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Opera Then and Now

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CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster

Opera Then and Now
An opera outreach experience
October 18, 2016

Watch the Opera Performance and Wax Cylinder Recording Demonstration

Download Lesson Plans | Study Website


In celebration of the National Park Service’s (NPS) 2016 centennial, Westminster’s CoOPERAtive program has partnered with the Thomas Edison National Historic Park to provide an opera outreach experience - Opera Then and Now - designed to inspire young people to “find their park” and explore the connection that Thomas Edison had to opera.

The program will be presented on Tuesday, October 18.  It will include a demonstration about Thomas Edison's invention of wax-cylinder recording and opera performances by singers enrolled in Westminster's CoOPERAtive opera training program. Since space at the park is limited, the opera performance and Wax Cylinder recording demonstration will be live-streamed on this website in collaboration with the Long Distance Learning program of the NPS.

To enhance the experience of students and the public viewing the program, Westminster Choir College Music Education students have developed a study website with 10 middle-school lesson plans focusing on the performance and understanding the overall connections among opera, Thomas Edison, and his inventions.   

What is Opera Then and Now?

This project has been funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is supporting Rider University’s Westminster Choir College to promote the professional development of aspiring opera singers through its CoOPERAtive opera training program and provide meaningful arts education designed to reach students who may have limited access to the arts.  

The live performance, specialized tour of Thomas Edison National Historic Park for a select group of middle school students and live stream is the culminating event for this project. Students who participate in the program will tour Edison’s Music Room, listen to archival opera recordings made by Edison in the 1920s and 1930s, hear the same works performed live by CoOPERAtive Program Fellows, and conclude the visit with a recording of the Fellows’ performance on archival wax cylinder recorders. 

Why an Opera Outreach Program?

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the motivation for creating this special funding opportunity with the NPS was to “unite the missions of the two agencies to promote and protect the nation's cultural and natural treasures.”  As the NEA celebrates its 50th anniversary and the NPS celebrates its centennial, both agencies collaborated to offer this initiative to broaden access to the arts in American communities while celebrating the rich history of our national parks.

Westminster’s CoOPERAtive program was a perfect fit for such an outreach effort. The opera outreach program to be held at the Thomas Edison National Historic Park provides a unique performance opportunity for CoOPERAtive fellows while also exposing a youth audience (both face-to-face and virtually) to the opera art form.  This project complements the many community arts collaborations that are currently underway at Westminster. Rider is the only university in the nation to receive a grant in the Art Work’s Opera category in the 2016 competition.


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