Alumna Dykes undergrad honors thesis paper accepted for conference

Skyler Dykes
Skyler Dykes

Glenn Korff School of Music alumna Skyler Dykes recently learned that her undergraduate honors thesis paper "Civic Practice 101: A guide for the 21st-century opera professor" was accepted for online presentation at the National Opera Association annual conference.

The virtual conference is scheduled for January 4-6, 2021. Dykes will be submitting a short video summarizing her research and attendees will be able to view the video during any "poster presentation" session.

“I began my thesis research in the spring of 2019 and submitted my final thesis to the Honors program in March of 2020,” Dykes said, who graduated with a BA in Music. Her thesis advisors were Bill Shomos and Rhonda Fuelberth. “They both provided a great deal of guidance and feedback throughout my research and writing. I would not have been able to take on this project without their support.

“When I began to brainstorm thesis topics, I knew almost immediately that I wanted to look at community engagement programming in America's opera sector. Opera had been a passion of mine long before my time at UNL. But, in the years leading up to my thesis I had begun to really challenge my love for the art form. I began to question the art form's accessibility and what, if anything, opera artists and administrators were doing to bring opera to new audiences and to address the problematic nature of so many works in opera's canon. As such, my thesis really ended up serving as a vehicle to answer these questions.”

Her thesis research examined "civic practice", a form of artistic engagement focused on addressing community needs, and the onset of civic practice programming in America's opera sector.

“As I interviewed young artists engaged in this work, I noticed a substantial gap between the work these artists were expected to do in today's opera industry and the training they had received in collegiate music programs. So, I decided to gear my paper towards opera and voice professors, creating a guide for them to better understand civic practice - both its onset in America's opera industry and what it looks like in practice. The final chapter of my thesis includes three learning outcomes that I propose should be incorporated into already existing opera curricula in order to better prepare young vocal artists for community engagement in today's opera industry.”

The project meant a great deal to Dykes, because it helped to reinvigorate her love for opera. She now hopes to continue her research into opera engagement in America through a master’s program in musicology next fall.