Highlight From A Community Partner: “What??? Opera? What the heck is Opera? Won’t that be too hard? We can’t do that? Do we have to learn Italian?”

Nov 21, 2019

Tiffiny Clifton
Gotta Be Me, Founder & Executive Director

“What??? Opera? What the heck is Opera? Won’t that be too hard? We can’t do that? Do we have to learn Italian?”

Yes, this is what we heard back from the Gotta Be Me Heartlight choir crew when we excitedly told them we were lucky enough to be working with the Opera Omaha Holland Community Opera Fellows.

And then we laughed and joked and talked all about how Opera is for everyone – we just didn’t know it yet – we couldn’t see it yet or feel it……….not just yet.

We talked and learned about how Opera is so much more than singing in Italian and needing to be wealthy to go see it and wearing corsets and putting on tons of stage makeup. Opera is just like everything we do at Gotta Be Me – you experience it, feel it, be there in all the moments to get it – to let it touch you and become part of who you are. And then to make it your own.

Gotta Be Me walks along life with individuals with disabilities and their families by providing social and recreational opportunities and programs to learn, grow and become ourselves, to be our best selves. We believe we don’t need easy, just possible. We know that making space for everyone – in all our individual uniqueness and then taking that space to make ourselves better and more inclusive in our community is a mission we want to continually conquer. This experience is one we want to have with other organizations and people who want the same – becoming who they want to be while moving outside our own comfort zones to where the magic happens. Opera Omaha and the Opera Omaha Holland Community Opera Fellowship is our partner on these journeys because both of our visions see what is possible and why they are important for us and our local community and the world at large.

So, what have we done together you ask? During our time working with the Fellows we have written, created, casted, and performed our very own rock opera – complete with original music. During this process our all-abilities and disabilities crew learned how to sing from real professional opera singers, we learned what the heck it meant to block on stage, how to create sets, costumes, choreography, lighting set ups, working up audio that the audience can really hear and so many more every day, vocational theater based tasks that we now have GBM crew members who are working toward how to work in the industry. We put on Gotta Be Me Bandstand show on the Midtown Turner Park Stage which allowed us to incorporate more choreography, learning to sing in harmony and in call and response groups, highlighting soloists, and for the first time having live piano as our lead music. Through all this we fell in love – with opera, with the Opera Omaha staff and the endless dreams of what we could do next.

Throughout our time together the technical skills we have learned were evident and important. However, the most meaningful things to come from our partnership has been the changes in our crew as people, humans who are becoming who they want to be.

A parent spoke of her son, now almost a senior citizen, who has not been speaking or interacting socially for most of his adult life saying - He did sing before the age of 13, not since. He always did love music. I have deep gratitude for you. God Bless you and your good work and those who are there to bring out the joy in these angels among us. I believe you have re-awakened his love of music. What an amazing outcome- after decades of not being who he could and wanted to fully be this man is back – swaying to the music, mouthing the words to songs, doing choreography, learning his part in upcoming performances and smiling and holding hands with his new friends. He is more because of this partnership. He is his best self in rehearsal and on stage and in his everyday life because of this opportunity to shine. He is fully accepted just as he is, very day in every way.

Another participant crew member went running to her friends and family in the audience after our performance at Opera Outdoors and exclaimed “I DID IT!!! DID YOU SEE!!! I WAS NOT AFRAID!!! AREN’T YOU PROUD OF ME – I AM PROUD OF ME!!!” What a gift of self-confidence and self-worth along with a smile that inspired an entire crowd to cheer. The chance to walk on stage with people who know who you are, see who you are can be and who foster your desires to grow – there is simply not a better space.

A volunteer that had only committed to three months of volunteering because of a school requirement wrote an email and said “I am staying with you. I can’t leave. I feel like something is new in me. I am happy.”

The gift of being yourself is nothing short of a priceless gift. The gift of being yourself and then becoming more because of those around you is infinite. All of the Gotta Be Me Heartlighers and crew are given those gifts from and because of the Opera Omaha Holland Community Fellowship.
Thank you – we can’t wait to see what is next!

Endless love and admiration from the entire Gotta Be Me Crew.

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