Students spend a day at the opera

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — No one had to ask Jamario Ashley what he thought of opera Tuesday; his face said it all.

The Morgantown Elementary School sixth grader winced at the conclusion of the children’s opera “S.H.O.T.” presented at Braden School.

Performed by an ensemble of young professional singers from New York City, the opera is part of the Natchez Festival of Music’s educational outreach program. For 12-year-old Ashley, classical music is not meant for his ears.

“I liked it, but I don’t want to hear all that singing. It’s boring,” Ashley said. “I would’ve liked to see action and adventure.”

Kerrica Dunmore, 12, who sat directly behind Ashley, had a different take than her classmate.

Dunmore said she enjoyed the opera, which told the story of a television news reporter and cameraman interviewing a diverse group of individuals about gang violence and prevention in New York City. The opera addresses the themes of tolerance and acceptance of generational and cultural differences.

“It was pretty good,” Dunmore said. “This wasn’t my first time listening to opera, but I don’t think I’ll sing opera. I don’t have the voice for it.”

“S.H.O.T.” castmember Elias Hendricks said he and his castmates rehearsed in Brooklyn, N.Y., and performed their first show Sunday. “S.H.O.T. will be presented twice a day April 19-23 in Natchez for area schoolchildren and the cast will go on the road April 26-30 in surrounding areas.

“The purpose of the show is to make sure classical music gets to communities who wouldn’t normally have that experience,” Hendricks said. “We wanted to entertain the kids and we wanted to have fun.”

Students peppered the cast with questions following the performance. They wanted to know if they ever tire of singing and if they get nervous before performing.

“We get tired. We have to build up out stamina,” Hendricks said.

Castmember Victoria Browers admitted she still gets nervous before performances or auditions, but she uses her anxiety to her advantage.

“I’m always nervous, but if you stop being nervous, (performing) is not as exciting,” Browers said.

An evening presentation of “S.H.O.T.” is set for 7 p.m. May 1 at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center.

Kindergartners through 12th graders who bring parents to the show will receive free tickets for themselves and their parents.