Parlando: The COC Blog

6/6/2013

The COC’s After School Opera Program – Looking Back Over 15 years…

Sherry Squires, ASOP Program Partner, St. Christopher House

Meet Sherry Squires, a proud supporter and program partner of the After School Opera Program (ASOP) and the second individual featured in the special blog series commemorating ASOP’s 15th anniversary celebration on June 13, 2013 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

Sherry hails from Newfoundland (similarly to ASOP Program Leader Dean Burry – more on him soon!). Her East Coast roots cultivated a deep passion for music and her love of the art has kept her singing and playing piano for more than 42 years! She began teaching piano at St. Christopher House in Toronto in 1987, where she took on the role of the music school co-ordinator in 1998. She's played an integral role in the community for over 25 years.

Sherry is a true champion for music education and community outreach. Her philosophy of music is simple: Sherry believes that music is a positive, healthy and fun activity that allows you to express yourself. Music can be shared or it can remain private – no matter what, it brings people a lot of pleasure. It’s no surprise that Sherry became a strong ambassador of ASOP when the COC partnered with St. Christopher House in 1997. It is thanks to Sherry and her unwavering support of ASOP that the program has had such a rich and vibrant history in the Dundas and Ossington community in Toronto.

After 15 years with ASOP, Sherry has thousands of memories to draw from, but a particular moment that is dear to her heart is ASOP’s 10th anniversary production of The Chronicles of Unum in the fall of 2008. For this performance, participants from all four ASOP locations including the East York Community Centre, Barbara Frum Recreation Centre, St. Christopher House and the Canadian Opera Company venue, came together to collaborate on a joint performance at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre. In this production Sherry played the role of the Mountain Oracle (which was written specifically for her by ASOP leader and composer, Dean Burry) and felt both honoured and proud to have been a part of ASOP’s historical event: “It was terrific and inspiring to see such a large cast of children so thoroughly focused and eager to perform.  Their performance and enthusiasm was truly moving.”

Sherry also fondly remembers the opera Silken Spirits where the children had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on Peking opera by The Little Pear Garden Collective. The Collective strives to promote the richness of Chinese performing arts through presentations and productions. During this workshop the children learned about traditional Chinese dance and dramatic expression, and incorporated these into their performance of Silken Spirits. Sherry recalls that the children “were absolutely mesmerized by [the dancer’s] ability to completely change character by simple, small movements or facial expressions.”

Luckily for Sherry, the current participants of ASOP at the Barbara Frum Recreation Centre location will reprise Silken Spirits at the special 15th anniversary performance of ASOP on June 13!

To Sherry, ASOP is an invaluable addition to the programming offered by St. Christopher House over the past fifteen years. The program has shown children that opera is an acceptable form of expression in the 21st century. In addition to putting on their own opera, the children are also invited to attend a dress rehearsal of one of the COC productions! “It’s terrific to see how attentively they watch and how animatedly and passionately they speak about it after,” says Sherry.

Sherry also loves the variety of topics covered over the ten weeks because it means that each child gets a chance to shine and explore new avenues of artistic expression. They learn to work cooperatively and build confidence throughout the process. This all culminates in a wonderful sense of achievement when the children are ready for their performance. She has also witnessed many children going on to other theatre, music, opera, and arts programs as a result of the positive experience they had in the ASOP. Sherry sees the program as a great investment for the children’s artistic future because “they gain an appreciation for the arts and particularly opera which will continue to give them meaning for the rest of their lives!”

Photo Credits: (top) Sherry Squires as Mountain Oracle in ASOP's 10th anniversary performance of The Chronicles of Unum in 2008; (middle) An ASOP participant wears a mask from the 2005 performance of Silken Spirits. Photos by the COC.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Education / comments (2) / permalink

Naly Lima (6/11/2013 4:09:00 PM)
Congratulations Sherry! You are the one who is making a difference in many lives with your passion for the music. You are great, all the best, Naly
Katherine Semcesen (6/13/2013 9:46:00 AM)
Hi Naly! Thanks for such a kind comment. I've passed it along to Sherry. And I second your thoughts! Sherry has touched so many lives through her work at St. Christopher House. The COC is so fortunate to work with Sherry and the rest of the St. Chris team.

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001