Mere weeks before Tapestry Opera was set to begin initial planning for its annual Youth Inside Opera program, we learned that the City Hope Day Camp we had partnered with in recent years had closed its doors for good. This news placed the future of the summer 2018 annual youth program in jeopardy, until a new partnership was forged with West Neighbourhood House.

For 15 years, Tapestry has offered children and youth the opportunity to tell their stories through an opera co-creation project. Working with opera and other performing arts professionals, the youngsters are offered a fun-filled, intensive, and active week, learning how to develop a story for the stage in music and movement. Movement, dance and fight choreography assure that activities provide healthy exercise. As well, set and costume design form the impetus for visual arts engagement. With equipment funded through the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, Tapestry’s volunteers and staff are able to also use video as a teaching tool and as a performance element.

With such a great program, Tapestry was determined to find a way to offer Youth Inside Opera this season. We reached out broadly to partners and friends. While there was a lot of interest, with timeframes being so short, many potential partners were unable to accommodate the program this year. Finally we made the connection via Dean Burry, a longtime member of the Tapestry family. Dean is shepherding the collaborative creation of Shanawdithit, an opera headlining Tapestry’s 2018-19 Season. Well-known in the Toronto Opera community, Dean led COC’s after-school opera program for years and was able to suggest a neighbourhood community centre with an active musical program.

Almost immediately the West Neighbourhood House said “Sure we would love to include your free opera creation program among our offerings to children living on the margins in our community”. Thanks West Toronto Neighbourhood House! Thanks Dean! And many, many thanks to the program sponsor, TD Community Programs! We look forward to sharing photos and video of the kids’ opera creation soon.