching Artists will be offering virtual residency programs in over 40 CPS classrooms this year. Elementary schools will engage in virtual classroom sessions focused on multi-disciplinary arts learning and storytelling through music; while high school choir teachers and students will be receiving support and vocal instruction in virtual choir classrooms.

Lyric for Kids

A digital activity center specifically designed for kids, Lyric Kids Corner helps children explore new ways to learn about basic principles of live performance and storytelling, and have fun while doing it! There's something for every member of the family, including a Family Opera Activity Book, fun games, an in-depth Learning Resource portal created to assist with remote learning, and interactive videos created by our teaching artists using Illinois State Board of Education guidelines.


Lyric is proud to be planning the Chicago premiere of Tony Award®–winning composer Jeanine Tesori and NAACP Theatre Award–winning librettist Tazewell Thompson’s new opera inspired by contemporary events and Black literature. Blue tells the story of a Black family in Harlem whose son is killed by a white police officer. Called “one of the most elegant librettos I’ve heard in a long time,” by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times, Blue places timely issues at the forefront of modern opera and invites audiences to the emotional epicenter of their impact. Lyric Unlimited has planned upcoming public programs inspired by the Chicago premiere of this important new work.

Public Programs inspired by BLUE

African American Police League Archives

In May 1968, Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer Edward “Buzz” Palmer formed the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League, now called the African American Police League (AAPL), in response to growing concern over the treatment of African Americans by and within law enforcement. The AAPL wrote down instances of police violence within the police force and within Chicago Black communities, and sought to educate police officers about the culture and customs of communities of color; teach community members about the criminal justice system; and develop procedures for individuals to protest and try to correct abuses of police authority. These formerly protected records are now available for public viewing at the Chicago History Museum.

In collaboration with the Chicago History Museum, Lyric will present curated pieces from the collection on our website to engage audiences in a dialogue about the relationship between police and Black communities, and about the groundbreaking efforts African American Police League.

Stay tuned for when the archives go live on Lyric's website in early November. 

Roll Call: Policing in Chicago's Black Community, Then and Now

Roll Call is a virtual panel discussion that will delve into the evolving relationship between the Chicago Police Department and Chicago's Black community. In collaboration with WTTW/WFMT, this free event will feature Howard Saffold, retired CPD officer and founding member of the African American Police League, and Sergeant Jermaine Harris of the CPD's Community Policing Division, and will be moderated by Chicago Tribune reporter and the Field Foundation’s Lolly Bowean.

Stay tuned for the chance to RSVP for this event taking place on December 8.

Thoughts on Parenthood

Thoughts on Parenthood is an interactive arts project examining the unique experience of parenthood. With the help of activist and photographer Tonika Johnson, we have connected with communities across the city of Chicago, gathering personal stories of parents—their greatest wishes, biggest needs, and proudest moments.

13 stories from Chicago parents will be featured on Lyric's website in the coming months. Stay tuned for this announcement. 

Opera Residencies Sponsors


Photos: Karli Cadel/ The Glimmerglass Festival, Kyle Flubacker