USM students introduce opera to children around Hattiesburg

USM students introduce opera to children around Hattiesburg

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company at the University of Southern Mississippi is showing the world of opera through various plays for elementary schools in Hattiesburg.

The outreach program allows children in kindergarten through fifth grade to experience the genre of music and also teaches them life lessons and the message of anti-bullying

SOMTC production manager Harlan Mapp explains why the department is putting on this project.

“This one, in particular, focuses on getting kind of a lesser-known art into public schools for students who may have never even heard of an opera,” Mapp said.

The plays are done by graduate students at the university in the department. Usually, they’re in the classroom, but due they are now virtual due to COVID-19.

Harlan explains how it’s helping both teachers and students in the classroom.

“General music teachers who no longer have a classroom because of COVID safety precautions, they can play this 30-minute video and talk about what opera is and then go over the moral of the story, which also touches on the concept of bullying in school,” Mapp said.

The play, “Billy Goats Gruff,” debuted for students on March 12 on the Opera Mississippi website.

With the play now available to more children, this is what Harlan hopes for the project.

“The primary goal in being part of these children’s operas and educational outreach is to one day hope that they will have witnessed, ‘Oh, I’ve seen opera before.’” Mapp said.

They are looking to do the next opera performance for children in July.

The department also incorporates an opera play using American Sign Language for the hearing impaired, which also teaches a lesson.

The plays are made possible through the sponsorship of the William Herin Foundation.

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