Binghamton student awarded grant to kickstart Southern Tier Opera Project

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From Binghamton University:

BINGHAMTON, NY – Thanks to a first-ever SUNY grant, Binghamton University is partnering with local organizations to develop the Southern Tier Opera Project (STOP). The initiative’s first project is a competition that will allow local middle school students to have their short stories interpreted into musical compositions.

Canaan Harris, a Binghamton University master’s student in music composition from Whitney Point, won the first-ever statewide SUNY Performing Arts, Creation and Curation (PACC) competition, which drew 57 teams from across the system’s campuses, including three student-composer teams from Binghamton that made the finals. The honor brought with it a $10,000 grant that will allow Harris to develop the STOP, a community-based initiative with Tri-Cities Opera, the Binghamton Area Reading Council and local PBS affiliate WSKG. The program also has the support of Binghamton’s music program, the Harpur Dean’s Office and the Material and Visual Worlds Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence.

The initiative’s first project is called “ST-Opera Stories,” and will connect composers, performers, middle school students, educators and nonprofits to create “pocket operas.”

Here’s how it will work: Local middle school students will compete in a short story contest for prizes and the opportunity to have their story made into a 10- to 15-minute composition. In particular, the contest will focus on stories about the Southern Tier, whether family tales or bits of the region’s history.

“We are putting together packets of local history information, but I hope that people will tell their own stories, stories that we haven’t heard before,” Harris said.

Four winners will be selected by June. This summer, Binghamton University composition students will write the pocket operas, which will be performed by singers with the University’s voice program and possibly Tri-Cities Opera in the fall.

Depending on the pandemic situation in 2021, the mini-operas may be performed live on stage or online; Harris expects to make this decision by June. Plans are also in the works to make the performances more widely accessible by airing them on television or radio. The final recording is expected to be edited and released in late October or early November 2021.For more information, visit the STOP Facebook page and/or email southerntieroperaproject@gmail.com.

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