Those of you who know me even a little bit know that I enjoy using social media and it has been an integral part of building Living Opera! A while back I wrote about using social media as a form of service, rather than a vehicle for getting likes and shares and followers. Not that likes and shares and followers are a bad thing - they are vital to growing any important movement or message - but falling into the trap of pleasing the algorithm can sometimes cause us to miss opportunities to build bridges in our community as we routinely try to appease the machines of Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube.
Back in September, well before Covid-19 pandemic, I decided to try out a new platform I'd been hearing about here and there. It was called TikTok, and it was going to "change the game" of social media. It seemed like such a departure from the curated world of Instagram and I was instantly interested. I could be as silly and as over the top as I wanted without worry because nobody in opera was using it yet. Unfortunately, I had a video go viral in the first week of using the platform with over 120k views, which immediately made me switch gears into "social media" mode, instead of fun or service, which is always my intention when online. Once I realized what was happening with my intent, I was able to snap out of it, and I'm sure glad I did, because I started making relevant content for the young opera singers that were beginning to use the platform. They only got a couple hundred views instead of thousands, but I felt confident that I was staying true to myself and my message and therefore my effort would eventually bear fruit. (And of course I kept making silly vids too because I literally can't help it.)
Today, I am really glad I stuck to my convictions rather than trying to make clickable content, because it gave me the opportunity to connect with new Living Opera community member Chris Fotis, who reached out to me after seeing one of my more "informational" videos. It is my great pleasure to tell you guys about a project he is involved with called "Building voices of the future" - I hope this will impact and change the lives of teens around the world. Let's dive into it!
Whenever I see someone take initiative and change the status quo, I immediately want to be a cheerleader! I think we all need a good cheerleader and great teammates. (I am always grateful for my cheerleaders and teammates - I couldn't run the extra mile without them!) Chris has great teammates, including the founder of BVOF, Andrea Ochoa, who is a gifted soprano, teacher and entrepreneur. Their dedicated team is rounded out by Nyla Watson, Tyler Dobies, Stephanie Scuderi, and collaborative pianist Kristyn Van Cleave.
So what exactly is "Building Voices of the Future"? It's an innovative and exciting online intensive for high school students committed to fostering technical and artistic vocal growth in young students with services specializing in classical music, musical theater, acting, and even Disney! They dedicate their time, energy, and lives to further the art they love by building strong, savvy, wise, and unique young singers. They educate singers in all of the capabilities of their instrument and encourage them to experiment with different genres. Their hope is to inspire their students to be independent thinkers and advocates for the future of our art form. Their mission is to bring the analytical and the artistic facets of every individual student together to produce impactful, honest, and thoughtful art.
Starting July 13–31, Mondays–Fridays, during 10am–5pm (CT), students will engage in over 25 hours of intensive and detailed instruction as well as masterclasses and concerts by graduates of the world's leading institutions including NYU Steinhardt Master of Music program. In addition to weekly voice lessons and 1-on-1 acting coaching, students will take classes on different musical genres, including: Disney, Contemporary, Classical, and Music Theatre. Students will also receive classes on auditioning, resume building, college audition preparation, and the music industry by BVOF faculty and industry professionals.
So if you know someone aged 14-18, (incoming freshmen to high school or college), that would benefit from their tenacity and expertise, I urge you to have them visit the BVOF website ASAP and to apply for their program! BVOF has extended their application deadline until July 1st, so there's still time! BVOF will also offer an apprenticeship to one young pianist interested in diving into the art of collaborative piano. They will work 1-on-1 with their resident collaborative pianist, Kristyn Van Cleave, and assist her with their collaborative piano needs. They will also have access to all lectures and master classes.
Anyone who mentions Living Opera in their application will get 10% off the enrollment price. It pays to know the right people, haha!! Honestly, it is such a pleasure to make everyone aware of this project. During the coming weeks and months we will be featuring more of our community members and their stories. If you have an amazing project like BVOF or a story to tell, let us know using the intake form on our contact page.
In the meantime, let's spread the word about Chris, Andrea, and BVOF so they have a full school of kids to mold, shape, empower, and send into the future of music. And let's continue to use social media for GOOD and let the world know we are a group of creative, supportive, and fruitful artists that build up our community members! And please join the party on Tiktok so we can keep building our communities on all platforms!
*Living Opera has received no compensation for this post! We just believe in these folks!
Soula Parassidis, featuring Christos Makridis in Forbes