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The Kennedy Center

WNO Young Associates Program

Grades 9-12

Application Deadline extended: Friday, January 19, 2018

Apply online now

About the Program

WNO Costume Studio

This program is open to high school students in the greater Washington, D.C. area who are interested in exploring the professional world of opera. Whether your interest is in performing onstage or in the orchestra; designing sets, costumes, or lighting; working behind the scenes; bringing the production and audiences together through public relations and marketing; using art for social change; or any of the various other aspects that go into making opera and related art forms happen; we welcome you to apply!

Participants will get an up close and personal look at how a world class opera company creates a professional production by observing the Washington National Opera throughout several stages of the rehearsal process. In addition, students will have exclusive discussions with artists and WNO staff, mock auditions, and private tours of the WNO Costume Studio and the backstage of the Kennedy Center Opera House.

This program is appropriate for students of various experience levels. If you have a curiosity for the arts and a willingness to dedicate your time, you are welcome to apply, no matter if you are already well-versed in the art form, coming to opera from a related field, or if it is a new discovery for you. While not designed exclusively for vocalists, singers of various experience levels interested in deepening their knowledge of opera and classical music are encouraged to participate.

The 2017-2018 program will center around WNO's production of Verdi's classic, Don Carlo .

Students who have applied to or participated in the WNO Young Associates program previously are welcome–and encouraged–to reapply.

The WNO Young Associates program is designed to help prepare students interested in the arts for college and beyond by providing information about the professional world, allowing them to practice professionalism, and contributing to their ability to make informed decisions and have agency over their futures.

Program Schedule*

The 2017-2018 WNO Young Associates program will focus on rehearsal observations of Don Carlo augmented by discussions with artists and additional sessions related to the professional world of opera.

Tuesday, February 6, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Orientation
The Kennedy Center

Thursday, February 8, 7-8:30 p.m.
WNO Rehearsal Studios in Takoma Park

Tuesday, February 13, 7-8:30 p.m.
WNO Rehearsal Studios in Takoma Park

Saturday, February 17, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
WNO Rehearsal Studios in Takoma Park

Saturday, February 24, 4:30-8:30 p.m.
The Kennedy Center

Wednesday, February 28, 7-10 p.m.
The Kennedy Center

*Dates and times are subject to change

Participating students must commit to attending 4 of the 6 events. Attendance at orientation on February 6 is required. Students should plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of each event to check in and be escorted to the event area. Please note that events take place at both the WNO Rehearsal Studios in Takoma Park and the Kennedy Center.

Program Components

  • Rehearsal observations, seeing how a production comes together by observing various stages of the rehearsal process
  • Exclusive discussions providing direct interaction with professionals in the field including creative team members, WNO staff, and artists
  • Behind-the-scenes tours of the WNO Costume Studio and backstage at the Kennedy Center Opera House

Additional, optional events may be added throughout the school year, such as invitations to  other rehearsals, performances, and events related to vocal music and theater.

About Don Carlo


Photo Credit: Opera Philadelphia's Don Carlo.

Don Carlo (1867)

Music by Giuseppe Verdi / Libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle
Sung in Italian with Projected English Titles
New Co-Production with Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera

Family ties fray and unravel in Verdi's spectacle of forbidden passion, political intrigue, and shattering betrayal set at the height of the Spanish Empire. Don Carlo, the King of Spain's son, laments that Elisabeth of Valois, the woman he loves, has been forced to marry his father to forge peace with France. With everyone under the watchful eye of the Grand Inquisitor, tension and paranoia run rampant, leading the king to suspect his wife of infidelity with Carlo. What follows is a fierce struggle between father and son, allegiance and devotion, honor and the heart, with no easy answers—or easy way out.

More than 20 years have passed since WNO last staged this grand masterpiece in four acts, and now a solid-gold cast heralds its return in this stunning new production. Among the highlights: an auto-da-fé that propels the public execution of Spain's "heretics" to chilling new heights, and a shocking finale guaranteed to challenge the imagination. At once an emotional portrait of a family faced with mounting moral crises, and an epic exploration of the burden and pitfalls of power, the penetrating drama of Don Carlo will be impossible to forget.

