Highlands Opera Studio hosted “Why Choose Opera?” this past summer at Abbey Gardens. /Photo by Brenden Friesen

Highlands Opera Studio’s new initiative sings to local youth

By Vivian Collings
Highlands Opera Studio (HOS) is offering a new job opportunity for a person interested in opera to introduce the art form to the next generation of local young adults.
“Highlands Opera Studio will be moving into our 17th season in 2023, and all these years, we have had a presence in the summer, but we don’t have a presence during the year. In light of not only wanting to expand the understanding of what it is we do for young people, we want to bring it down to earth and make young people feel like opera could be relevant to them if they give it a try,” said Valerie Kuinka, general and co-artistic director of HOS.
HOS recently received a grant from Haliburton County Development Corporation’s Local Initiatives Program for a new young adult opera club program and the ability to hire a club director.
Allowing local youth an introduction to the opera community is what HOS desired to do since its formation in 2007.
“It’s eluded us how to do this. Very happily, the Haliburton County Development Corporation felt it was a good fit with their local initiative program. I applied to that, and here we are, happily in the position of being able to expand our own personnel through the hiring of this position, and then also to, by extension, include more of the young people in Haliburton County into our world, which is a very welcoming world of people,” Kuinka said.

The position is part-time and is for 13 weeks. The successful candidate will work closely with the general and co-artistic director of HOS to organize and run creative social events in Haliburton County for young adults.
“It’s going to be exciting and challenging to find a way to bridge the gap,” Kuinka said.
Another part of the new youth program will be to take a field trip to Toronto to see an opera in the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts.
“It’s another means of human expression and human emotion. All the stories are very real stories: love, betrayal, unrequited love, all the things that everybody goes through all the time,” Kuinka said about opera as an art form.
One of HOS’ pre-existing summer programs, “Why Choose Opera?” is a pay-what-you-can event and highlights how beneficial it is for young people to be introduced to opera.
All participants of this event are between the ages of 19 and 25, and they come from all over Canada and sometimes other parts of the world.
“They come to improve their own skills at an already-accomplished level of operatic singing but, we want to share with the community how these young people find opera in the first place.”
She said many came from rock bands, folk groups, choirs, and church groups before being introduced to opera.
“They found, as one of our participants put it, ‘It’s just more music.’ It’s not such a stretch when you have a chance to hear it and meet the people that are devoting their lives to it. That’s what we want to do. We want to connect the young people that are in our program as emerging professional singers with the community. They really have a lot in common, they just need to give it a try.”

Highlands Opera Studio hosted their event for young adults from across the country called “Why Chose Opera?” this past summer at Abbey Gardens. /Photo by Brenden Friesen

The new local youth-focused program will also be a way for HOS to build on other successful initiatives such as their Highlands Opera Community School and Pay-What-You-Can online singing lessons which were also supported by HCDC.
Applicants should have their vulnerable sector certification, experience in working with youth and young adults, excellent communication skills, advanced computer skills, and a strong desire to learn about opera and be engaged in activities.
To apply, send a resume and short statement of intent to valerie@highlandsoperastudio.com.
“We’re all just out there trying to create something beautiful. We’re all just artists, and that’s the bottom line. If you like the arts, if you like music, if you like theatre, come find out more about opera,” Kuinka said.