By Cherity Koepke
I wake to the sound of rain on the roof, which is usually one of my favorite things in the world, but today it’s a tad irritating. I had just managed to fall asleep. That’s another one of the difficult parts of tour: sleep. You’re in different towns, in different lodging almost every night, so it can be hard to settle in and sleep when you need to. Add that I tend to work into the night and I have a brain that doesn’t like to turn off until it’s solved all of the world’s problems and bingo, you’ve got the recipe for not sleeping. It does give me time for a morning to myself since everyone else is still asleep.
It’s a grey, drizzly day in Lake City, but it’s still beautiful. Jordan is up now and soon after that, Katie, so we eat breakfast and chat. Vanessa is still asleep upstairs, so we do our best to be quiet. Nathan comes over from the other cabin to say good morning and we talk about the workshops we have today but then we get distracted because there are deer outside in our backyard. I can tell by Nathan’s body language that he wants to go hug them, like big dogs, but he refrains. I decide to head over to the theater to get ready. I’ve taught workshops hundreds of time, but I try and tailor each one so that it works for that particular group of students. I run through the game plan in my head as I wait for the students to arrive.
It will be nice to have help today. Nathan and Katie arrive a few minutes before our first group of kids. This group is grades 4-8, which is a challenge. The 4th and 5th graders are still excited about learning and not self-conscious about what they look like in front of their classmates, while that’s all the 6th– 8th graders are thinking about. We’ve got a couple of young men who are trying the hardest to be disruptive. Katie is actively supervising them with hands on hips, while Nathan is ready to remove them. I give them a warning and then try a game that involves vocal, mental, and physical elements. It takes me some time to get them all working with me, but I manage to do it and Nathan and Katie jump in with their support. We talk about voice, movement, confidence, presentation—you name it and it’s all done through interactive games. By the time we get to a game called “Machine,” they are invested and being really creative. At the end of the session, Nathan sings for them and we take questions. What I try to do in these workshops is teach skills that we learn and utilize as singers and artists that can be helpful to anyone. The skills these students learned today can be applied in school when they’re giving a speech or presentation, when they go out on job interviews, when they’re working as part of a team, playing sports, problem solving, or when they just need to be thinking creatively. The arts are so amazing at teaching a variety of skills—it’s always surprising to me that they’re not incorporated more often.
While we’re teaching the workshop, I get a message from Jordan saying that all of them have gone on a drive with Harvey Duchene, a Lake City local. OK, it’s numerically inaccurate since three of us are here, but it’s sweet of Harvey to be their tour guide. I hope they enjoy themselves because the weather isn’t great for sightseeing today.
Workshop number one is completed and we get lots of thank you’s and a few hugs as the students are leaving. We take a quick break for lunch and I catch up on emails. As I’m getting ready to leave to head back to the theater, I see the others roll in from their drive. I don’t know how it went. They all dashed into their cabin because it’s raining again. It’s time for the second workshop of the day and I’ll have Nathan and Nick providing support for this one. The high school class is small and we don’t have the seniors today, but they are really great kids. They’re willing to take risks and try something new and we have fun interacting with them. Nick and Nathan walk them through some physical and vocal exercises and then we move on to some theater games for creativity. During one game, one of the girls proposed to one of the guys who then announced, in his best ingénue voice, “This is a sudden and unexpected turn of events.” And—as is usually the case, I don’t get a single picture of the action. When I’m teaching, I rarely have the opportunity to snap a photo since I’m so busy engaging with the kids. I’m usually on my own, too, so I never even thought about asking one of the Young Artists to digitally document the classes. Rats.
After the last workshop, there’s time for a very short break. Then we all meet up for the first time today and head off to dinner. The weather looks to have cleared so we should have some beautiful views. We’re being hosted for dinner tonight at the home of Kathy and Harvey Duchene. It’s very special when someone invites you into their home to host you for a meal. They’re lovely people who are genuinely curious about us and what we do. They loved the performance last night. Kathy told us she got her friend’s husband to come with them and “opera is not his thing” but he apparently had a great time. I really think it’s all about how it’s presented. Opera is a big art form and it can be hard to wrap your arms around it. These smaller, more intimate performances can make it easier for people to give opera a chance.
Dinner is wonderful as is the conversation. Harvey and Kathy are kind people and they laugh at all our stories and antics. They thank us again and again for coming to Lake City to perform. After a few hours, we have to bid our hosts goodnight; we have an early morning tomorrow. There are deer everywhere this time of night, so we have to be on the lookout as we drive. As I pass them on the road, I use my best command voice and tell them, “Stay.” Back at the cabins, we decide to hang out for just a bit. Andrew sits on Jordan until he agrees to play ping pong. Foosball is played with shrieks and giggles by Vanessa and Nicole. Heath plays the keyboard upstairs and tries to ramp up the crowd with his rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” It does not go well. Nick makes friends with huge pillows whilst eating popcorn. Once the group settles in, we decide to watch a movie. Katie figures out the DVD player and we opt for a campy comedy. We end the evening laughing. Jordan is the first to turn in and I follow soon after so I can finish out the blog and a bit of work. We’ve got a drive to Hotchkiss tomorrow and a double bill of Cinderella and then we’re meeting Steve Dilts for dinner. Steve is the Young Artist Liaison and Nathan’s sponsor. He’s been a huge support all year and this is the group’s last chance to spend time with him before their contracts end.
It will be another busy day—as most days are on tour.
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.