Looking back at the Tindley Genesis School and Indianapolis Opera partnership 

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Pinocchio transformed from puppet to boy at Tindley Genesis School, and along the way to this performance featuring Indianapolis Opera Resident Artists, a chorus of Tindley first and second graders underwent their own transformation.

“This is my first time with opera,” reported Jobria. “I’m in modeling,” she replied matter-of-factly when I told her she seemed very poised performing.

Efrain, on the other hand, said, “I’m used to opera now.”


Both Tindley students participated in an afterschool program that took place this fall in correlation with the Indianapolis Opera. Over the past few months 20 students of Tindley Genesis worked with the opera's resident artists on "vocal production, expression, and general theatrical conventions of character development and storytelling."

“I am proud of this introspective child coming out of her shell,” said Carol Baker, Indianapolis Opera’s director of community engagement.

Music is at the core of the Tindley Genesis curriculum with an emphasis on world drumming and singing and the performing arts. General music and piano competency add to the underlying concept that engagement with music and related arts empower students to perform well across the curriculum.

Learning to work as an ensemble and awaiting their turn “off-stage” to perform was a special part of the IO residency for this group of first and second graders. It was obvious that each child had in some way become an integral part of the troupe. They took turns to hug Baker, who was their chorus master and each of the five IO professionals. But kids are kids and after the audience of the rest of the Tindley School population filed out as silently as they had filed in, getting to “play” with the props and feel the fabric of the costumes was the special treat.

“The work that our scholars get to do with the Indianapolis Opera is phenomenal,” said Todd Hawks, Principal of Tindley Genesis, in a released statement. “Seeing professionals in the field working alongside our young students is incredible. I am thrilled at the work that is being done and excited to see all of the amazing things our scholars will accomplish through work with IO.”

Before taking on the role of principal, Butler and IU graduate Hawks “served as a music teacher for eight years,” he told me when we met on Oct. 7.

“Indianapolis Opera considers our partnership with Tindley Genesis to be an invaluable part of our Resident Art training program,” said Kevin Patterson, IO general director. “Being able to reach out to young students at Tindley by bringing young professionals into the classroom is exciting. We appreciate the progressive approach that Tindley Genesis has undertaken in arts education and look forward to more collaborative opportunities."

Baker pointed out that the residency is equally important to the young professionals. “With their college training they learned to navigate on stages as performers. But they also need to learn how to interact with the community [off stage] and share the art of opera and their artistry with children.”

IO resident artists represent a wide range of training and pre-professional and professional experiences. Soprano Allison Nicholas is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Feigenbaum is a BM and MM graduate of Northwestern University. Tenor Nathanael Hein, currently completing his Performers Diploma at Jacobs School of Music, earned a Master's Degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music and a Bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University, Baritone Jacob Pence has been active in young artist programs and has performed roles in numerous operatic productions. Pianist/Coach Allegra Sorley holds a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from Ohio University and Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts

The stage director of Pinocchio, Ty Stover, has a history of engaging youthful audiences. His on-the-mark staging made pratfalls perfectly plausible and rightful comeuppance for anyone taking advantage of a “boy” whose start as a puppet didn’t equip him with street smarts.

“As the original multi-media art form, opera is a total immersion experience relaying stories that define and shape our humanity,” said Baker. “While the stage is a world forum for engagement and communication, the classroom is an intimate setting nurturing the development of 21st century learning skills of critical thinking and problem solving; communication; collaboration; and creativity and innovation.”

John Davies’ operatic adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio showcased music from the operas of W.A. Mozart, G. Donizetti, J. Offenbach and G.B. Pergolesi.


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

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Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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