Youth Opera Program


Since 1984, Sarasota Youth Opera has given thousands of young people age 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.

Ensembles include:

Mixed Chorus (Grades 6 - 12)
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:50 PM *
Tuition - $200 per semester **

Preparatory Chorus (Grades 3 - 5)
Saturdays from 10:00-11:00 AM *
Tuition - $175 per semester **

Lakewood Ranch Chorus (Grades 3 - 8)
Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30 PM *
Tuition - $175 per semester **
Meets at Harvest United Methodist Church in Lakewood Ranch

* All ensembles are part of our annual, full-scale, Youth Opera production at the Sarasota Opera House which involves additional rehearsals in October and November outside of the regular rehearsal schedule.

** Tuition assistance is available in addition to a sibling discount of $25 per enrolled singer.

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 Perform With Us

Let us show you how fun opera is on and off the stage (horned helmet and spear not required) at an enrollment open house.

Young people grade 3 through 12 and their parents(s) / guardians(s).

Sarasota Youth Opera holds open enrollment sessions in August and January. This is not an audition—all interested singers are accepted, regardless of skill level.

Fall Enrollment Dates
Enrollment for the fall semester is now closed.

Winter/Spring Enrollment Dates

Sarasota Opera House Choruses (at the Sarasota Opera House)
Saturday, January 11 from 10:00 - 11:00 AM (for grades 3-5)
Tuesday, January 14 from 5:30-6:50 PM (for grades 6-12)
Thursday, January 16 from 5:30-6:50 PM (for grades 6-12)

Lakewood Ranch Chorus (at Harvest United Methodist)
Wednesday, January 15 from 5:30-6:30 PM (for grades 3-8)
Wednesday, January 22 from 5:30-6:30 PM (for grades 3-8)

To RSVP For An Enrollment Session
Click Here for online registration

No prior experience necessary | Families need only attend one session. 


Please contact us at [email protected] or 941-328-1307

Interested in supporting the Youth Opera programs? Learn more

Upcoming Events

In addition to our annual, full-scale Youth Opera production each fall, our singers also perform concerts throughout the community each winter/spring.

November 15 & 16, 2019 - Brundibár

Performed at least 55 times by the children of Theresienstadt concentration camp during WWII, this tale of friendship, perseverance, and teamwork will touch your heart. 

Brundibár will be preceded by a powerful prologue by Jesse Martins and Martha Collins, featuring quotes from children throughout history.

This production is appropriate for all ages. For tips on bringing children to the opera, click here.

Synopsis and Background

Friday, November 15 &
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Time 7:00 PM
Where Sarasota Opera House
Tickets click here for ticket information


April 16, 2020 - Lakewood Ranch

The Harvest United Methodist Choir will host the Sarasota Youth Opera for an amazing evening of choral music.

Come hear the Sarasota Youth Opera present both familiar and rare classical works for all ages under the direction of Maestro Jesse Martins with pianist Maestro George Hemcher, with additional selections by The Harvest Choir.

When Thursday, April 16, 2020
Time 7:00 PM
Harvest United Methodist Church
4305 Covenant Way, Lakewood Ranch
Tickets This concert is free to the public
No tickets are required


April 28, 2020 - Images Of Dance

Join The Sarasota Ballet Studio Company and students of the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory, Sarasota Youth Opera and the Sarasota Music Conservatory as we celebrate the talented youth in Sarasota.

When Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Time 7:00 PM
Where Sarasota Opera House
Tickets sold bySarasota Ballet
More information coming this spring


May 3, 2020 - Music at St. Boniface

Returning for their seventh consecutive concert at St. Boniface Church, Sarasota Youth Opera's 80+ singers ages 8 to 18 will present both familiar and rare classical works for all ages under the direction of Maestro Jesse Martins with pianist Maestro George Hemcher.

When Sunday, May 3, 2020
Time 6:00 PM
St. Boniface Episcopal Church
5615 Midnight Pass Rd, Sarasota
Tickets This concert is free to the public
No tickets are required


Youth Opera Faculty & Staff

Ben Jewell-Plocher

Ben Jewell-Plocher

Ben Jewell-Plocher
Director of Education
[email protected]

Ben Jewell-Plocher holds a Bachelor of Music with honors from Butler University in Indianapolis and a Master of Music in vocal performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

Administratively, Mr. Ben served as Operations Manager for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir from 2006-2007 and as a Residence Hall Director at Interlochen Arts Academy from 2009-2011. Mr. Ben also worked behind-the-scenes for three seasons at the St. Louis Muny, with production credits including The Little MermaidFootlooseDamn Yankees, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Mr. Ben has been a member of the Sarasota Opera’s education department since 2011. During this time, he has overseen the commissioning of two new works for young voices and expansions in Sarasota Opera’s after-school and in-school programing. He currently serves on the committees of several arts education advocacy groups including the Sarasota County Arts Education Partnership, Sarasota Community/School Partnerships for the Arts, and Manatee Arts Education Council.

George Hemcher

George Hemcher

George Hemcher
Music and Administrative Assistant
[email protected]

Maestro George Hemcher, a native of Frazer, PA, has been with Sarasota Opera since June 2017.

At Delaware Valley Opera, he worked on Verdi’s Otello, Mozart’s Die Entführung Aus Am Serail, and was the Music Director for Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and Mozart's Der Shauspieldirektor. Mr. Hemcher has also collaborated with Pocket Opera of New York, Regina Opera in Brooklyn, Light Opera of New York, eVoco Voice Collective Mixed and Women's Ensemble, Voci da Camera, Oyster Bay Music Festival, and Floating Opera New York.  As a tenor, George has sung Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Spärlich in Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Fiorello, the Officer, Ambrosius in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and El Remendado in Carmen.

George has played piano for Distinguished Concerts International New York on the world premiere of Cristian Grases Nocturnos y Adivinanzas at Carnegie Hall as well as Steven Sametz' Carmina Amoris, Donald McCullough's In the Shadow of the Holocaust, Zane Zalis' I believe, Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem, Tim Sharp/Wes Ramsey's A High, Lonesome Bluegrass Mass, the Verdi Requiem, and Tarik O'Regan's Tryptich and The Ecstasies Above. George was the Music Director at Venture Opera in Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the OPERA America Recital Hall and at the Kay Meek Center in Vancouver, Canada. Previously George was the Music Director of the Opera Scenes program at Hofstra University.

Jesse Martins

Jesse Martins

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).

Martha Collins

Martha Collins

Martha Collins
Stage Director

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.