Portland Opera To Go Educational Outreach

by Portland Opera

"I learned that putting people in fire places are bad." - Kether, after watching the 2012 POGO Tour of Hansel and Gretel.

Summer has arrived. While the kids are out enjoying the summer months and the sun, we are wrapping up the 2012 tour and booking the 2013 tour!

The tour in 2012 saw over 15,000 bright smiling faces. Many of those had never seen an opera. Portland Opera To Go did more than 50 performances, many of them in rural towns that don't really have access to the arts due to their distance from a major metropolitan area. 95% of our teachers used the study guide to help teach Oregon Educational Standards to their students. 

In 2013, Mozart's The Magic Flute will be leaving on tour in late January. Alexis Hamilton, our Education and Outreach Coordinator, is booking schools and performances to make sure that our 2013 tour is better than ever. We have returned to our pre-recession tour length in a fiscally responsible way. We are continuing to search for funding to maintain the overall reach of the tour. 

With only 4 more months to go before that yellow truck leaves the Opera, we are finding singers and musicians that more accurately represent the more ethnically diverse audience we are reaching. This year, we add a Spanish version of our study materials. Portland Opera To Go continues to grow and learn, just like our audience.

See you at the show! 

“Seriously, it was fabulous. The program was designed for children, so they had their own seating area right up front, while we sat towards the back. The woman who led the program was entertaining and taught the children appropriate opera behavior….The performance was great…and my two busy, noisy boys were captivated. The entire time.”

--Parent who attended a McMenamins performance

Troutdale, OR


Portland Opera To Go works to reach out to under-served schools and communities. One goal of our program is to bring arts and culture to areas of Oregon with little access to that type of activity. Twenty-five percent of schools visited were in very rural Oregon cities and towns. We went outside the Portland Metro area to towns like The Dalles, Waldport, Tillamook, Nehalem, Halfway, and Ontario to name a few. Seventy-two percent of schools visited were Title I schools and fifty-three percent of children receiving services were in free or reduced lunch programs--an indicator of poverty. This exceeded our Title I goal which helps us to see we reached children in the greatest need fo arts and culture experience.

Overall, Portland Opera is committed to diversity. The demographic breakdown of all students visited in 2012 was: 63% Caucasian; 8% Asian/Pacific Islander; 16% Hispanic; 2% Native American; and 7% Black, not Hispanic. 

Portland Opera To Go completed its 2012 winter tour in March 2012. In all, more than 14,000+ children in 55 performances including 41 elementary schools, all 8 McMenamin's locations, and other performance locations across Oregon enjoyed an English-language production of Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" and in-class residencies. In so doing, we increased the number of students we reached by 3700 over 2011. Study guides, designed for teachers with little formal arts training, provide approved lesson plans bench-marked to Oregon Department of Education learning guidelines. 90% of participating teacher used at least one lesson plan in their classroom and indicated that curricular materials were appropriate for their students.

Here are  samples of what parents and teachers had to say about this year's outreach:

“Every single person involved was spectacular! It’s an experience my kids and I, and I’m sure many others at the school, will never forget. A number of parents, as well as other people from this school district, sent emails to me expressing gratitude for bringing this kind of cultural experience to our children. They all realize the value of this kind of outreach and impact it has on kids.”

-- Third grade teacher, Pleasant Valley Primary

Vancouver, WA


“I have never seen an opera before. So to me this was a new thing. I always thought opera was boring. But you showed me that opera can be pretty fun. Oh by the way you guys are talented!”

 -- Elementary student

Bend, OR

Photo used courtesy of The Columbian/Troy Wayryn
Photo used courtesy of The Columbian/Troy Wayryn

As of February 16, 2012, Portland Opera To Go (POGO) has toured all over the stage of Oregon and SW Washington.  POGO has performed 10 public performances, many of them free of charge with our partner, McMenamins Pubs around the area, and 25 locations around the state of Oregon and SW Washington. Our little yellow truck and POGO van have been really putting on the miles.


Bringing our 50-minute English Language version of Hansel & Gretel by Englebert Humperdinck, our troupe has been making children of all ages smile since January 11, 2012. While the show was performing here at The Hampton Opera Center, a little girl was so taken in she went down to the stage while Hansel and Gretel were waking up to warn them that the sound they had heard was not, in fact, the wind, but a witch!


POGO has not just been visiting schools in the Portland/Vancouver area.  We have visited some of the more remote areas of our state like Elgin, Ontario, and Halfway, Oregon. It is with the funding provided by people like you, we are able to bring the fine arts to areas that don’t have other access locally.


Portland Opera to Go (POGO) brings the power and joy of opera, along with in-school artist residencies, to young people across Oregon during a 10-13 week winter tour.   As an extension of our mission to “celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera,” POGO brings a classic 50-minute English language opera adaptation suitable for grades 1 through 8.  

The 2012 season will feature a production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic romantic-era opera, Hansel and Gretel, along with in-school residencies featuring four professional singers, a piano accompanist, and tour manager.  Anticipated tour dates will be January 9 through April 6, 2012.  Anticipated costs of this program are $185,144. Your gift will help us increase access from 10 weeks to up to a 13-week tour during the 2012 season.  

