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Joyce DiDonato’s EDEN connects children to nature through music

In EDEN Joyce DiDonato sings about the beauty of the natural world. Her education initiative by the same name connects children to nature through music.
Joyce DiDonato will perform EDEN at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. The performance is part of UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Renowned opera singer Joyce DiDonato will perform in Santa Barbara tomorrow with a local youth chorus. DiDonato is a mezzo-soprano who has performed throughout the world and won multiple Grammy awards for best classical vocal performance.

In her latest work, EDEN, she has a message to share about caring for the environment, and she’s bringing it to Santa Barbara's Granada Theatre.

Joyce DiDonato’s stage performance of EDEN tells the story of nature in all its perfection and balance, and the role everyone plays in caring for the natural world.

“There’s such a beautiful dance between the classical music world and the natural world,” DiDonato said.

EDEN is also DiDonato’s education initiative that aims to bring young people closer to nature through music. She does this by helping them to find their voices and become active in their communities – she even invites them to join her on stage.

“For the kids, once we kind of take them by the hand and show them what the human voice can do, that inherently demonstrates how powerful human beings are, right? Look what the voice can do, what it can convey – they have that same voice inside of them as well,” she said.  

DiDonato is performing EDEN at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on Tuesday night. The show is co-commissioned by UC Santa Barbara. Charles Donelan is with UCSB Arts & Lectures.

“It’s really an important part of the program’s ambitions toward supporting artists like Joyce DiDonato who have reached a point in their careers where they’re able to do things that are truly innovative,” he said.

Donelan said EDEN, with its message about the environment and partnerships with youth choirs, engages not only experienced classical music lovers, but audiences of all ages.

DiDonato is on tour with EDEN around the state, and Donelan said the show is being well received.

Joyce DiDonato will perform EDEN at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.
Beth Thornton
Joyce DiDonato will perform EDEN at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.

“We are getting great feedback from the young people who are participating in the program, not only are they enjoying the experience of getting up on stage and singing with Joyce DiDonato and the Il Pomo d’Oro orchestra, but they are also thinking differently about the environment and using this experience as a way to take a stronger interest in environmental issues,” he said.

Sixty members of the local youth chorus from Sing! will perform with DiDonato on Tuesday night. Sing! is a free program for elementary school children in Santa Barbara County offered through the Music Academy of the West. Erin McKibben is the program director.

“One of the fun parts of this job is introducing very young students to these major artists. They are incredibly excited after learning about who she is to get to perform with her,” she said.

McKibben said for many of the Sing! participants and their families, this will be their first visit to the historic Granada Theatre. Not only will they experience the performance of Joyce DiDonato, but she will invite the students on stage to perform a song called Seeds of Hope.

“There’s a special song called Seeds of Hope which was written by Joyce and a [youth] choir in England and a composer. It’s about environmentalism and being stewards of the environment,” McKibben said.

Audience members will also receive a small package of seeds to plant a bit of hope in their own communities.

McKibben said the children have been hard at work rehearsing their part, and even at their young age, they realize this is an extraordinary opportunity.

The KCBX Arts Beat is made possible by a grant from the Shanbrom Family Foundation.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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