"I'm really excited to be essaying one of the most amazing pieces of music theater there is. It's a dream come true." —Eric Owens

"My favorite part to sing is the big ensemble auto-da-fé scene. It's so beautiful." —Leah Crocetto

Application Information

Click here for full instructions and to submit your application online.

Application Deadline

All applications must be received on or before Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

Teacher recommendations must be received on or before Monday, January 22, 2018.


  • High school students in the greater Washington, DC area interested in exploring opera
  • Must commit to attending 4 of 6 events; attendance at orientation on February 6 is required. Contact with concerns
  • Past participants are welcome to reapply

Application Requirements
Students must submit an online application form including three short essay questions, a teacher recommendation, and a $6.00 application fee. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Full instructions, including the essay question topics, can be found by clicking the application link above. Contact with questions or concerns.

Program Fees

Application fee: $6.00
Program fee: $40.00 (includes all events and meals)
Need-based scholarships are available. Contact with inquiries.

What is the WNO Young Associates experience like?

"The program allowed me to see the world of the music, theater, and art profession. This glimpse into the daily life of an artist helped me better create short and long-term goals. " —WNO Young Associate

"I appreciate the opportunity this program gives. There aren't many, if any, programs that give high school students such an in-depth behind the scenes look at how a professional opera is prepared. " —Parent

"The program further confirmed my desire to pursue opera as a career and helped me figure out what I have to do during university to achieve my goals. " —WNO Young Associate

"I learned many good tips regarding auditions and possible business jobs in the arts (non-performing arts jobs). " —WNO Young Associate

"I had a great time and would suggest this to anyone who is seriously interested in a career in opera!" —WNO Young Associate

Program Expectations

Attendance: Students selected for the program are expected to attend 4 out of 6 events in their entirety. Attendance at the February 6 orientation is required. Please make appropriate scheduling and travel arrangements for attendance in advance. If an unavoidable conflict arises, students must contact WNO Young Associates staff as soon as possible prior to the start of the event. At the staff's discretion, students may be dismissed from the program without refund if advanced notice of an absence is not provided or if the student misses multiple events. Failure to attend events and to communicate effectively with staff regarding attendance may affect students' ability to participate in future WNO Young Associates programs and events.

Arrival: Most sessions are held in restricted-access areas for which late entrance may be impossible or disruptive. As such, students should arrive no later than 15 minutes before the beginning of each event in order to check in and be escorted to the event area. Students who have not arrived by that time may not be permitted to enter event/rehearsal areas.

Conduct: Participants are expected to respect the needs of the Washington National Opera rehearsal process, its artists, and staff; to conduct themselves with professionalism at all events; and to comply with all reasonable requests. No food or drink is permitted in the rehearsal areas. Students must turn off cell phones during events. No photos, audio recording, or video recording of rehearsals, WNO staff, or artists are permitted.

Communication: As a pre-professional program that aims to help students prepare for college and careers, students are expected to fully participate, with parental guidance, in all program communications as a way to practice and prepare for the professional world. Students are expected to regularly check email and phone messages for program communications and to respond in a timely fashion. Students who have difficulty accessing email on a regular basis should contact program staff immediately to work out alternate arrangements. Parents will be copied on all program emails.

The Kennedy Center welcomes all applicants.

If you have questions about access or accommodations, you are welcome to contact the Office of Accessibility directly at (202) 416-8727 (voice) or .

(202) 416-8846

Additional Opportunities

WNO Opera Institute at American University

A three-week summer training intensive for high school students from around the country who are interested in pursuing vocal performance in college and beyond.

VSA International Young Soloist Competition

An opportunity for outstanding young musicians with disabilities from around the world receive the VSA International Young Soloists Award, $2,000, and the opportunity to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; open to soloists and ensembles of any instrument or genre.