Photos by Rome City Schools
Students at Elm Street Elementary School were treated to a special performance by members of the Atlanta Opera as they completed their 36th show of The Barber of Seville studio tour, a bilingual version of the play written by Gioachino Rossini.
The Atlanta Opera’s Studio Tour, which reaches over 10,000 students annually, performs throughout metro-Atlanta for a variety of audience development programs and special events. What made the performance so special, however, was that one of the performers previously attended Elm Street Elementary School and is a 2014 Rome High School graduate.
James Douglas, a tenor with the Atlanta Opera, currently lives in New York City and was so excited to bring his show back home. His parents, Dr. Jimmy Douglas and Laurie Douglas, sponsored the show so that the students and faculty at Elm Street were able to witness this extraordinary performance live.
“I started out performing in Ms. Melanie Arrington’s class along with all of Elm Street’s school musicals. This was also where Ms. Williams taught me how to play the piano,” explained Douglas. “From there, I went on to Rome Middle School and still loved music, but it wasn’t until I transitioned into high school at RHS where I fell in love with theater.”
Initially, Douglas thought he wanted to study medicine, but his plans changed a little later in his studies.
“I initially went to college to study medicine to become a doctor, but in my last few semesters I decided to switch my major to music and pursue what I loved for the rest of my life,” said Douglas. “After I graduated from college, I moved to New York which is when I got into opera. Through my residency with the Atlanta Opera, we are able to travel to all kinds of different schools and perform this show, which will ultimately bring us to performing this opera 62 times.”
Before they began, Elm Street Principal Laura Walley introduced former Elm Street teachers, as well as members of the community who were attending the performance, most of whom were teachers of Douglas when he attended Elm Street.
All eyes were on the cast as they began belting their songs, never losing the attention of the students as they played jokes on each other throughout the story. At the end of the performance, Elm Street students were able to ask questions to the cast about their performance, costumes, set and more.
“This was such a unique experience for our students, not only to have the Opera here (which is something that is outside of their regular musical interest), but to also feature a student from Rome, Georgia that went to Elm Street and Rome High, who is truly just like them,” smiled Walley.
“It is all about the opportunities that we can provide for our boys and girls here at Elm Street. This particular opportunity is something that we have never experienced before,” she continued. “James is living proof that if you work hard, you can achieve your goals and reach your dreams. We are very excited to have hosted it and look forward to other opportunities to come.”
As Douglas was busy reminiscing with his previous teachers, as well as meeting new students who were taken away by his talent, it was hard to wipe the smile from his face.
“It is great to be back at Elm Street to perform for my old teachers and students. It is definitely a little bit surreal, because I feel as if I should still be sitting in this gym with these students,” laughed Douglas. “I am grateful for all of my opportunities and hope that I can inspire these students to live the life of their dreams.”
“We are so grateful for the Douglas family for sponsoring this event for Elm Street. It would not have happened otherwise, and we are so thankful for them,” said Walley.
“James always loved coming to Elm Street and was a huge part of his life,” explained Dr. Jimmy Douglas and his wife, Laurie Douglas. “For him to be here is incredible. It means the world to us to watch him come back and do what he started doing here. We are glad we could bring this to Elm Street.”