Sarasota Youth Opera opens classes in east Manatee County.
Crossing Creek 12-year-old Olivia DeGrave has some experience singing.
But she has never sung quite like this.
“I did choir in elementary school at Tara, but this is a different kind of singing,” DeGrave said of the Sarasota Youth Opera lessons she is taking at the Harvest United Methodist Church. “I really like the way that it is different, like how you had to know when to breathe and the different vowels and stuff.”
DeGrave and nine other middle school students have been the first to give the new opera class a try. They warmed up on their first day with the American folk song, “Oh, Shenandoah.”
Ben Jewell-Plocher, director of education at the Sarasota Opera House, decided to host lessons in Lakewood Ranch because the drive to the Sarasota Opera House might be a deterrent for aspiring opera singers in East County.
“We’ve been thinking about doing classes in Lakewood Ranch for about three years, and we’re finally getting out here with the right host and the right number of employees,” Jewell-Plocher said. “There’s about a third of our opera audience that is coming from this area that we feel could be served better. It’s only going to get harder (to make the trip) with the growth of our community. It’s not easy to say I’m going to drive to the opera house from Lakewood Ranch.”
Neipwi Rousan, a 10-year-old who lives in Parrish, was one of the students taking the class at Harvest United.
“I play the ukulele and I dance,” Rousan said. “I want to try something that isn’t normal and opera sounds kind of cool. Singing makes me feel happy and good about myself; I am definitely going to take more classes.”
The classes are held each Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. for third- through fifth-grade students and from 5:30-6:30 p.m. for sixth- through eighth-graders.
The tuition for the classes is $175 for the semester, and there will be multiple performances of “The Little Sweep” the class will perform in November at the Sarasota Opera House. The Harvest class will combine with those taking lessons in downtown Sarasota in October to make final preparations for “The Little Sweep.”
Classes will be open for enrollment until the end of August in Lakewood Ranch.
Tara’s Janet Bloom brought her 10-year-old granddaughter, Molly Rindermann, to the class.
“I honestly don’t know if this will materialize into anything,” Bloom said. “I heard about it because I attend church at Harvest. Molly has a loud voice, so I thought I would see if she likes using it in a productive way.”
DeGrave’s mother, Heather DeGrave, said if the classes weren’t in Lakewood Ranch, she wouldn’t consider it.
“It would just be too far of a drive for us,” said Heather DeGrave. “But I know that she will like this. She is an arts kid, and opera sounded interesting to both of us.”