Palm Springs Teachers Infuses Young Audience With 'Opera Power'

Andy Eisenmann exposes students to art form by showing all of its glory



Palm Springs Unified School District teacher Andy Eisenmann (far left) recruits some of the brightest young opera talent across the nation to join him in the 'Opera Outreach' program.

Bruce Johansen

It all began with one his choir students.

“You should be an Opera singer... you are loud,” the student told Andy Eisenmann, then a teacher in Cottonwood, Calif.

Eisenmann left teaching in the early 1990s to successfully pursue a career singing in musicals, opera, and theatre throughout the country. His voice was heard with the Opera San Jose and later performed on the stage of the McCallum Theatre with the Santa Barbara Grand Opera.

Eisenmann came back to teaching in 2000 and is now a middle school vocal music instructor with the Palm Springs Unified School District.

For two weeks in June, Eisenmann (pictured right) takes personal leave with support from the school district to donate his talents and present a series of free opera performances at every elementary school within the district. 

“I am so lucky to have this opportunity,” Eisenmann said. “It is so much fun and its not really work.”

Eisenmann makes this “antique art form” utterly cool with dynamic arias, duets, introductory Italian vocabulary, and a grand operatic finale at each student assembly. Part history, part arts and culture lesson, the “Opera Power” program is an energetic interactive presentation that gets kids excited.

According to Diana Whitcomb, Sunny Sands Elementary second grade teacher, “We live for this assembly to come very year. We sing and go back to our classrooms and whatever we are studying, we put it to music and its fun.”

Sponsored in partnership with the Palm Springs Opera Guild, Eisenmann recruits some of the brightest young opera talent across the nation to join him in the “Opera Outreach” program.

These  “young artists in residence” spend two weeks on tour with multiple school shows per day as well as regional performances to promote opera as “an art-form that is still alive and well,” said Joanne Vilardi of the Palm Springs Opera Guild. “Our programs fill a necessary need in educating students about live classical music and opera as an art-form.” 

Added Andy, “To see these young, perky, energetic, people singing in this old world art form sends kids a message that any one of their dreams is possible. We are desperate to rejuvenate young audiences and expose them to this multifaceted jewel that so many people don’t know about or do not have the ability to learn about it.”

Eisenmann creates an opportunity for his young audiences to connect to opera by showing that it’s much more than music.

“It is storytelling, theatre, costume design, lighting, stage, drama…and I want the kids to be excited about the possibility of pursuing something as a career that they never thought a possibility,” Andy said. “I want my legacy to be student success and absolute love for the arts. I want someone to remember that in fifth grade, for example, ‘I had this experience that was so much fun’…tell someone, and be inspired!”

For more information on “Opera Outreach”, visit www.palmspringsoperaguild.org

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