Youth Opera Program

The Magic of Opera for All!

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

Sarasota Youth Opera is the only program in the United States committed to both presenting an annual full-scale opera production for young voices, as well as accepting all who wish to participate regardless of skill level or ability to pay.

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, and Turandot. In the winter of 2024, singers have the exciting opportunity to audition to be members of the Children's Chorus in Bizet's Carmen. For more information click here.

-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

Come Sing With Us!

2024 Spring Semester

Let us show you how fun opera is on and off stage! Designed for all skill levels, Sarasota Youth Opera will explore the world of opera through chorus and acting.

Concerts in the community - Our spring semester focuses on selections of operatic and classical music to be performed in formal concerts in the community. Singers are placed in either Mixed Chorus or Preparatory Chorus according to their age and ability which provides a setting for them to participate and progress at their own levels as they gain greater skills and experience.

Individual coachings - Youth opera members will be able to take one-one-one coachings at no extra cost with Maestro Jesse and Ms. Martha. In these coachings, singers may work on the repertoire for Youth Opera as well as solo pieces. 

Children's Chorus in Carmen - Youth Opera members have the exciting opportunity to be members of the Children's Chorus in Carmen, one of the mainstage productions in Sarasota Opera's 2024 Winter Season! The audition prep session is on November 14th at 5:30 PM, and auditions for Maestro DeRenzi are on November 16th at 5:30 PM. If your singer is interested in auditioning for Carmen please fill out the form here.

Audition for the lead roles in the Spring Semester 2024 production- Youth Opera members will be eligible to audition for the lead roles in the Fall 2024 Youth Opera Production. The auditions will be held in the spring of 2024. 

2024 Spring Calendar

The semester starts the week of January 15th and ends in early May. An official rehearsal schedule will be sent out upon program acceptance. 



SYO accepts any singers aged 8-18 into the program. No auditions are necessary to be a part of the program, but singers may audition to be in the mainstage production of Carmen

-Enrollment opens November 1st and runs through January 31st.
-Rehearsal begin the week of January 15th.
-All rehearsals take place at the Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236

-Ages 8 - 10
-January - May  - Saturday mornings from 10:00 - 11:00 AM.

-Ages 11 - 18
-January - May - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 - 6:50 PM

**NOTE: There will be additional dates for performances and dress rehearsals outside of this time. 



To register please click here. 


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

Tuition Assistance

Financial assistance is available. If the cost of tuition puts a burden on your family, please fill out the tuition assistance application when you register. 


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. This form is confidential and will only be shared with medical personnel in the case of emergency. There will be a Notary Public 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 Summer Camp: June 10 - 28, 2024

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).