"As the largest opera company in Atlanta metro area, I felt like it was something that we need to be addressing," she said. The program is open to students in grades 10 to 12. There is an open application process, followed by screenings, auditions and final selection. Eleven students participated this year.
Activities include workshops with chorus master Walter Huff, vocal training, diction master classes, dramatic coaching and college selection and auditions. Participants also get to see working rehearsals for the Atlanta Opera mainstage productions and dress rehearsals at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Iden said students laud the benefits of the program, especially the access they have through this professional resource. She said, "They really enjoy working rehearsals because that's not something that they're necessarily getting through private voice study with their teachers."
She said the college preparation is also important, as students began auditions in January and February. "That's really a crucial time when they're trying to figure out, 'What I am going to sing for the audition? How do I prepare for the audition?'" she said. "This gives them extra confidence in the process."
Three recent Pebblebrook graduates and program participants - Justin Van Scyoc, Becca White and Kate Kasmier - will put their skills on display in a concert Sunday at Morningside Presbyterian Church, located at 1411 N. Morningside Drive NE in Atlanta, on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Iden said the concert includes well-known tunes for opera novices. "It's really a great variation in music," she said. "I think it will be exciting. The kids are really excited about it."
Performances will be in English, Italian and French and will range from arias, duets and ensembles. Selections include Mozart, Verdi and Menotti pieces.
Van Scyoc, 19, said he is most excited to sing selected pieces such as "The Promise of Living." He said, "People can look forward to young people with a great deal of talent singing these opera pieces - I think they will really be surprised."
White, 18, said she is also excited to sing with the guest artists in the chorus numbers. "Their voices always amaze me," she said. In addition to Huff, HSOI participants will perform with professional singers Elizabeth Claxton, soprano, and Nathan Munsun, tenor.
White said concertgoers can expect talented high school students with a lot of potential. "They should look forward to seeing different sides of each performer in a variety of solos, scenes and chorus numbers," she said.
"There is something for everyone to enjoy, with a contrasting program of dramatic and comedic arias in many languages," Kasmier said. "I look forward to all of our hard work to be showcased at this concert."
All three students will be attending college in the fall. Van Scyoc will be attending Schowb School of Music at Columbus State University with an emphasis in classical voice performance. He plans to obtain a master's degree and work as a featured performer with an opera company. White plans to attend Boston University in the fall to study vocal performance, followed by graduate school. Kasmier will be attending Mercer University in Macon to study vocal performance. She said her ultimate goal is to sing professionally.
All three said participation in the HSOI has helped them to pursue their goals.
"This experience has been very helpful in preparing for college and understanding more about the opera experience," Van Scyoc said. "I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and to get to know so many professionals associated with The Atlanta Opera."
"I couldn't be more thankful for this program," White said. "It has taught me wonderful things about working with people and being prepared."
Kasmier said her experience with the program has been invaluable. "It is rare to be offered such opportunities by a professional opera company in high school," she said.
She continued by saying that out of all she has learned through the program, professionalism is No. 1. "There is an expectation of hard work and excellence that is expected from each of us," she said. "This gives us a taste of how the professional opera world will be."
The HSOI participants also include Carolyn Balkovetz of Starr's Mill High School, Felicia Wilkins of The Lovett School, Sammy Itskov of Parkview High School, Anne Stillwagon of Walton High School, Ella Radcliff and August Blair of The Paideia School, Emory Mulick of North Springs High School and Kaitlyn Johnson of The Westminster School.
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 881-8883.