National Opera Company Merges With North Carolina School of the Arts

National Opera Company Merges With North Carolina School of the Arts

On Friday, September 8, 2000, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, announced a $10,000,000 endowment, the largest in the Foundation’s history, to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to establish the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute.

The Institute will be created from one of the Foundation’s primary beneficiaries, the National Opera Company (NOC), and will be enriched by the voice department at the School of the Arts. Currently headquartered in Raleigh, the NOC has provided training and experience to over 400 young professional singers and staged over 4,000 productions of 50 different operas since its inception in 1948.

Capitol Broadcasting Company’s founder and first CEO, A.J. Fletcher, created the company to introduce opera to new audiences, especially young people, to perform in the language of the audience, and to provide quality education for singers. Fletcher had a passion for opera, often performing in the early productions himself.

In an effort to ensure Fletcher’s original vision, the Foundation took the step to enhance the program by creating this Institute with the School of the Arts.

A.J. Fletcher
Capitol Broadcasting Company’s founder and first CEO

UNC President Molly Broad announced the gift to the UNC Board of Governors at their meeting on the same day, because the School of the Arts is under the umbrella of the state college system. She said, “This generous gift from the Fletcher Foundation represents one of North Carolina’s largest private-public collaborations in the arts. I am thrilled that one of our state’s greatest public institutions is involved in a partnership of this magnitude.”

The Institute will be located on the campus of the North Carolina School of the Arts and will become a part of their academic program. The program will eventually have 12 fully funded Fletcher Fellows. The first auditions will be held this fall. Scholars will be able to pursue a 2-year Masters Degree or a 1-year certificate program. The singers will prepare at least two productions per year and will continue the NOC’s tradition of touring in North Carolina Schools. The scholars will be able to take advantage of the prestigious full-time and visiting faculty at the School of the Arts and will have an active Board of internationally known singers and directors.

The $10,000,000 dollar grant from the Foundation will be in the form of $1million per year for 10 years. Fifty-percent of the money each year will be used for operating expenses with the other half-million per year being put into an endowment. The School of the Arts will match this gift. They already allocate $500,000 to their vocal school each year for operating expenses, and they are launching a fundraising drive to raise their $5 million match for the endowment.

The North Carolina School of the Arts currently has an enrollment of a little over 1,000 students. Programs are available to students from eighth grade to the Masters level. The typical age for Fletcher Opera Scholars will be late 20’s and early 30’s, as has been the case with the NOC. The School of the Arts will hold its opera performances at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem, on its own campus, and in schools in the Triad area. These operas will also come to Raleigh to perform in the new Fletcher Opera Theater slated to open in February of 2001 (part of the BTI Performing Arts Center under construction in downtown Raleigh) and in Triangle area schools.

Tom McGuire

Executive Director of the Foundation
Executive Director of the Foundation Tom McGuire says that, in essence, nothing will change for operagoers in Raleigh. “The opera’s presence in the Triangle will not be diminished,” he said. Triangle residents will still enjoy the productions of the NOC, and school children will still learn from seeing the performances in their schools. The merger simply makes it possible for the quality of the productions and the education of the singers to grow, as they take advantage of the plethora of resources on the School of the Arts campus.

The School of the Arts Vice Chancellor for Development and Public Relations Bill Porter says he is optimistic about the opportunities created by the new Institute. The School’s Director of Public Relations said that the School already has a high reputation worldwide for the excellence of its singers and that the Institute will only increase that quality.

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