Champion Academy Students See Grammy-Winning Opera Star Perform

Super Bowl champion Roland Williams is on a mission to bring new experiences to youth in the City of Rochester. Time Warner Cable News reporter Jordan Mazza was with the Champion Academy participants for their night at the opera.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- She’s the winner of two Grammy awards and has been called one of the world’s greatest singers.

But opera star Joyce DiDonato performed for a new audience Monday night: youngsters from Roland Williams’ Champion Academy.

“It’s my first time seeing this in person, and I like to experience new stuff," said Champion Academy participant Jayline Hernandez-Rodriguez.  Her ticket is one of a hundred the Eastman School of Music donated.

“Music is so important to our community here in Rochester," said Keith Elder, Eastman School of Music director of concert activities. "And having these students and members of the Champion Academy here in Kodak Hall experiencing this world-class music as part of the Eastman Presents Series is just a phenomenal collaboration we’re so lucky to have everybody here for.”

It’s a group some may not expect at the opera.  But the Champion Academy says it’s very much in keeping with its mission. Because Super Bowl champion Roland Williams created the Champion Academy, some associate it with sports.  But organizers say sports and music have many skills in common.

“They’re going to learn how to be quiet and appreciate music," said Veronica Wilson, Champion Academy community partnerships manager. "They’re going to watch the musicians and see how they work together as a team.  Teamwork is something we really focus on.”

Not to mention the endurance involved in performing on stage for hours.

“You have to work out mentally, physically – exercise, do all that – just to bring out a good sound," said Champion Academy parent Christy Cooke.

Parents also say they look forward to expanding their kids’ horizons – and people’s views of the Champion Academy.

“It’s wonderful," Cooke said. "It’s definitely a positive thing introducing these young kids to a different experience, getting them outside their box.  And it’s also letting everyone else know that Champion Academy is not just about sports, it goes beyond sports.”

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