Louisiana’s anti-bullying law has been in effect for a year. Nationwide, the number of bullying accusations has not only risen in schools, but also in sports and the workplace. The Shreveport Opera Express, the outreach program of the Shreveport Opera, has lent its powerful voice to the cause.
Since 2011, the singers have presented their “Stop, Bully” operatic program in hundreds of schools across Louisiana, east Texas and south Arkansas. Shreveport Opera executive director Amanda Gouthiere said the opera singers deliver two programs a day and reach about 50,000 people each year.
“It’s brought a lot of awareness to the social message, and it’s really teaching kids at a very young age -- as young as preschool -- to be nice," Gouthiere said.
Daniel Bates, 24, plays the school principal. The Elmira, New York native said between performances Tuesday that he loves being able to spread a powerful message through a rigorous performance schedule that betters him as an artist. Every audience has a different reaction, according to Bates, and children wait expectantly for the point in the opera where the bullied girls seek help.
“Today, the kids were very, very vocal. But we have shows where kids are not vocal at all," Bates said after his first performance at University Elementary in Shreveport. "Sometimes it’s that they’re scared of the bully. We had a little girl cry today. We made sure to bring the bully to her afterward. But it’s really, really fun to watch the kids react.”
Bates thinks that delivering the anti-bullying message through opera makes the message more potent and exposes young children to a new art form.
“We have these really catchy, catchy tunes that can stick in your head, and at the very end they can walk out singing stop, bully, bully, stop, stop, stop -- and that’s the message of our show," Bates said.
Shreveport Opera Express puts on about 135 programs during the school year and will be at another Shreveport elementary school today.