Melanie Kauffman, executive director for Arts For the Schools, first saw the Vagabond Opera at a conference in San Diego last spring. Intrigued, she saw them perform again in Seattle in the fall.  Both times, she ‘was equally impressed with their style and their charisma.’

     An imaginative ensemble of unique talents, Vagabond Opera hails from Portland, Oregon, but performs a global repertoire in many languages. The band is an ensemble of instruments not usually put together – a stand-up bass, an accordion, drums, saxophone, cello, a banjo-lele and a saw. Put the elements together and you get a broad sound, spanning the gamut from Bohemian cabaret to Paris hot jazz, from gut bucket swing to Ukrainian folk-punk ballads.

     It was a no-brainer – Melanie booked the band for the Arts For the Schools (AFtS) OnSTAGE Performance series. This innovative program exposes our local children and the larger community to world-class performances with an artistic, educational, and cultural format. Throughout the week of Dec. 1 to 5, Vagabond Opera performed for Lake Tahoe and Truckee students, grades K-5, bringing more than 1,400 elementary school students to high school theaters. The band knocked the socks off the kids, the parents, and the teachers.


     One mother who chauffered some students to a show was so moved she wrote to the band: ‘You guys and gal are amazing! I just returned home from watching you at the North Tahoe High School show where I chaperoned my kindergartner for his field trip. Not knowing what this ‘little thing’ was all about, yet volunteering to drive (the mom-cat thing to do) I was incredibly surprised…Thank you for the wonderfully cultured show, it made my day!!’

     As with every AFtS Performance Series, the band also presented a public performance on Friday evening at the Cal Neva’s Celebrity Showroom. Then, Moody’s Bistro offered an additional venue on Saturday night, and developed a special ‘dinner performance’ with a portion of the proceeds benefiting AFtS.

     Vagabond Opera brought down the packed house, receiving an encore and standing ovation. ‘The performance was phenomenal,’ Melanie said. ‘Arts For the Schools was thrilled to cap off the week with the dinner show performance and is deeply appreciative to JJ Morgan, Mark Estee and the Moody’s establishment for its support of Arts For the Schools.’

     The Vagabond Opera series is an apt piece for AFtS’s 25th Anniversary Performance Season – a brilliant and inspiring look at the wide world of arts and culture.

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