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FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2012 McHenry County

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dailyherald.com

An opera of their own
Youngstudentslearntotell theirstorieswithsong
By Jamie Greco
DailyHeraldcorrespondent

If you go
What: “Destined Lives,” an opera written and produced by 10-to-13-year-olds of Hamilton Wings When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 14 Where: Elgin Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Center Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin Tickets: $10; available at the ECC box office in the Visual and Performing Arts Center (building H). To purchase tickets, call (847) 622-0300 or visit elgin.edu/arts.

Music has been a prominent force in 12-year-old Cesar Mendez’s life. “When I was little, I loved music; I had a CD that was my favorite,” he said. “I had all these toy instruments that my parents would give me.” Still, as with most children his age, opera was never on his radar until his music teacher suggested SCORE (Students Creating Opera to Reinforce Education), an activity offered through collaboration between Hamilton Wings, Elgin Area School District U-46 and Elgin Community College. This year’s production, “Destined Lives,” will be presented Saturday, July 14. The program, which is in its 12th year, aims to use the arts as a vehicle to promote leadership, self-development and academic readiness among socially and economically challenged youth in the Elgin community. Not all eligible youth jump at the chance of participation, however. In fall of 2010, when 14-year-old Alex Sharp, who will attend Larkin High School this year, first became aware of SCORE, she opted out. The next time it was offered, she had changed her mind. “Last year, SCORE teachers came to Abbott and talked about it,” she said. “I didn’t

really want to the first year, but my friends were in it and talked about how much fun they had.” Not all potential students need to be wooed, according to Deanna Cates, director of operations and programs for Hamilton Wings and vocal director and pianist for the production. “After 12 years of SCORE, the word has gotten out that the activity is great fun,” she said. However, to the average young person, classical music inherently breeds preconceived notions stemming from a lack of knowledge concerning the art form. “I didn’t know much. I just knew singing and that’s it,” said 11-year-old Vanessa Robelo, who attends Channing Elementary School. SCORE recognizes this hurdle and has designed workshops, which are presented in October, the beginning of the nine-month program. “The biggest challenge is getting over the misconceptions they have about opera,” Cates said. “It doesn’t have to be sung in a foreign language and it doesn’t have to be sung like at the The Lyric Opera. An opera is a story that is sung; it can be hip-hop, it can be more pop.” Team-building exercises are part of the initial work before the opera project begins. “At first, we started off with

‘Destined Lives’ cast
P H O T O S B Y R I C K W E S T / rwest@dailyherald.com

Markeyah Johnson, 11, left, and Alexis Ruiz, 11, perform during a rehearsal of “Destined Lives,” an original opera created and produced entirely by 10-to-13-year-old students involved in Hamilton Wings’ SCORE program. Johnson is from Elgin and Ruiz is from South Elgin.

teamwork challenges to see how well we can work with each other,” said Mendez, who will be attending Larson Middle School. “Everyone made friends with each other and we worked together. I thought it was going to be really hard at first, but afterwards it got really easy.” One of the exercises challenges teams of kids to build marshmallow and toothpick buildings. “I led my team pretty good,” Mendez said. “My uncle’s an architect and he was looking at blueprints for the foundation and he showed me a few things, so when we first tried squashing it, it popped back up.” The 10-to-13-year-old participants from nine

Bridgette Rathjen, 11, of Elgin, performs a solo during a rehearsal of “Destined Lives.”

R I C K W E S T / rwest@dailyherald.com

elementary and middle schools meet twice a month and are guided through mindopening exercises to prepare them for the creative process

of story telling. “We give them a jumpingoff point,” Cates said. “We See OPERA on PAGE 4

Elgin: Alexis Alvarado, Jesus Barraza, Adrian Barraza, Chania Evans, Danielle Ercoli, Judy Garcia, Itzel Hernandez, Kimberlee Hernandez, Latecia Irby, Markeyah Johnson, Enrique Lara, Melanie Lopez, Oscar Martinez, Monse Meichor, Cesar Mendez, Emma Miller, Teagan Moore, La’Naisha Clements, Luis Nava, Marielena Nunez, Matt Quezada, Bridgette Rathjen, Vanessa Robelo, Margarita Sanchez, Miriam Salas, Jessica Saribekian, AnnaBeth Schnell, Alex Sharp, Lydia Shively, Ana Christina SeFuentes, Briana Taylor, Alondra Vargas, Grant Whiteman, Emily Wolf Hanover Park: Emily Balbuena, Rosa Lopez, Jennifer Rebollar-Cortez, Lizette Zavala, Braulio Zavala South Elgin: Alexis Ruiz West Dundee: Sage AmourMcMahan