SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Opera and students might not seem like they go together, but that’s just the case for the Syracuse City School District and the Syracuse Opera. The performance, based on the history and life of runaway slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, aimed to introduce opera to a younger audience with a goal to help them learn history, equity, and inclusion. The Syracuse Opera visited five high schools in the area with fine arts students at Corcoran High School.
Opera is a unique art form to present history; however, Anthony Knight, writer and creator of “No Cowards in Our Band”, understands the different ways of learning.
“It’s really clear to me that a lot of us learn in very different ways”, Knight said. “So perhaps this performance is one way that will reach students for whom it’s an ideal way for them to learn”.
High school students in attendance seemed to still appreciate the performance and history lesson, despite the unfamiliar format. Corcoran Senior Ella Roerden was surprised by the performance.
“I was not expecting the narration from the Fredrick Douglass character that’s just spoken. I kind of thought that the whole thing was gonna be your stereotypical ‘ahhhh’ like the entire time,” Roerden said.
The Syracuse Opera hopes the performance will open younger audiences up to the art of opera and allow them to learn about history, equality, and inclusion. Masud Olufani, Syracuse Opera performer, plays Frederick Douglass in the opera. He said there’s something unique about the performance of history that doesn’t happen with a traditional textbook.
“Art has the capacity to bring history to life,” Olufani said. “It has the ability to contextualize human experience and make it dynamic and hopefully makes it entertaining.”