Ken Hall admits that he doesn’t run with the toughest crowd. As the Managing Director of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (CCOC), Ken has the pleasure of working with some of the most talented children in the Greater Toronto area. And let’s face it, opera-loving children don’t conjure up images of an unruly crowd. “Meeting these unbelievably talented kids, and seeing them develop, it’s just a wonderful atmosphere in which to work,” he says. “They are curious and engaged.”
Ken has been an integral part of the CCOC’s administrative and artistic leadership since he started in 2003. The CCOC is a world-class ensemble that introduces the magic of opera to children and youth through professional musical and dramatic education and the performance of established and newly commissioned operatic and choral repertoire. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of the organization, Ken has produced over 15 CCOC operas and has worked with some of the top directors, stage managers, set designers, lighting designers and costume designers in the country.
An active and accomplished musician himself – Ken earned a master’s degree in Music and performed as a flute soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the United States, and Europe – he frequently appears with the CCOC on recordings, broadcasts and performances. “Being an orchestra flute player is fine,” he admits, “but opera is a lot more fun.”
While most opera companies hire children as the need arises, the Canadian Opera Company is the only opera company in the country – and one of few in the world – that uses an independent affiliated children’s company. “In addition to preparing the children to sing with other opera companies, we also perform our own fully-staged opera productions with up to 150 kids every year,” says Ken. The CCOC also commissions a lot of its own music for these productions, which makes it one of the leading commissioners of opera music in the country.
During his time at the CCOC, Ken has seen the organization blossom and become more diverse in the types of students it attracts. “Our kids come from all over the GTA and have varying backgrounds,” he says. “We run an outreach program to broaden awareness among younger students, and financial assistance is now available to help attract a more diverse group of students to the program.” Children as young as four years old, all the way through high school, take part in training programs that ready them for performances, including master class voice training and audition preparation. The group’s main opera performance attracts more than 2,000 students and families each year.
Ken’s biggest challenge in running the opera company is the administrative burden of working at such a small company. “We have a lot of really talented, driven staff, volunteers and board members, but like any small arts organization, everything from the concert program design to the annual financial audit ends up on the manager’s desk.”
The CCOC has relied on Sloan Partners for its accounting needs since 2013. “I am obviously not an accountant, so Sloan has been very helpful in answering questions and making sure we are meeting the accounting standards specific to our industry,” says Ken.
Check out their website to learn more: Canadian Children’s Opera Company