St. Olaf College | News

Star Tribune features new hands-on opera course

St. Olaf students work to help students at Prairie Creek Elementary School create an original opera.
Sarah Bauer ’17, Katie Miller ’14, and Myrtle Lemon ’17 help students at Prairie Creek Elementary School create an original opera.

Katie Miller ’14 tells the Star Tribune that she didn’t know what to expect when she signed up for a new St. Olaf College course that aimed to help a local elementary school produce an original opera.

But, she says, she immediately fell in love with the project.

“It’s been a really full-on educational experience,” Miller, a vocal performance major who wants to sing opera professionally, tells the paper. “The kids really get to learn about everything, and that’s been really fun for us.”

The Star Tribune notes that the 12 St. Olaf students involved in the Opera Creation Residency, led by Instructor in Lyric Theater Kira Lace Hawkins ’04, worked to involve all 180 students at Prairie Creek Community School into the show. The result, an original opera titled “Stories of Our Woods,” was a hands-on learning experience for students old and young.

The Opera Creation Residency is designed to allow St. Olaf students to serve as artists in residence and challenge them to perform roles ranging from composer to prop designer to performer.

“One of the best things about this class is the wide range of opportunities available to my students,” Hawkins says. “They get to lead a classroom experience, create a work of art, and learn every day about effective teaching and rehearsal techniques.”

Hawkins and St. Olaf Professor of Music James McKeel, who created the course alongside Associate Professor of Music Janis Hardy, believe Prairie Creek provides the perfect environment for the interactive course. And, McKeel adds, the project is a good fit for St. Olaf students as well.

“It seemed like a natural for our talented and creative St. Olaf students,” McKeel says. “In a world where traditional large-scale productions are giving way to a thriving local arts scene and at a time when young artists need unique venues to make money, showcase their passions, and hone their talents, this course seemed like the perfect fit.”