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Vocal Leaders

“Life is short...Opera is long.” Or so goes the saying. However, the recently founded opera company Opera Project Columbus endeavors to make it both short and fun. Selling out its inaugural production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica in October 2011, OPC continues into its third season of producing opera excerpts and shorter operatic works. On February [...]
Laura Dachenbach



“Life is short…Opera is long.” Or so goes the saying. However, the recently founded opera company Opera Project Columbus endeavors to make it both short and fun.

Selling out its inaugural production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica in October 2011, OPC continues into its third season of producing opera excerpts and shorter operatic works. On February 28 and March 2, OPC will present “Arias in Ebony,” a program featuring the operatic and classical works of African-American composers.

Modeling itself on companies such as Cleveland’s Opera Per Tutti and the Chelsea Opera in New York City, OPC joins a nationwide artistic trend of smaller opera companies who aim for broader demographic in their communities and to groom local vocal talent. Melinda Green, mezzo-soprano and OPC’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, envisions OPC as a place where novice and experienced singers learn by performing together.

“When that kind of collaboration happens, the result can be exciting for the audience as well as the performers,” she said.

Besides a variety of singing experience, OPC artists share another unusual quality: many of them, while classically trained, aren’t musicians by profession.

“I’m looking for that singer who teaches, works in your neighborhood bank, is your mailman or your lawyer,” said Dione Bennett, OPC’s current artistic director. “That person who began with the dream of being on the operatic stage and should be on the stage.”

Although everything commonly associated with opera is “grand” in scale, Carolyn Redman, mezzo-soprano sees an advantage to smaller productions.

“I think it helps break down the barriers for those not used to seeing opera. So many people – a lot of my friends included – think that opera is too stuffy, but being ‘up close and personal’ really helps the audience to feel a much stronger connection to the performers and more a part of the production in general.”

OPC’s current production strives to mimic the structure of the company itself: different, personalized, and accessible to a non-opera-going audience. “Arias in Ebony” will feature excerpts from William Grant Still’s Costaso and Highway 1, USA, H. Lawrence Freeman’s Voodoo, the first African-American opera conceptualized and financed by African-Americans on Broadway, in addition to works by Leslie Adams, Leslie Savoy Burrs, and Anthony Davis. While traditionally operatic, the music also incorporates folkloric elements such as spiritual, gospel, and jazz themes.

Maria Gordon, OPC’s board president, acknowledges the challenges for a smaller company, including finding a suitable performance space for intimate works and putting together creative programming that will interest different age groups. “It’s very hard to put something new out there and maintain yourself financially, but we’re optimists,” she said. “You have to be optimistic to do this.”

That optimism is paying off. OPC – which was spawned after Opera Columbus restructured itself and no longer produced its own shows – recently took a big step towards its future by securing grants through the Columbus Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The company will round out its season in June with a staged production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Maestro Alessandro Siciliani will conduct OPC’s chamber orchestra.

“The arts are essential to the lifeblood of a great city,” said OPC baritone Robert Kerr, who made his national debut at the Kennedy Center this past December. “OPC has the potential to be one of the best opera projects in the country, and I hope the people of Central Ohio will aid in that pursuit.”

“Arias in Ebony” will be performed on Friday, February 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church (93 W Weisheimer Rd.), and Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. at Faith Ministries Church (2747 Agler Rd.). Tickets and more information can be found at

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause




To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need




Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here:

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here:

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?




A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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