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The Kennedy Center

WNO Young Associates Program

Grades 9-12

Application Deadline: Friday, January 24, 2020

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 sessions such as 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 2019-2020 program will center around WNO's production of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Delilah.

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 2019-2020 WNO Young Associates program will focus on rehearsal observations of Samson and Delilah augmented by discussions with artists and additional sessions related to the professional world of opera.

Saturday, February 15, 1-5 p.m. – Orientation
Washington National Opera Studios in Takoma Park

Wednesday, February 19, 6:30-9 p.m.
Washington National Opera Studios in Takoma Park

Saturday, February 22, 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Washington National Opera Studios in Takoma Park

Sunday, February 23, 12-4 p.m.
Washington National Opera Studios in Takoma Park

Tuesday, February 25, 6-9 p.m.
The Kennedy Center

Friday, February 28, 7-10p.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 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 Samson and Delilah

Her will is more powerful than his strength.

Samson and Delilah
Music by Camile Saint-Saëns / Libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire
In French with Projected English Titles
WNO Production

With superhuman strength and unmatched feats, Samson has everything it takes to free the enslaved Hebrews from the Philistines, their oppressors. But his enemies possess a weapon that can bring the warrior to his knees: the beautiful and irresistible Delilah. When Delilah seduces Samson into revealing the source of his physical power, his faith will be put to a final, catastrophic test.

This vivid staging of the iconic tale of love and betrayal features a lavish production and sumptuous period costumes, set against the tumultuous backdrop of two clashing nations. Saint-Saëns’s famous opera soars with some of the most splendid vocal music in French grand opera. From the provocative Bacchanal dance to the epic finale, Samson and Delilah depicts the danger of tenderness laced with deceit.

Application Information

Application Deadline

All applications must be received on or before Friday, January 24, 2020. Start your online application here!


  • High school students in the greater Washington, DC area interested in exploring opera
  • Must commit to attending 4 of 6 events; attendance at orientation 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 $10.00 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: $10.00
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 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.