Houston Grand Opera (HGO) has received at $250,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation to support its Student Performance Series and Teacher Workshops for three years. These programs are administered by HGO’s education and community programs department, HGOco. “The Hearst Foundation support will allow HGO to provide more opportunities for students and teachers to enjoy, learn, imagine, participate in and create through opera,” says HGOco director Sandra Bernhard. “This support will allow us to touch so many more young minds in a positive way and strengthen educators ability to integrate arts into the classroom though real experience.”

HGOco is a far-reaching initiative that seeks to break down boundaries to the arts by creating opportunities for observation, participation, and creation for everyone in the greater Houston community. The Student Performance Series, which includes High School Night at the Opera and Student Matinee performances of main stage productions, and the Teacher Workshops, seeks to combat the decline in performing arts instruction within Houston-area schools by creating opportunities for students to experience world-class opera and by providing relevant first-hand resources to teachers in all subject areas.
HGO’s High School Night at the Opera and Student Matinee performances are unique programs of main stage operas that are consistently popular with students and teachers and generally sell out in the first hours of sales. The 2008-09 Season’s High School Night at the Opera will feature a performance of Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict with drastically reduced ticket prices available only to high school students and their teachers. Student Matinee performances are open to students and teachers at the junior high school level and occasionally at the elementary school level, depending on the repertoire. The Student Matinee performances for the next season will also feature Beatrice and Benedict. The audience served by the HGO Student Performance Series numbers nearly 8000 elementary, middle and high school-aged children annually.

Teacher training workshops have existed at HGO since 1992. The workshops consist of dinner, an informative curriculum-based presentation on the featured opera in performance and a ticket for the night’s orchestra dress rehearsal. Historical information about the opera, its librettist and composer, as well as the HGO production are presented at the workshop in lecture and audio visual formats. Teachers learn of new methods of teaching and curriculum incorporation of opera into their classroom activities, as well as share methods developed by their own in-class experiences. Teacher workshop attendance was nearly 550 during the 2007-08 season.

HGO has a long relationship the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. In 1989 the Foundation provided the first of seven grants towards the creation of the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship Fund. This Fund is managed by the Houston Grand Opera Endowment and supports the work of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Since its inception the Fund has distributed more than $320,000 in support of the Studio's annual activities. The 'William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship Fund is currently valued at more than $750,000. Additionally, in 1999 the Foundation awarded $250,000 in support of a five-company co-production of the world-premiere of Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree.