Youth Opera Program

Sarasota Youth Opera is a national model for opera education, and the only program in the United States that presents an annual fully staged Youth Opera production with professional orchestra, sets, and costumes, where our young singers are given a chance to shine.

Our mission is to attain the highest level of artistic excellence through quality instruction from noted professionals in the opera industry and through participation in Youth Opera productions, Sarasota Opera main stage productions, concerts throughout the community, and summer camps.

We pride ourselves in encouraging personal and social growth in our members by fostering a sense of self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, accomplishment, pride, cooperation, and enriching the lives of young people of all backgrounds. 

What our Program offers

Through our year-round training, singers develop their voices, musicianship, acting skills, and appreciation of opera as they build their confidence within a supportive and collaborative community.  

Youth Opera Productions

During the fall season, all members perform in a full-scale Youth Opera production with professional staff to guide, mentor, and help them to excel!  The only auditions held are to cast the solo roles.  

This fall, the Sarasota Youth Opera presented The Little Sweep on November 4 and 5, 2023. 

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: Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country (2017), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), John Kennedy’s The Language of Birds (2004), Tom Suta’s Eye of Ra (1998), Polly Pen’s Her Lightness (1993), and Deadline (1989).

Our Past Fully-staged Productions:  
2023 The Little Sweep 
2022   The Secret World of Og
2019   Brundibár / Raise Up Your Voice
2018   The Little Sweep 
2017   Rootabaga Country (Commission/World Premiere)
2016   The Secret World of Og (U.S. Premiere)
2015   Brundibár / Raise Up Your Voice
2014   The Hobbit 
2013   The Little Sweep 
2012   Little Nemo in Slumberland (Commission/World Premiere)
2010   The Black Spider 
2008   The Hobbit (U.S. Premiere)
2006   The Second Hurricane 
2005   The Little Sweep 
2004   The Language of Birds (Commission/World Premiere)
2003   The Piper of Hamelin 
2002   The Happy Prince 
2002   Down in the Valley 
2001   The Second Hurricane 
1999   The Black Spider 
1998   Eye of Ra (Commission/World Premiere)
1998   Brundibár 
1997   Arabica 
1996   Pinocchio 
1995   African Jigsaw 
1994   Ocean World 
1993   Her Lightness (Commission/World Premiere)
1992   Yanomano 
1991   Karlsson on the Roof (American Premiere)
1990   Cornelius Coyote (World Premiere)
1989   Deadline (Commission/World Premiere)
1988   Cinderella 
1987   The Frog Prince 
1986   Chanticleer 
1986   Space Opera/Rooster Rag/Jack and the Beanstalk

Opera Mainstage Season

Youth Opera members have the opportunity to participate in Sarasota Opera’s mainstage professional productions in 3 ways:

-As members of the children’s chorus in operas such as Tosca, La bohème, Turandot, and most recently in Bizet's Carmen. 

-In special solo roles written for young voices. In recent seasons Youth Opera members have performed roles alongside the professional singers in The Magic Flute, Tosca, and The Marriage of Figaro.

-As non-singing extras (also called supernumeraries). In the winter of 2024 singers have the exciting opportunity to audition to be extras in Carmen.

Youth Opera Choruses

Youth Opera performs throughout the community in formal concerts and community events.  Selections performed are chosen from classical music, which includes opera and choral pieces in different languages.  Singers are placed in an appropriate chorus which provides a setting for them to participate and progress at their own level as they gain greater skills and experience.

This is the main focus of the winter/spring season which runs from January through April.

Summer Camp

Each June, Sarasota Youth Opera offers summer camps for young people. Under the direction of Sarasota Opera’s professional artistic and production staff, campers experience the wonder of opera on the stage and behind the scenes as they study its many facets, from music and acting to opera appreciation and the many elements of an opera production. To learn more, please visit


2024 Fall Production

Sarasota Youth Opera is excited to announce the 2024 Youth Opera Production of Dean Burry's The Hobbit. This is a fully staged production with sets, costumes and orchestra with our Youth Opera singing most of the lead roles and chorus.

The Hobbit is set in Middle-earth and follows home-loving Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit of the title, who joins the wizard Gandalf and the thirteen dwarves of Thorin's Company, on a quest to reclaim the dwarves' home and treasure from the dragon Smaug. On this journey, Bilbo gains confidence as he draws on strength he never knew he had. 

In addition to performing in The Hobbit, Youth Opera members also will have the opportunity to audition to be part of the children's chorus in Sarasota Opera's 2025 Mainstage Production of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci where they will sing on stage with professional opera singers.

2024 Fall Calendar

The semester starts the week of August 19th and culminates with performances of The Hobbit on November 7th, 9th, and 10th.  



Sarasota Youth Opera is a program for young singers ages 8 and up. Singers must participate in a placement audition before being accepted into the program.

Program enrollment opens on June 15th and goes through August 1st. Auditions will be held in late July and early August.

-All rehearsals and performances take place at the Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave Sarasota FL 34236

Prep Chorus: Ages 8 and above

Must be 8 or older by December 31, 2024


     • Saturdays 10:00-11:00 AM


     • Saturdays 10:00-12:30 PM


    TBA On Stage, Piano Dress Rehearsals, and Orchestra Dress Rehearsals

Mixed Chorus: Ages 11-18 (based on ability)


      Tuesdays & Thursdays 5:30-7:00 PM

      Some Saturdays 1:00-5:00 PM


     • Tuesdays & Thursdays 5:30-7:30 PM (soloists will be called until 8:30)

     • Saturdays 10:00-4:00 PM Saturdays 1:00-5:00 PM Some Saturdays in August & September


     • TBA On Stage, Piano Dress Rehearsals, and Orchestra Dress Rehearsals

The official rehearsal calendar will be sent out upon acceptance. 


To register please click here


Prep Chorus: Ages 8 - 10 - $225
Must be 8 or older by December 31, 2024
Mixed Chorus: Ages 11 - 18 - $275

Tuition Assistance

If you would like to request financial assistance for tuition, please fill out the questions on the last page of the registration form. Assistance is awarded on a needs-based policy. Decisions are communicated upon your child’s acceptance into the program.


Medical Release Form

For your child’s safety, a parent or guardian will need to sign and have notarized our Medical Release Form prior to your singer's first rehearsal. There will be a notary at the first few rehearsals to help complete this paperwork.

Future Dates

If you are unable to join us this fall for our production, please keep us in mind for the future:

YO Winter Semester: Chorus & Concerts - January - May 2025
YO Summer Camp: June 9 - 27, 2025

Youth Opera Alumni

Alumni, we miss you and want you back! 2024 is the 40th anniversary of Youth Opera! We are planning special events!  Visit the Youth Opera Alumni page to sign up so we can keep in touch!


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
Director of Education & 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 Attila at Sarasota Opera, where her previous productions include of Dialogues of the CarmelitesToscaCarmenMadama ButterflyRomeo and Juliette, La Traviata, Nabucco and L’Elisir d’Amore. As part of the company’s complete Verdi Cycle, Miss Collins directed productions of I LombardiI due FoscariAttilaGiovanna D’ArcoI MasnadieriJerusalemUn 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, 2019) 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 UnderworldL’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.

Cameron Maxwell

Cameron Maxwell
Youth Opera Coordinator
[email protected]

Born and raised in Orlando, Ms. Maxwell has a wide variety of experience with music and theatre both as a performer and stage director. She received her BA in Theater Arts from Flagler College with three minors; Arts Administration, Music, and Education. After college, she worked in the development and marketing department of St. Johns Cultural Council, a local arts agency aiding arts and cultural organizations. She was active in creating grant proposals, and newsletters and managing their performance venue.

Ms. Maxwell previously discovered her passion for working with children in the arts when she co-founded a summer camp with neighborhood kids. "Being involved in the whole process of developing arts opportunities for children felt natural and like something I could do successfully and joyfully for the rest of my life. The programs and productions at Sarasota Youth Opera provide wonderful opportunities for the children to immerse themselves in the arts, and I am excited to be apart of it." Maestro Jesse Martins and Director of Education, Martha Collins, are "happy to welcome to our team someone who is as devoted and passionate about children and the arts as we are!" 

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).