In addition to the opera, POGO also offers Opera Improv, an interactive program that introduces the elements of opera in a “create your own adventure” format.  This interactive program is utilized by classes that do not attend the performance and other community groups.  The improvisational nature of this program allows it to be adapted for all ages, including adults.

Portland Opera to Go is also more than just an in-school performance or classroom workshop.  Multidisciplinary study guides for year-round coursework accompany each production, providing teachers with little or no formal arts training with tools to help them include the arts in their daily classroom curriculum.  Crafted based on Portland Public School guidelines, these include science, language arts and math lesson plans for teachers and worksheets for students.  These materials are provided to schools at no cost, and were used by 90% of teachers last year.  The current 2011 POGO study guild has been included with this grant application.

Portland Opera to Go also reaches beyond schools.  So many communities in Oregon have little access to affordable family-friendly fine arts programming.  To serve this population, POGO touring artists perform community benefit concerts, reaching thousands of people of all ages.  This past season, under a new partnership with McMenamins, POGO performed free family concerts in eight McMenamins' venues across Oregon and SW Washington, expanding our outreach to an additional 2,500 people.  Attendance and audience feedback to these concerts have been so positive, that we are looking to continue and expand this partnership for the 2012 season.  Other POGO outreach includes a week-long residency in La Grande in collaboration with Eastern Oregon University.  In 2011, this partnership culminated a public concert, featuring a staging of the second act of Puccini’s La Bohème with the local community chorus.


Portland Opera To Go is one of the few arts education programs in the state that travels to every corner of Oregon, and serves children directly in their schools.  When considering a statewide tour, the Opera’s Manager of Education & Outreach, Alexis Hamiton, works diligently to bring POGO to inner city and rural schools that will receive the most benefit from this program.  In her office is a map of Oregon with colored push-pins of all the communities we have visited in the past ten years, and there is hardly an area of the state that has been neglected.

When we say POGO visits every corner of Oregon, we mean every corner of Oregon – not just larger communities or easily accessible areas.  Over the past three years, POGO has visited communities ranging from La Grande in the far northeast of the state, to tiny Ontario in the southeast corner near Idaho (a different time zone!) POGO visits large schools with hundreds of students participating, to small rural schools like Pine Ridge Elementary in Deschutes County and Culver Elementary in Jefferson County.  In a typical year, 60% of the schools we visit are outside the Portland-metropolitan area.

Wherever POGO visits, we strive to make certain that we reach those children who have little or no access to arts education.  In an average season, more than 50% of the schools that will participate in the program will be Title I schools, and more than 65% of the students we visit will be eligible for free or reduced lunch.  The typical racial demographic for outreach outside of the Portland metropolitan area is 3% African American, 7% Asian, 71% Caucasian, 15% Hispanic, and 4% Native American.  The Racial demographic of students we visit in Portland Public Schools is much more diverse with 12.5% African American, 10% Asian, 53% Caucasian, 23% Hispanic and 1.5% Native American.

One of our main goals is to make POGO affordable for schools that are least likely to be able to afford arts programming. Our standard charge is a modest $1.25 per child. In addition to meeting roughly 5% of the actual costs of bring POGO to the schools, our education staff has found that a minor financial investment on the part of schools is a powerful incentive to encourage educators to use the Opera’s curricular materials in the classroom and prepare for our visit.  However, for some schools, even this small fee is difficult to pay.  For our current 2011 tour, 10% of the schools we visit will received our services at no charge.  The anticipated cost of bringing this program across Oregon in 2012 is $9.27 per student.

The goal is to provide enriching fine arts access to 17,000-20,000 students each year in up to 60 inner city and rural schools and communities throughout the state.  Your support will help us to our goal of a 13-week tour during the 2012 season.   

In addition, the program’s administrator coordinates community benefit concerts for local arts or educational nonprofits in some of the communities we visit.  We anticipate reaching more than 5,000 additional community members through these concerts next season. The POGO program also provides excellent training and performance opportunities for four to six early-career singers each season. 


Kid's in Cannon Beach during the 2011 POGO Tour

It's summer, and now is the time we are putting together all the pieces for our 2012 Portland Opera To Go tour.  We will be touring a 50-minute English language version of the romantic-era opera Hansel and Gretel.  Our goal is to tour ten-weeks and reach 17,000 children across the state of Oregon.

The Project has already received more than $100,000 in support including major gifts from KeyBank, U.S. Bancorp Foundation, The Oregon Arts Commission and the PGE Foundation among others.  

On September 24, 2011, Portland Opera will be presenting our first ever Big Night Gala in support of our education and outreach programs.  Our goal is to raise an additional $80,000 to help expand our efforts to reach children and rural communities. Please visit www.portlandopera.org/operas/2011-2012/gala-concert-big-night to learn more about this exciting concert and how you can order tickets.  Or simply make a gift now through GlobalGiving with your direct support.

A scene for the 2011 tour of "Elixir of Love"
A scene for the 2011 tour of "Elixir of Love"



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Organization Information

Portland Opera

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.portlandopera.org
Portland Opera
Project Leader:
Jim Cox
Portland, OR United States

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