March Tour Blog – Day 2

The Opera Colorado Young Artists on tour in Telluride, CO. Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

By Cherity Koepke

Good day readers. After a long day in the car and a late night, we’re up—but I wouldn’t exactly call us raring to go. It’s early and the sun is just peeking out from behind the mountains. After a hotel breakfast, we load into the cars and head to Telluride. Thank heavens for heated seats and defrosters. It’s chilly this morning. Vanessa’s yogurt is frozen—and it wasn’t supposed to be.

As I drive, Katie, Vanessa, and Nick discuss various life topics. Among them, living in a desert. We’re surrounded by snowy mountains, so it seems like an appropriate topic. Vanessa has spent a lot of time in Arizona and Katie will soon be visiting the more arid U.S., so she’s getting advice. Apparently when you get off a plane, the heat hits you in the chest like a brick wall. Vanessa calls it an oozing type of heat. OK…

We arrive at the theater, begin our sound check, and start getting into costumes and makeup. Heath is feeling a bit under the weather today, so I make some cuts to his aria so he can take it easy. Live performance is never dull and you always have something that needs to be adjusted, based on the day. I give everyone a heads up to be prepared to feel the altitude today. Opera at 8,750 feet. Everyone’s ready and we head backstage. I’m introduced and I take the stage to give the pre-performance talk. We have over 300 students K-6th grade and their parents, as well as some adults from the community. It’s a great house. I introduce Jordan and we get started.

Opera Colorado Young Artist coach accompanist Jordan Ortman, warming up before a performance. Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

As a director, I’m not sure how to describe what it’s like to watch kids react with such joy to what you’re putting on the stage. You hear their little voices shout “Bravo” and clap with such enthusiasm. It never gets old.  What’s even better? The adults are responding,  too—laughing and clapping, right along with the kids. I think there’s something really admirable about a company that places such importance in introducing people to opera, kids and adults alike. I’ve been at Opera Colorado ten years now and I’m proud to say that their dedication is still going strong. There you go readers—that was your motivational moment for today’s blog.

It’s a solid performance with good energy and everyone handled the altitude just fine. At least, no one needed the oxygen backstage. After bows, I go out and start the Q&A. We never know what questions we’re going to get. A snippet from today: “How do you sing so fast like that?” “How do you change costumes so fast?” “Who designed your costumes because they’re amazing and, oh my gosh, Katie, you are the best actress!” That’s a direct quote. We thank our audience for coming and say goodbye. Then we get out of costume and the group works to strike the set and load out. Nathan and I take a few minutes to do a phone interview for an upcoming article and then we rejoin the group. Nick, Heath, and Nathan glue a table that’s been broken, while Andrew, Nicole, and Vanessa finish packing up. Katie is tired, so she curls up in the trunk of one of the cars. On tour, you make space where you can find it. We make plans for lunch and spend the last few minutes talking to our contact, Chris. He loved the performance, thinks Jordan plays like a wild man, and would love to have us back. I’d call that a successful morning.

We hop into the vehicles and head to Main Street, where we carefully maneuver three very large cars into parallel parking. Jordan finds a spot for lunch and we begin what has to be one of the longest meals of my life. Of any of our lives. The extended lunch is brought to you courtesy of…really terrible service. The food was good and it gave us plenty of time to talk, but sheesh. We’re not exactly an exciting group right now either. Katie is still tired, Heath is on vocal rest, Nicole is focused on not getting food in her hair, Nick is being Heath’s voice, Andrew is perusing social media, Vanessa is sleepy, and Jordan is focused on coffee’s nearest substitute, beer. I think last week’s schedule, this past weekend’s Masked Ball gala, the long drive yesterday, and today’s morning show have finally caught up with us.

The Opera Colorado Young Artists getting ready backstage. Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

To make the lacking service even worse, two of our group get less change back than they should because our server opted to give himself a bigger tip. When we’re finally released from lunch, Nathan lodges a formal complaint and then we walk around town for a bit. The group decides to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain, while I do a couple of phone meetings. In between meetings, I meander through some shops where I meet, via a hefty shove to the knees, Roxy. Roxy is a rottweiler/boxer mix who is 87 lbs. of pure muscle and joy. And, since Nathan isn’t with me, I get all of the slobbery dog-snuggles to myself.

The group reunites and Andrew and Vanessa are ready to head back to the hotel, while everyone else decides to go for a hike. So, we part ways. On the drive, Andrew and Vanessa and I talk about the business, our childhoods, obscure repertoire, and the value of knowing when they need to rest. Back in Ridgeway, I drop Andrew and Vanessa off at the hotel and then get gas in the car, buy water, and scope out the dinner situation. Then I head back to my room to catch up on some work. I get a text from the explorers saying they’re on their way back, so I know they survived the hike.

After giving the intrepid hikers a chance to change, we head to dinner. At our table, conversation is focused on the day. Nathan came back from the hike a changed man. He’s so tired and food deprived he’s staring into space and making his food dance. Nick tries his best to help by laughing and Heath tries to rev up Nathan’s energy by dueling with chopsticks. Things at the other table with Andrew, Nicole, Jordan, and Vanessa aren’t going quite so well. The server is clearly frazzled tonight and she’s less than attentive. It just hasn’t been our day in the eating out category. At the end of dinner, she messes up their check and blames Andrew for eating food she has to pay for (yes, it sounds as baffling as it was). Andrew kept his cool, but also made sure that the check was correct.

The view from backstage. Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

The car ride back is eye opening. We share precious childhood memories and Katie wants to know if putting someone’s hand in warm water when they’re asleep really does what they say it does. Nick and Nathan muse on that for a while until Heath shares his own personal experience. We then learn about a home remedy, for that very issue, that Heath’s mom used involving honey. Tour: it’s also educational. Back at the hotel, we meet in the lobby to come up with a game plan for tomorrow. We have a bit of free time before we head to Gunnison, which is good timing. I think a day off of singing is just what the doctor ordered. Especially since we have a three-event day on Thursday.

I bid everyone goodnight and round out the night by finishing a bit of work and completing the blog. Tour is such a unique experience. Some days, everything goes right and you’re laughing all day. Some days, nothing goes right and you can’t find a reason to laugh. Then there are days like today where it’s a mixed bag. But, getting to perform opera, in places like this, surrounded by amazing scenery and people who are so appreciative that we came… I’ll take a day like that any day.

‘Til tomorrow readers,


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.

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