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Published in Print: April 28, 1999, as Take Note

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Take Note

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A high note for partnership

Opera and teens--not exactly a bacon-and-eggs combination.

But one New York high school made it work this spring, pairing accomplished teenage singers with opera professionals at the beginning of their careers.

The partnership between Syosset High School on Long Island and the International Institute for the Vocal Arts, a New York City group that supports young opera singers, was the brainchild of Carole G. Hankin. Ms. Hankin, the superintendent of the 5,600-student Syosset Central district, got in touch with the opera group when she heard it offered critiques of singers at the college level.

The partnership debuted this month, with all 200 members of the school's chorus participating. The teenagers gave the effort rave reviews.

"You picture opera as the big Viking woman in the helmet with horns and two braids," said senior Erin Edelstein, one of the leads in the school's spring musical. "But the people who came were so real and so friendly and brought so much life to the music--I saw they were real performers."

The program had three components: an informal class led by the institute's director, an assistant conductor with the world-famous Metropolitan Opera in New York; a master class given by two of the institute's vocal coaches; and an abridged production of the opera "Carmen," starring young professionals.

Ms. Edelstein was one of 11 students who sang in the master class. She was surprised when the coach told her to turn her back to the audience. "I was trying so hard to be heard, I made a much bigger sound," she said.

"The kids saw immediate results" from the partnership, said Steven E. Schopp, the head of the school's music department.

Ms. Hankin could only wish for more of the same. "This is how you'd want any classroom to be," the superintendent said. "The students took chances, and the teacher in a nice way corrected the mistakes and the students did things differently."

--Bess Keller

Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 3

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