By Cherity Koepke
Good morning readers. Today is a rarity on tour—we don’t have to be up early! After spending a nice night in Salida, our performance isn’t until 2:40 PM today, so everyone got to sleep in. They needed it—after closing Falstaff, a show where they were in the mainstage production and the student matinee, the Young Artists were tired. A late call like this came at just the right time.
I use my time to work and keep up with emails and a few projects. Hopefully that means I won’t have a late night. Our afternoon performance time will have us leaving town around 4:00 to get to Edwards, CO, where we’ll be staying for the next two nights, using it as our base. I’ve got the drive scheduled so that we’ll get there well before dark.
A knock on my door means the crew is up and it’s time to get packed. We gradually all make our way to the cars, get packed up and head to Main Street for lunch. I head over to my favorite sandwich shop and, after a few minutes, I’m joined by Jordan. I realize that this is the first time in the entire season that I’ve ever had a meal with just him. We’re usually so busy working with the Young Artists, we rarely get two minutes to chat let alone eat.
After lunch we part ways and I look around in some of the local stores until it’s time to meet everyone and head to the school. Trying to coordinate the activities of nine people is not an easy task. It’s now that the first in a series of issues happens that throws off my carefully planned schedule. We’re all supposed to head over to the school together. But, as I’m driving, I only see the Denali (our Yeti) in my rearview mirror. The other rental, which Andrew is driving, isn’t in sight. While we wait with the cars and Nathan gets us checked in there’s still no sign of them. We head to the back lot of the school where we will be loading in and there they sit. They’ve been here, waiting for us. Ah… communication.
We have to wait for some kiddos to clear the gym so the girls play a hand-clapping game. We’re at an elementary school, so it’s fitting. When we can load in, the next issue pops up. We have to clear the music teacher’s room so we have space to set up. The school staff is wonderful and very welcoming, so with all hands on deck, we make it happen. We’re still on schedule, but not by much. I decide to use a few minutes of our prep time to rehearse music for Sunday’s Young Artists Celebration concert. The Young Artists are singing a new group piece. It’s sentimental and there’s another moment where we all remember that the clock is winding down on their time with Opera Colorado. Before that can settle in, it’s time to get into costumes and makeup. We’re performing for the entire school and they will be coming in soon.
Jordan decides to limber up before the show and practices his jump shot. It’s impressive. Then, we hear little voices coming from the hallway. Showtime. As we stand backstage, the gym suddenly goes silent. Thinking that the principal is going to introduce me, I wait. Nothing happens, so I peek out. I see 450 little faces looking at me with anticipation. They asked them to be quiet so we could start—and they did just that. I give the pre-curtain speech and remember how attentive these students were last year when we performed The Barber of Seville. It was our first year at this school and we were so impressed. This year proves to be no different. These kids are engaged, attentive, and respectful. They may not laugh as loudly as some other schools, but they are watching every moment of this show. Heath gets very emotional and has to use his hanky. (Actually it’s a bit he does with Nick in the show and I finally got it on camera.) By the end, the kids are cheering and some even start chanting “Cinderella… Cinderella…” We take a few minutes to talk with the students before they have to leave. As they exit, teachers express their thanks, the principal tells me that this is the most talented group of singers he’s ever seen, and that having us come here brings beauty into his school. He then gets on the school’s intercom to rave about the performance. After 10 years of doing this—that is a first. This art form not only brings joy to people, it brings people together.
Time to load out. Some of the Young Artists also want to rehearse some of their solo music for Sunday’s program, so we balance it all at once. By the time we’re done, it means we’re more than 30 minutes behind schedule. We should still make it before dark. Vanessa then realizes she left her lunch pack at the hotel, so as we make a stop for gas and snacks, she calls them, trying to locate it. They aren’t very responsive so I tell the other two cars to wait at the gas station and we’ll be right back. We dash over to the hotel so Vanessa can see if they found her lost item. Why all the fuss? Why not just leave it there? It’s only a lunch sack after all. Well, readers, you don’t know how our Vanessa packs. With what this young woman had in that sack, you could feed the entire group for a week. She’s thorough. No luck—they can’t find it. So, we head back to meet up with everyone else. We’ve been gone less than 15 minutes. When we arrive, but only Andrew is there. It seems everyone else decided that, “Wait here, we’ll be right back,” meant, “Go to the brewery across the street.” Ah, communication.
