San Diego Opera’s Words and Music program is a collection of long-term in-school, after-school, and summer artist residencies. San Diego Opera Teaching Artists provide over 2,500 hours of arts instruction every year for hundreds of young people.
Teaching Artists work with students to create original plays, poems, and music based on their life experience. The focus on personal storytelling through culturally relevant music and drama empowers youth to envision a better world through collaborative art creation. Students rehearse throughout the year and perform for audiences of peers, teachers, families, and community members.
Current Words and Music programming focuses on the neighborhoods of Logan Heights, Lincoln Park, and City Heights, partnering with Logan Memorial Educational Campus, Lincoln High School, and La Maestra Foundation Center for Youth Advancement.
Teaching Artists are trained in Restorative Practices.
Words and Music is implemented in close collaboration with community partners.
Community partner Izcalli is a community-based Chicano theatre troupe whose mission is to promote cultural consciousness through the arts, education, and community dialogue.
Community partner La Maestra Foundation Center for Youth Advancement serves the youth of City Heights by providing an after-school and summer program aimed at empowering economically disadvantaged urban youth from 6-18 years old.
Community partner Mariachi Juvenil has three goals: provide a place where students can further their musical knowledge, continue their education after high school, and connect with their culture through music.
The comments below from Words and Music participants reveal the impact of the program.
“We started to notice one another’s stories and poems and everybody started to get on the same level of understanding.”
“It’s fun, it will bring people out like me, into making friends. I also learned to project my voice and to not be afraid in front of others.”
“I started attending school more often when I was in 9th grade because of San Diego Opera’s Words and Music program. Then I got hooked and tried to never miss a class. Now I am a San Diego Opera employee and attending community college.”
“San Diego Opera was a big part of my high school and artistic experience as a student at Lincoln High School. Now I am a San Diego Opera Teaching Artist employee studying social work at SDSU, and I get paid to teach opera and related arts to students at my alma mater – Lincoln High!”
“I’ve been very lucky and grateful to participate in many of the programs San Diego Opera (SDO) organized. The most memorable to me was My Voice in The Arts and Words and Music. These programs presented me with unforgettable experiences. I was able to learn more about music, and the different creative ways to approach theater and opera. One of my favorite tasks that I completed was creating and performing a monologue on stage to my peers. My past experiences with SDO have inspired me to pursue a career in the arts field.”
“My mind did a whole 180 – I’m really interested in this program.”
“I began to like Tuesdays and Thursdays because this program brought us together.”
“We decided to make a play about a day in Barrio Logan, to show how we live and make sure that people don’t get any wrong perspectives. This actually is a good neighborhood and it’s nice to have something our own.”
“I learned to be yourself, don’t take this program for granted, and all your other classmates and team members, stay close to them, it’s really cool because it brings everyone together and it has a sense of unity.”
My name is Devon Guthrie, and I am a professional opera singer and actor. I had the great pleasure of singing the principal roles of the Sandman and Dew Fairy with San Diego Opera in 2020 in our production of Hansel and Gretel and have the privilege to count myself among the company’s Teaching Artists.
My passion for the art of storytelling is the compass of my life. First, I was a dancer, then I discovered musical theater, and then one day my voice teacher introduced me to classical art song and opera, and I was hooked for life. I have always loved performing, but I needed encouragement and guidance as I spent long days and nights in the practice room learning technique. I needed support to try new things and develop my skills. I was lucky to have teachers who understood my enthusiasm. Even when the work was challenging, the challenge felt worthy – even joyful. To this day, I still get that spark of excitement when I find a new song that speaks to me. This joy of the artistic process must continue with the next generation.
And it does! Meet Salma, a participant in the Nancy and Steve Howard Young Voice Program. She began working with SDO Teaching Artists in elementary school. Now I help her prepare for auditions, work on roles for her high school productions, explore new repertoire, and develop her technique as a musician. She is a dedicated and self-motivated student who excels at honing her soprano range, musicianship, and expression through phrasing and dynamics.
And meet Dillon, a Lincoln High School student who began working with SDO Teaching Artists in 2021. Dillon comes to each Young Voice lesson with a curious enthusiasm, intelligent questions, and intuitive observations. Dillon has a beautiful tenor voice that is equally comfortable in the repertoire of the Rat Pack and the greatest hits of R&B.
As an SDO Teaching Artist, I foster young storytellers who bring new perspectives. I shepherd their vibrant inner imagination out into the world through the transformative and expressive power of the voice. This is the spark. This is the future of opera.
Visit our El Ultimo Sueno de Frida y Diego Study Guide for educational activities celebrating the world premiere.
Los Maníacos Latin Jazz Community Youth Ensemble brings together youth from around the region to study and perform with Latin Jazz master musicians.
If you are under 25 years old and interested in joining this ensemble, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curriculum written by Cynthia Stokes, Curriculum Specialist
Illustrations and consulting by Jennifer Tsau, Ph.D.
San Diego Opera’s Department of Education and Outreach is committed to examining the connection between opera and science through a series of lessons focusing on the human vocal system and how humans make sound.
The human voice is an extraordinary instrument and was most likely the very first musical instrument created. All other instruments, scales and sounds were initially created as a response to the human voice. Through the speaking voice a wealth of information is revealed about an individual. The following lessons examine the anatomy of the upper respiratory system, how sound is produced, a detailed exploration of the vocal cords and folds, a discussion of vocal health and a look at why humans respond to music.
These lessons are prepared for middle and high school students and were developed based upon California Science and Music Standards.
Horizons at Francis Parker School – voice and piano instruction
La Maestra Foundation Center for Youth Advancement – mariachi music ensemble
Lincoln High School – singing, acting, and visiting artists series
Logan Memorial Educational Campus – mariachi music ensemble
Multiple venues across San Diego – Latin Jazz music ensemble
Community Partners host and support SDO Education programs.
La Maestra Foundation Center for Youth Advancement
Horizons at Francis Parker School
San Diego Unified School District
If you know someone who may be interested in engaging with SDO Education, please contact email@example.com for more information.