Our Mission as an organization
The Youth Opera of El Paso is dedicated to providing young singers in our community with “hands-on” experience in opera and it's related genres. We strive to collaborate with organizations in our area to reinforce the importance of opera in preserving cultural ideas and communicating the human experience. We hope to promote the principles set forth by the National Opera Association Children’s Opera Project:
To raise awareness of children’s opera as an art form
To help young singers prepare for the collegiate/professional world
To make opera more relevant to the general public in an effort to stimulate interest and support for the genre
To make information about children’s opera more accessible to the music community and general public
To promote the creation of new works
Kimberley D. Wolfenbarger-Nakamoto,
Artistic Director, Co-Founder
Young People's Musical Theatre
Kimberley D. Wolfenbarger-Nakamoto has been teaching voice in El Paso for twenty years. In that time, her students have been consistently ranked among the top young area singers at Regional and State competitions, as well as receiving academic and vocal scholarships to noted schools such as Richmond University in London, Manhattan School of Music, Interlochen, The American Music & Dramatic Academy (AMDA), Pomona, Berklee, Westminister College, Brigham Young University, Washington University, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Oklahoma City University, University of Tulsa, University of Nebraska, New Mexico State University, Rice, UT Austin, University of North Texas, Texas Lutheran College, West Texas A & M University, and Texas Tech. Former students of Mrs. Wolfenbarger can be seen on stage with Dallas Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, Utah Opera, El Paso Symphony, El Paso Opera, University Dinner Theatre, Opera UTEP and as directors of their own school programs in classrooms throughout the country. A former choral director for Morehead Middle School, Ms. Wolfenbarger has a history of providing educational outreach to the El Paso community by assisting the music programs at Wainwright Elementary School, Irvin High School, Eastwood High School, Ysleta High School, and Kids ‘N Company for which she received an Education Award from Americorps in 1998 and the El Paso Playhouse White Knight Award in 2001. Her studio collaborated with the La Fe Cultural & Technology Center on productions of Hansel and Gretel & Brundibár, directed by Dr. Christopher Meerdink, as a part of an initiative to revitalize interest in opera in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, and with subsequent presentations at National Opera Association conventions. Kimberley has also served as the children's choir director for El Paso Opera, El Paso Symphony, and the Dave Koz & Friends, 25th of December Tour with Christopher Cross, as well as having served as the Co-Chair of Children's Opera for the National Opera Association.
Mrs. Wolfenbarger’s own educational background includes the study of Vocal Performance: Recital Form, Opera & Musical Theatre as well as Music Education: Choral at Whitworth College and The University of Texas at El Paso where she was the recipient of both academic and music scholarships. During her studies, she worked with famed sopranos Marilyn Cronin, Marjorie Halverson, and Yvonne Marmolejo as well as former David Britten student, Beverly Laubach, former George Shirley, student Dr. Christopher Meerdink, Opera America’s Dr. Victor Chacon, and the Voice Foundation’s Dr. Kathryn Barnes-Burroughs. Ms. Wolfenbarger was awarded the Spokane Allied Arts Gold Medal for Classical Solo and the Silver Medal for Musical Theatre Performer in 1996 and The El Paso Opera Scholarship in 1997. While in college, Mrs. Wolfenbarger toured Europe in 1994 with the UTEP Chamber Choir as well as the Pacific Northwest with the Whitworth College Choir under the direction of Dr. Randy von Ellefson, former President of the American Choral Director’s Association.
During her performing career, the local soprano performed the role of Cecily in Menotti’s La Divina and Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro under the direction of Maestro Pablo Zinger, and the chorus of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with El Paso Opera under the direction of Maestro Raymond Harvey. She has also served as production team member for El Paso Opera’s: Faust, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, il Trovatore, and Porgy & Bess. Her Musical Theatre credits include Julie Jordan in Carousel, Magnolia Ravenal in Showboat, and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. She has also appeared with the El Paso Symphony and the Las Cruces Symphony in Master Choral Works such as Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Requiem, and Brahm’s Requiem. In the directorial arena, Ms. Wolfenbarger was the Assistant Director of El Paso Opera’s Faust under the apprenticeship of Marciem Bazell and Music Theatre El Paso’s Oklahoma! Mrs. Wolfenbarger continued her directorial endeavors with Music Theatre El Paso, where she served on the Board of Directors, with Grease in 2003. In 2004, she directed the world premiere of Stephen Jackson’s children’s opera, The Day it Snowed Tortillas, for Sun City Youth Opera, an organization co-founded by Ms. Wolfenbarger. Currently, she serves as Artistic Director of Youth Opera of El Paso, co-founded with Dr. Meerdink. She is pursuing her M.M. at West Texas A&M University, and is the soloist at Third Church of Christ, Scientist. Kimberley is an active member of NATS, NOA & TMEA.
Dr. Christoper Meerdink, D.M.A.,
Young People's Musical Theater
Dr. Christopher Meerdink has performed extensively in recital, concert, and on the opera stage. Some of his roles include: Tamino in The Magic Flute, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, Dr. Caius in Falstaff, Marco in The Gondoliers, the tenor roles in Handel’s Messiah, Schubert’s Mass in G, Mozart’s Regina Coeli, and Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. He is recorded on the NAXOS label on two CD collections, Jewish Operas, v. 1, and Schonfield: Viola Concerto, Four Motets, The Merchant and the Pauper.
Dr. Meerdink co-chaired the Committee on Youth Opera for the National Opera Association. In his commitment to youth music opportunities, he has taken part in Bowling Green State University Opera for Youth, Toledo Opera Education and Outreach Program, Young People’s Theater of Ann Arbor, and Evanston Light Opera Works in Evanston, Illinois.
Currently, Dr. Meerdink is Assistant Professor of Music, Voice at West Texas A&M University. Previously, Dr. Meerdink has served on faculty at Delta State University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and at Taylor University.
Dr. Meerdink earned his B.Mus. from Houghton College in Houghton, New York, his M.M. degree from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and his D.M.A. degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has studied under George Shirley, Andreas Poulimenos, Spiro Malas, Martin Katz, and Betty Giles.
David A. Nakamoto, M.B.A.,
Youth Opera of El Paso
David A. Nakamoto is currently the Executive Director of the Youth Opera of El Paso, a 501(c)(3) children’s non-profit organization in El Paso, Texas. He began his professional career in retail management at the age of 18, where he effectively demonstrated his ability to provide leadership, and adopted a systematic approach to problem solving, result analysis, and imaginative solution implementation. He is a graduate of the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Human Resource Management.
Mr. Nakamoto has over 25 years of Supervisory/Management experience with various organizations and Fortune 500 companies, and over 15 years of experience dealing with children as a Cub Scoutmaster, and as Scout Master with the Boy Scouts of America. It’s here where he proudly help guide and mentor his son, David Austin, in achieving the highest honor and rank of Eagle Scout.
David is a lifelong resident of El Paso, Texas and is committed to caring for his family. He loves cooking and spending time with his wife Kimberley and their four dogs. If not at home working on Youth Opera’s next project with Kimberley, you can usually find them on the road to visit their son Austin, who is currently pursuing two separate Bachelor Degrees in Music, and Minor in Piano at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.