Benjamin was part of the founding team for New Voices Opera in Bloomington Indiana, and now serves as Executive Director. He is a winner of Clapp IDEA Compeition at the Kelley School of Business, the Project Jumpstart Innovation Competition Finalist, and an Entrepreneur of the Month for Project Jumpstart, all in recognition for his work with New Voices Opera.
"NVO's mission: NVO is a vehicle for new opera through the collaboration of emerging student composers, performers, and administrators in an experiential learning environment. Our vision is to foster the creation of operas by the next generation of operatic composers, to promote a genre of opera that is relevant to a modern audience, to strengthen the cultural vitality of our region with new works within a new operatic genre, and to provide student musicians and artists with increased performance opportunities, professional opportunities, and creative outlets. In fulfillment of this mission, all musical performances presented by NVO are premieres of compositions by emerging composers in the genre. This is what we live and breath, what drives us forward, what fuels our fire; training and cultivating the future of opera.
With very few opera companies dedicated to the production of new American opera and even fewer dedicated to providing young artists with artistic outlets, NVO works to train emerging artists in their various capacities including composers, singers, directors, instrumentalists, and administrators interested in the field of opera. The skills they gain by participating in NVO offer immediate experience in contemporary opera that cannot be gained in any other platform. NVO is guided by a national advisory board with members of high musical caliber such as Jake Heggie, Charles Jarden, and Ned Canty."
Training is the key...
"Acting as a training program, NVO annually facilitates two larger projects in fulfillment of our mission to produce new opera, along with an additional community outreach concert or program each season. Past community outreach programs have included: Kids Compose, Impressions of Brown County, a Music Theatre Revue, and Five for 5 lecutre series. Kids Compose, through a collaboration with the Jacobs School of Music, was a project in which members of NVO traveled to local elementary schools to encourage and educate students within the art of composition. Students were then given the opportunity to compose their own simple melodies which were then selected, fully orchestrated and performed at Indiana University. Through the Impressions of Brown County project, an outreach performance to neighboring Brown County, composers were challenged to create compositional reactions to historic Frank Hohenberger photographs of the area from the turn of the century. These compositions were performed in a multimedia performance involving the photographs themselves, local visual artistic reactions, and a storyteller weaving the evening together. The Five for 5 lecture series is a celebration of the NVO's 5th year in Bloomington. This sereis encourages enlightened conversation around or core mission principles and the state of new opera today. Speakers speak on topics from marketing in the arts to a contemporary music masterclass.
The first of the main-stage initiatives is an exhibition of submitted compositional excerpts from prospective composers which are then presented concert-style in front of a public audience. This annual exhibition is proof of our dedication to composers. For this event, every individual who submits a compositional work is guaranteed a spot on our stage. Subsequently, two operas are selected from this exhibition to be workshopped with other emerging artists (instrumentalists, directors, vocalists, etc.), and eventually rehearsed, fully costumed, lit, directed, and realized on stage the following season. This second project is what we have deemed our Spring 'Double Bill', and is certainly the larger undertaking of our two annual projects."
Striving for Relevancy
"NVO looks to instill a passion for the creation and collaboration of new works in the operatic genre. We have built a strong community presence maintaining a reputation for presenting live opera productions that are both alternative and relevant. Past productions premiered at both our Double Bill and Exhibitions have explored themes from classical myths to super-hero sagas, from oil barons to romanticized scientists, from colonial circumstance to involuntary memory. Each year, NVO works to create avenues of expression for all involved in the artistic process, including our community. Performances are held throughout the calendar year within the various artistic venues our community has to offer and are presented free-of-charge as a service and fulfillment of our mission."
The Big Picture
"Opera as a genre is experiencing an identity crisis. Education, training, and opportunity for producing new American opera is almost non-existent in today’s universities, colleges, and conservatories. There is a thirst from audiences across the country for new works and imaginative stories that resonate with their lives and the communities they call home. Without providing the means and opportunity for training and performance of contemporary opera, how do we expect the new Mozart, Puccini, or Verdi to surface? The overall output of new opera is down exponentially from the generations of these great pillars of opera composition and without a vehicle to help encourage the creation of this noble art form, the decline will continue. By encouraging emerging composers to consider composing opera, and by providing them the financial resources and artistic expertise to produce their works through our Spring Double Bill Project, New Voices Opera can work to guarantee that a few of these composers will find a foothold on the world’s stage, shaping the future of opera for generations to come. NVO endeavors to provide an atmosphere of creation and open-mindedness for which students from all backgrounds are provided the opportunity to explore and ultimately impact the modern world of opera in the 21st century."
- Learn more about New Voices Opera by visiting their website here.
- Contact Ben regarding New Voices Opera here.