Once everyone is back in the cars, we head out, now an hour behind schedule and there’s a real possibility we won’t be there before dark. When you’re headed into an area you aren’t familiar with, that’s not the best plan. On the drive, Jordan and Nick play word games. One had something to do with using an adjective to describe a noun that was the same word but meant something different. I’ll pause while you try and figure that one out… Vanessa and I played along. Then Vanessa asks everyone to name their top five operas. That’s not the easiest task. That discussion morphs into composition, new works, video game soundtracks, and beer—as conversations are wont to do. Jordan announces that he likes beer. Vanessa and I go back to our opera discussion and leave the guys to talk amongst themselves.
The drive is gorgeous. Green hills and valleys, snow dotted peaks, streams… Colorado is showing off today. We near a town that I know is going to make one of my passengers very happy. I welcome everyone to Leadville and, as expected, Vanessa squeals with joy. The Ballad of Baby Doe is near and dear to her heart, so she’s always wanted to come here. We drive right by the Tabor Opera House. Sadly, we can’t stop and look around; we don’t have time. The drive continues. I’ve managed to make up 15 minutes of time on the road, and no, not by speeding.
Nick then announces that he needs a pit stop, so I take a detour to the nearest rest station. This is no ordinary rest stop. It’s quite a trek. The road to get there is apparently a guarded secret until you are within a few feet and there are more semi-trucks than I have ever seen in one location other than an actual truck stop. After finally solving the puzzle of the parking lot, Nick dashes out of the car and some of the others decide to utilize this opportunity too. Nathan decides to play with a dog and then decides he needs to utilize too. There goes all the time we had made up. The sun is beginning to set as we pass Aspen, then Avon and finally – Edwards. Our especially demanding GPS calls out turn after turn in the traffic circles and, after a wrong turn and then doing a U-turn in a car the size of a tank, followed by two smaller tanks, we finally make it to our lodging. It’s dusk.
We’re all staying together in a cabin tonight and tomorrow night, which can be less expensive than multiple hotel rooms. It’s lovely and we have enough space for a party of nine. We claim beds and decide on dinner. Pizza is ordered and Nathan offers to pick it up with Katie as his co-pilot. Now comes the final issue of the day. What else you wonder? It turns out that there are three locations of this particular pizza chain, one in Avon, one in Aspen and one in Eagle. I didn’t know this and just called the phone number that popped up on Google, which it turns out was the Eagle location. Katie and Nathan thought I ordered from the Avon location and went there. Ah, communication.
While we wait, Andrew relaxes, Vanessa catches up with her phone and Jordan, Heath, Nick, and Nicole play Bonanza, but only after Nicole leaves her mark on the chalk board in the dining room. Bonanza is a card game that the guys love and they’re teaching Nicole. It’s all about planting beans. Vanessa and I pass. Secretly, I think they just like talking in accents, which they do with gusto when they play. My ears buzzing with Southern, Western, and Texarcanian, the pizza arrives and we all finally sit down to eat. It’s now after 10:00 PM. We have to be up and on the road tomorrow by 7:30 AM.
Over dinner we learn that Heath consumes mass quantities of ranch dressing and other related sauces. He also believes tourniquets are the solution in any medical situation, major or minor. Jordan uses his cell phone as a coaster, Nathan gets his answer on why Winnie the Pooh wears a shirt but not pants, and Andrew impresses us all with just how low his speaking voice can go. Bedtime. Or not—they decide to finish their game. I head to my room to blog about the day and try to get a few hours of sleep before our double bill day tomorrow.
Tour—it’s never dull.
See you soon readers—in just a few hours actually.
Cherity Koepke is Opera Colorado’s Director of Education & Community Programs and the Director of the Young Artist Program. To learn more about some of Opera Colorado’s many education and community opportunities, click here. To learn more about this year’s Young Artists, click here.