Youth Opera Program


Since 1984, Sarasota Youth Opera has given thousands of young people ages 8 to 18 an opportunity to experience opera firsthand through participation in after-school choruses, Sarasota Opera main stage productions, summer camps, and fully-staged Youth Opera productions.

As the only program in the United States committed to presenting annual full-scale opera productions for young voices, accepting all who wish to participate regardless of skill level or ability to pay, Sarasota Youth Opera is a national model for opera education.

Youth Opera Choruses

Beginning in third grade, singers are placed in an appropriate chorus. Each ensemble provides a setting for everyone to participate and progress at their own level as they gain greater skills and experience.

Selections performed are made up of classical music, which includes opera and choral pieces in different languages. Choruses perform throughout the community in formal concerts and outreach events during the winter/spring semester and in a full-scale Youth Opera production during the fall semester.

Youth Opera Productions

Part of Sarasota Opera’s commitment to young people includes commissioning new operas written for children and young adults. Six new works have been presented as part of this mission: Deadline (1989), Polly Pen’s Her Lightness (1993), Tom Suta’s Eye of Ra (1998), John Kennedy’s The Language of Birds (2004), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), and Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country (2017) based on the writings of Carl Sandburg.

Members take part in the making of each opera complete with professional staging, costumes, lighting, sound, and orchestral accompaniment.

Past productions and commissions include:
1986   Space Opera/Rooster Rag/Jack and the Beanstalk
1986   Chanticleer
1987   The Frog Prince
1988   Cinderella
1989   Deadline (Commission/World Premiere)
1990   Cornelius Coyote (World Premiere)
1991   Karlsson on the Roof (American Premiere)
1992   Yanomano
1993   Her Lightness (Commission/World Premiere)
1994   Ocean World
1995   African Jigsaw
1996   Pinocchio
1997   Arabica
1998   Brundibár
1998   Eye of Ra (Commission/World Premiere)
1999   The Black Spider
2001   The Second Hurricane
2002   Down in the Valley
2002   The Happy Prince
2003   The Piper of Hamelin
2004   The Language of Birds (Commission/World Premiere)
2005   The Little Sweep
2006   The Second Hurricane
2008   The Hobbit (U.S. Premiere)
2010   The Black Spider
2012   Little Nemo in Slumberland (Commission/World Premiere)
2013   The Little Sweep
2014   The Hobbit
2015   Brundibár (with newly-commissioned Prologue)
2016   The Secret World of Og (U.S. Premiere)
2017   Rootabaga Country (Commission/World Premiere)
2018   The Little Sweep
2019   Brundibár

Opera Mainstage Season

In addition to their own productions, Youth Opera members have the opportunity to participate in Sarasota Opera’s professional productions as members of the children’s chorus, non-singing extras (also called supernumeraries), and in special solo roles written young voices. In recent seasons these have included roles in The Magic Flute, La bohème, Tosca, Carmen, and Turandot.

Come Sing With Us!

Let us show you how fun opera is on and off the stage. Designed for all skill levels, Sarasota Youth Opera will explore the world of opera through chorus and acting. In addition, youth opera members will be able to take one-on-one coachings at no extra cost. A detailed description of dates/times/cost as well as our SYO offerings this winter/spring is below. 

Instruction for All Skill Levels
No Auditions | No Prior Experience Needed

Youth Opera open enrollment begins now through February. Rehearsals begin the week of Tuesday, January 11th. Registration includes a tuition assistance application for those who would like to apply. 

Sarasota Opera House
61 N. Pineapple Ave. 
Sarasota, FL 34236 

Dates, Times, & Tuition 
Prep Chorus: Ages 8 to 10
Saturdays | 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. | January-April | $175 
Must be 8 or older by April 30, 2022

Mixed Chorus: Ages 11 to 18 
Tuesdays & Thursdays | 5:30 - 6:50 p.m. | January-April | $200 
Must be 11 or older by April 30, 2022 

$25 Off per singer | 2 or more singers from the same family 

Tuition Assistance 
We understand that these are trying times, and families' budgets may have changed. If the cost of tuition puts a burden on your family then please fill out a tuition assistance application when you register by clicking the link below. Tuition assistance is available in addition to a sibling discount of $25 per enrolled singer.  

To register click here!

Covid-19 Policies & Procedures + Medical Form  
A Covid-19 Safety Policy & Procedure Agreement will be sent to you to sign prior to your singer’s first rehearsal. In addition, you will receive a Medical Release Form to be filled out and notarized before coming to rehearsal. There will be a notary at the first few rehearsals to help complete this paperwork. 

Offerings this winter/spring:

SYO will be preparing for our big concert in March with the Sarasota Opera Orchestra and Apprentice Singers, our professional mainstage musicians. This concert will have music from the famous operatic repertoire performed at the Sarasota Opera House. In April, we will do another concert on Siesta Key.  

Acting with Director of Education Martha Collins
Ms. Martha Collins will be joining us to teach acting for the duration of the school year. Singers will have the opportunity to explore their acting skills through acting exercises, dialogues, and much more!

One-On-One Coachings
We will be offering coachings free of charge to all SYO members with Maestro Jesse Martins in 20-minute slots. At these sessions, singers are welcome to work on their singing, music reading abilities, and music for SYO chorus rehearsals!

Youth Opera Alumni

Alumni, we miss you and want you back! Join the Youth Opera on stage at the Opera House to sing Verdi’s “Va pensiero” in concert with the Sarasota Opera Orchestra on March 20th, 2022! This will be the grand finale of a program featuring the Youth Opera along with members of the Apprentice and Studio artists in a concert of thrilling opera.

Visit the Youth Opera Alumni page to sign up!

