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International opera singers take the stage for under-served Seattle communities

KIRO Newsradio

An international opera singer took to the stage Thursday night with a chorus of Seattle area teenagers. Their goal? To make music more accessible to everyone.

KIRO Newsradio was there when members of Seattle Opera’s Youth Program practiced near McCaw Hall.

“Let’s just have my sopranos,” the conductor said as lilting young voices filled the room.

The sound blended with the full tenor voice of professional singer Michael Fabiano.


Thursday’s concert benefited both the Youth Opera Program and Fabiano’s charity Art Smart.

Art Smart pays local, professional musicians to provide free one-on-one music lessons to students in under-served communities.

The group already operates in several cities, including New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. It’s launching, now, in Seattle.

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“Everyone deserves a great music program,” said Youth Opera alum Emily Morse, who sang at the concert. Ninth grader Trinav Banerjee added, “Anybody who loves singing should have the chance.”

Fabiano says he founded Art Smart because while science, math, and other subjects – often referred to as “STEM” – are vital for students; he insists music is, too.

He points to studies that show when kids get involved in music programs, their school performance improves overall.


“They learn how to prioritize, they learn how to strategize, and they learn how to focus in different ways than they’re taught in the classroom,” he said.

For instance, a student who learns how to sing a complex piece of music is also learning how to tackle complicated problems.

Banerjee knows all about complicated problems. “I’m very math, science, and computer-oriented in school.” He says music actually gives him a break from what he calls crunching numbers.

“I think singing is a good way to give myself a refresher and have fun,” he said.

For Kimia Ardalan, singing is a confidence booster.

“Knowing that you’re able to send all that resonance across the room just makes you so powerful- just the opposite of insecure.”

Other students spoke about the universality of music and how it builds and connects communities.

Jay Houseworth-Barba put the importance of music education this way, “STEM offers the chance to figure out the world- to understand the world. But in the arts, you figure out who is discovering the world. You figure out you,” he said.

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