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Over 19,000 Central Valley Children Take Part in the UC Merced Children’s Opera

May 19, 2021

In its 11th year, a year marked by COVID19, the UC Merced Children’s Opera “Save the Dragons” met the challenge of performing with a show-must-go-on attitude.

Embracing a virtual format for the first time allowed children from across the Central Valley and beyond to experience the joy and excitement of an age-appropriate opera in the familiar environment of their classrooms or homes.

“Art expands a child's ability to interact with the world,” said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “As a strong supporter of the arts, I am pleased we could offer this opportunity, in partnership with Merced County Office of Education, to children across the Central Valley as their first introduction to their University of California — UC Merced.”

A recent study found that only 26% of students in California have access to arts as required by the California education code. Many smaller, rural schools that do not have the funding or resources for art enrichment activities could participate in the Children’s Opera as the program is free. The reception has been incredible, with over 500 classrooms and districts in 48 California cities currently participating.

“Every year, TK-third grade students arrive on campus to watch the performance,” said UC Merced Opera Director Jenni Samuelson. “This year, we knew we had to be innovative, and through the efforts of an incredible team of professional actors, UC Merced students and community members, we were able to bring the UC Merced campus to the children of the Central Valley.”

Filmed at UC Merced, “Save the Dragons” demonstrates how to be a good leader while revealing the interconnectedness of the world we live in. The opera was written by Nancy Brokaw Steele and contains children’s songs set by classical and famous composers such as Mozart and Gilbert and Sullivan. Additionally, each class receives a robust, interactive curriculum that was developed especially for the performance.

Educators and families are welcome to register for their own “Save The Dragons” experience by visiting the UC Merced Arts website.