On October 23, New Orleans native, Terence Blanchard’s powerful new opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones was broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera at movie theaters around the country. The Edgar “Dooky” Jr. & Leah Chase Family Foundation generously donated 100 tickets to the New Orleans Opera for the local screening at the AMC Elmwood Theater. Our Director of Community Partnerships &Education, Dr. Tara Melvin, visited several high schools and universities throughout the Greater New Orleans area to
Here’s Dr. Tara Melvin speaking on the outreach process, the Chase Foundation, and the importance of local representation in the arts:
Q: How did you go about distributing the tickets for this program to area schools?
Dr. Melvin: First, I committed tickets to Terence Blanchard’s alma maters: St. Augustine and NOCCA. Then, I reached out to schools and organizations that Dooky Chase III and I felt would have the greatest impact. I emailed various schools, contacted school board president Ethan Ashley, and drove around to distribute the tickets for about two weeks. Schools were very eager to attend, especially those who don’t usually receive these opportunities; many even asked if additional tickets were available.
Q: How was this program important in encouraging local representation in the arts?
Dr. Melvin: Kids in New Orleans do not see themselves on the opera stage – they do not see themselves directing, producing, conducting, building sets, composing, or working for an opera company. They are familiar with positions of power, but not in the classical world. While they are beyond capable, people cannot occupy spaces where they feel unwelcome; they cannot see themselves there. It’s time to change what “normal” in New Orleans is. Access is great, but people need to feel welcome as well.
Q: Why is the Chase Foundation’s involvement particularly significant?
Dr. Melvin: People around the world know the history of the Chase Family and what they have done for the civil rights movement in the United States. Their restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, was a safe place where leaders like James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Reverend A.L. David, and so many other noted leaders – as well as those whose names were lost to time – found a safe place to strategize and talk about building better opportunities for equality, equity, and access. It’s fitting that the Chase Foundation would not only sponsor but also be the first to suggest that we make this happen together. This moment meant too much to let it slip by without acknowledgment and celebration.