I never meant to run anything

By    Jul 1, 2015

In the spring of 2011, I was working as a Teaching Artist for the San Francisco Opera, making operas from scratch with kids in classrooms around San Francisco. It was a spectacularly great job, and there was a lot that I loved about it. There was also a lot that it made me wish for: What if we had more time with the kids? What if there were less of them, and more adult artists? What if I could create my perfectly ideal teaching artist job for myself and my friends, and then teach it?

So I started Little Opera. And really, all I ever meant to do was create the teaching job for myself where I felt I could really take things to the next level, and deeply impact the lives (hopefully for the better) of a handful of kids.

On our first day, we had 4 kids. By a few weeks in, we had 9.

Fast-forward to this fall, and I found myself working with 26 students, and 6 other Teaching Artists for a glorious holy-shit kind of year. Glorious because it felt like we were starting to know what we were doing. Don’t we look like we know what we’re doing?

Holy shit because I suddenly found myself needing to run an organization, and learning all of the various everythings that are a part of that.

I realized that I wasn’t satisfied by just creating a great teaching job. What were we actually capable of doing? What did San Francisco’s youth need most right now, and how in the world could making operas together help us get there?

One morning a few months ago, I got an email from my mentor saying: “I’ve nominated you for this fellowship, and you should really apply. Go check it out.” Which I of course did immediately. And immediately wanted in.

I wanted in because I knew that, in the course of a year of building something, it is all too easy to lose sight of why you’re building what you’re building. I wanted in because there were some really big questions about the whole project that I wasn’t satisfied I was asking deeply enough yet. I wanted in because I knew that, without regular deadlines to dig into things, I’d never set aside the time to really dig into them. And I also wanted in because every time I meet more people working on projects that are making an impact in their communities, it makes me want to work harder to make an impact in mine.

So that’s why I’m here.