SYO Health and Safety Guidelines

Sarasota Youth Opera is looking forward to welcoming singers back to the Sarasota Opera House. To do so safely, we have adopted guidelines and procedures to ensure that each Youth Opera member’s experience is safe and enjoyableInformation and guidance about COVID-19 are evolving and change based on new evidence. We expect that health and safety protocols may change based on evolving conditions and new guidance from applicable health authorities. Any changes will be communicated as soon as they are known and disseminated by Sarasota Opera’s COVID Compliance Officer and the Sarasota Youth Opera Staff.

Click HERE to read our updated Sarasota Youth Opera Health and Safety Guidelines 8.13.2021. 


    Please contact us at [email protected] or (941) 328-1329

    Interested in supporting the Youth Opera programs? Learn more

    Youth Opera Faculty & Staff

    Martha Collins

    Martha Collins

    Martha Collins
    Stage Director
    [email protected]

    Stage Director Martha Collins has been praised by reviewers for her 'world-class, magical staging', 'mastery of zany, comic fun' and 'her direction of insightful character portrayals' and ‘quality’ productions.

    Miss Collins recently directed Nabucco at Sarasota Opera, where she previously has directed productions of Dialogues of the Carmelites, Tosca, Carmen, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, and L’Elisir d’Amore. As part of the company’s complete Verdi Cycle, Miss Collins directed productions of I Lombardi, I due Foscari, Attila, Giovanna D’Arco, I Masnadieri, Jerusalem, Un Giorno di Regno, and La Battaglia di Legnano. She has also served as stage director for Sarasota Opera’s Apprentice Program since 2004. 

    For Sarasota Youth Opera, Miss Collins directed the world premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012) and Rootabaga Country (2017), the U.S. premieres of Burry’s The Hobbit (2008, 2014) and The Secret World of Og (2016), The Black Spider (2010), The Second Hurricane (2006) The Little Sweep (2005, 2013, 2018) for which she also wrote the new Prologue of Let’s Put on an Opera, and Brundibár (2015) for which she also wrote an original prologue in collaboration with Jesse Martins (Sarasota youth Opera music director). 

    At New York University, she directed The Magic Flute, Orpheus in the Underworld, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, and productions of her new libretto translations of The Audition and The Finishing School by von Suppé.  Other productions include Side by Side by Sondheim and A Talent to Amuse – an Evening of Noel Coward at New England Conservatory, Il Tabarro and Amahl and the Night Visitors with Opera North, Floyd's Susannah and L’Elisir d’Amore for Opera Mozart in New Jersey, Dido and Aeneas at Brevard, and Lucia di Lammermoor and Tosca with New Jersey Verismo Opera.

    Martha has taught acting at New York University, Swarthmore College, Ryder University, Manitoba University, the Florence Voice Seminar in Italy, and she maintains a private studio for vocal and dramatic coaching in New York City.

    As a singer, she performed extensively throughout her native Canada both as a concert and operatic performer, and has been heard on CBC's Arts National Radio in numerous recitals and orchestral concerts.  Her televised appearances include Micaela in Carmen with Vancouver Opera and the opening gala of the world Expo in Vancouver, both of which were aired internationally.

    Conner M. Stigner

    Sarasota Youth Opera Coordinator Conner Stigner

    Conner M. Stigner
    Youth Opera Coordinator 
    [email protected]

    Connor Stigner has a wide array of experience in the music world, including his former post as Director of Music and Liturgy at Our Lady of Hungary Parish in South Bend, Indiana. He also worked as accompanist and assistant director of the South Bend Symphonic Choir and was a pianist and director of vocals and music at the 574 Theater Company and the South Bend & Elkhart Civic Theater. His most recent position as Voter Registration Deputy/Clerk of St. Joseph County, Indiana Board of Elections helped burnish his administrative credentials while integrating his interest in civic engagement. 

    Jesse Martins, Music Director of Sarasota Youth Opera states, “Conner brings a diverse array of interests and experiences to our Youth Opera program, and we are excited to welcome him to our community.” 

    Sarasota Youth Opera Education Director Martha Collins adds, “Conner’s engaging personality and musical skills make him a great fit for our Youth Opera program.”

    Jesse Martins

    Jesse Martins Headshot-Max-Quality

    Jesse Martins
    Music Director
    [email protected]

    Maestro Jesse Martins holds a Master of Arts in Collaborative Piano from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil).

    Since joining Sarasota Opera in 2011 Maestro Martins has served as Youth Opera Chorus Master for mainstage productions such as Carmen (2012, 2018), OtelloTurandotPagliacci and Tosca, in addition to being the understudy conductor for Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2014), Le nozze di Figaro (2015), L'italiana in Algeri (2017), and Tiefland (2018). He also served as Chorus Master/Associate Conductor for Sarasota Youth Opera’s world premiere of Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), and conductor for Britten’s The Little Sweep (2013, 2018), Dean Burry’s The Hobbit (2014), Hans Krása’s Brundibár (2015), Burry’s The Secret World of Og (2016, U.S. Premiere), and Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country (2017, World Premiere).

    During the 2018-2019 season Maestro Martins conducted Britten’s The Little Sweep and made his professional debut with the company on Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

    Prior to his graduate studies, he was the Assistant Music Director and Program Manager for Opera Factory Theater (Auckland, New Zealand), a training center for young singers. While in New Zealand, Mr. Martins worked with soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, British Maestro Sir Andrew Davis, coach Rosemary Barnes, and acted as chorus pianist for NBR New Zealand Opera’s production of Janáček’s Jenůfa. While a Graduate Assistant at Mansfield University, Mr. Martins was a coach for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, accompanied the Concert Choir in the Eisteddfod competition in Wales (UK), and performed at the Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival (NY).