Kathleen Buckner-The Magic Of Opera


By Kathleen Buckner

Director of Educational Outreach
Ars Nova School of the Arts

In the summer before I started high school, I was in my first opera. Ars Nova was holding auditions for the chorus, and I was already interested in taking voice lessons there, so I auditioned and (with a stroke of luck) became a part of the chorus for The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore. The music was hard, but the people were wonderful, and I remember the moment I fell in love with opera. If you don’t know the show or the music, I encourage you to find a recording of “The Silver Aria” by Beverly Sills, because it is stunning.



There is a point in the opera where there is chaos, and the whole chorus is on stage and the music is rhythmic and intense. Then, to solve the cause of the ruckus, Baby Doe sings “The Silver Aria”, and I was moved to tears every night. It was then that decided I wanted to move people’s hearts too. I began lessons that fall, and what I experienced at Ars Nova was truly special. The community was kind and encouraging, and inclusive.

Ars Nova also set me up for success in college. I studied vocal performance at The University of Southern Mississippi, and if I had not been a part of some of the other programs Ars Nova offered, I would not have been as successful at school. Ars Nova offered theory classes and sight singing and ear training classes every week, which were free to take if you were in lessons. They also offered various classes over the summer, like an IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) class, and various acting and singing camps. These programs helped me become a better musician, and a better actor, as well as a better singer. You study all the above in college and having a foundation in them gave me a head start.

I have been teaching with Ars Nova for almost 4 years now, and I am now the Director of Educational Outreach. The pandemic has changed the way we interact with the world, and I have had time to think about how to engage with the community to begin conversations about opera and classical music in a way that is accessible to everyone. If you attended our show in January, I taught the audience how to sing in Russian, and we all had a good time, but I wish more people could have been there to learn and experience live music. Opera makes more sense when it’s experienced instead of heard. I am excited about a program we are developing at Ars Nova that can be brought into schools, or taught in pre-show lectures, or posted on the web, that introduces people to opera in a way that doesn’t involve sitting through an entire opera.

However, it is my belief that everyone deserves to experience the joy, beauty, and absolute drama of an opera, and Ars Nova is committed to nurturing that love in our community and nurturing a love of music in our students.

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