Ellington Academy, Opera Grand Rapids put on farewell opera

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Students from Ellington Academy and members of Opera Grand Rapids Emerging Artists teamed up to put on a farewell opera in light of the academy's closure.

The Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology (GREAAT) opened just five years ago and in late April, announced that they would be closing. In light of their impending closure, the academy teamed up with Opera Grand Rapids to concept, produce and perform their own opera production "Harmony in the Hood."

►Related: Parents react to Ellington Academy closure

The opera was part of the Creative Connections cultural education program, which concluded with the students' final opera performance. Opera Grand Rapids says Creative Connections is a one-week intensive project that focuses on collaborative composition, facilitates active music-making in diverse settings and allows students to find and explore their own creative voice. 

GREAAT's farewell opera was a fusion of song, spoken word, visual art, dance and instrumental music. About 50 sixth through eighth grade students from GREAAT participated. 

The founder of Creative Connections, Jill Collier Warne said the farewell opera was a massive team effort, but particularly meaningful. "It took place in my home town where I wish for a more diverse and inclusive sense of community," she said.

"It responded to social, political and cultural issues -- which I think is key for artists to be responding to artistic citizenship," Collier Warne said in an email to GREAAT staff. "It was a first time/grass roots creation in a new context and with new collaborators which is a particularly worthwhile challenge. This was new, relevant, meaningful and good work at a time when the community at Ellington was feeling the opposite."

GREAAT, founded by gospel musician Marvin Sapp, was a dream of his late wife MaLinda Sapp that he carried through to reality. It was authorized by Lake Superior State University, however, the university dropped their support due to GREAAT's declining enrollment and financial troubles. They will not reopen for next school year.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

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