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Student Chorus, L.A. Opera Bring Art to Students

May 20, 1999

GRANADA HILLS — Getting youngsters to sit through an opera is about as easy as dragging their parents to a Backstreet Boys concert. Except, of course, when those singing in the extravaganza are the children's best friends.

That was the case Wednesday at Patrick Henry Middle School in Granada Hills, where about 250 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders sat transfixed as the school chorus performed alongside Los Angeles Opera singers in the teenage-themed opera "Nerdlandia."

The 45-minute opera, about a nerdy science student who falls in love with a streetwise girl, was the culmination of a nine-week program that brought Los Angeles Opera professionals to Patrick Henry for a series of workshops.

The company's musical director, Daniel Bridston, and stage director Cynthia Stokes taught the 42 students the score, as well as staging and costume creation.

"It's a wonderful educational tool for kids," said Dianne Cowdrey, the school's music department chairwoman. The innovative opera program visited 13 public secondary schools this year, reaching about 12,000 students.

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