Four Opera performers pictured at Fred Lynn Middle School assembly

Beautiful, melodious, and poignant singing emanated from the school gymnasium of Fred M. Lynn Middle School. Professionally trained opera singers serenaded all students in grades 6-8 and staff members with aria and duet performances from several genres of music including Broadway, jazz, opera, and more.

The opera show kicked off with a stellar performance by Ryan Lustgarten, a tenor for the Virginia Opera Association. Right away, students became settled, enthralled by Lustgarten’s commanding presence on stage. His voice rang through, and his performance was met with warm applause from the students.

Next up was bass singer, Jeremy Harr, who wowed the students as his deep, rich tones reverberated through the school gymnasium. Finally, there was an audible gasp from the students as the lilting sounds of mezzo-soprano Alexis-Taylor DuPont owned the stage with her impressive vocal range singing both high and low notes with ease, filling the gymnasium walls without a microphone. Elisabeth Bjork accompanied them with music on a keyboard piano.

All three performers sung in multiple languages from Italian, to French, to English. The singers had emotive facial expressions and hand gestures, that accompanied the tempo of their song. They sang songs about love, jealousy, friendship, celebrations, and more using incredible vocal techniques and breath control.

After the performance, the singers opened the floor to the students for a short question and answer session. Students had a wide range of questions demonstrating their interest in their profession such as, “When was opera discovered? Does it hurt you to sing high/low notes? Do you need strong lungs? What made you start singing opera?”

Megan Hagan, an eighth grader, reflected on the opera experience, “It was very nice...and it was an honor to be able to watch a performance like this.  At most schools they don't have this privilege. Some students had told me about it, and it was much better than I thought it would be. I really liked the performance and would like to see another one. The lady [singer] was so good.”

The activity was coordinated by Audrey Berryman, assistant principal, who reached out to the Virginia Opera Association for age-appropriate opportunities. The performance was partially supported by funding from the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) and the National Endowment for the Arts. The VCA is a state agency that supports the arts through funding from the Virginia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

When asked why it was important for students to attend an opera show as a part of their learning, Berryman shared, “At Fred Lynn, we are committed to educating the whole child for a global education and are committed to providing our students with enriching real-world educational opportunities such as this activity.”

To support the commitment of promoting learning and achievement for all, the school chose to bring the opera to them. “Fred Lynn is a Title I school as defined by most of the student population being eligible for free and reduced lunch. Furthermore, 55% of our students are identified as English Learners. These students are often unable to become immersed in fine and performing arts outside of school.... The [PWCS Vision] 2025 Strategic Plan charges each school to provide multiple means of engagement to support alignment with the instructional core,” shared Berryman.

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