Music students at Toronto high school giving opera a chance

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WATCH ABOVE: Music students in the Claude Watson Secondary Arts Program at Earl Haig in Toronto already show outstanding talent but opera was foreign to many of them. Susan Hay has the story – Dec 21, 2018

Music students in the Claude Watson secondary arts program at Earl Haig Secondary School already show outstanding talent, but opera was a foreign concept to many of them.

That is until a few months ago when the Canadian Opera Company stepped in, and everything changed.

Back in September, world-class musicians from the opera company donated their time and talents and hosted a series of workshops and masterclasses with the vocal and orchestral students at the school. Among them was the opera company’s music director, Johannes Debus.

Debus said he wasn’t intimidated by the thought of teaching the young students opera. In fact, he saw it as an opportunity.

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“You just want to open some doors,” Debus said.

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“They’re like sponges — you want to invite them to look into certain corners they might not have seen yet.”

Months of rehearsals and learning music in a new language (Russian), they finally came together in a performance earlier this week.

Brianna Law, a music student at the school, said picking up the new genre was at first daunting.

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“Russian is terrifying, but amazing,” said Law. “You get the papers handed to you, and I’ve only ever sung in English.”

Her teacher agreed.

“So were [the students] receptive to begin with? I think they were nervous, I think they were unsure,” said Deborah Pady, head of music at Earl Haig.

“Kelsey Taylor who’s the vocal teacher and myself had planned on putting a collaborative idea together with orchestra and choir…and as the project progressed and as they worked with members of the COC, they got more and more excited.”

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Pady said despite the challenges, the project ended in success.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the depth that they’ve learned,” said Pady. “This project, this opera, how they’ve grown as musicians and they’ve just embraced and took on the challenges.”

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