Opera on Tap receives funding from the Renée Fleming Foundation for Playground Opera Educational Research

Opera on Tap is pleased to announce a grant received from the Renée Fleming Foundation to fund research into the effects of the Playground Opera project on the development of empathy and social-emotional learning in children.  Playground is Opera on Tap’s collaborative, project-based learning tool prioritizing free and low cost music education in an immersive, interactive format. Opera on Tap is partnering with Dr. Indre Viskontas, USF neuroscientist and member of the Opera on Tap Advisory Council, to develop a study that will track improvements in emotional regulation,  and other cognitive and social skills by surveying children and teachers who participate in the program.

Renée Fleming and The Renée Fleming Foundation awarded Opera on Tap a grant to begin work on the Playground Opera research project. Fleming’s Sound Health initiative, which she spearheads in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, focuses on research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. Other projects by the Renée Fleming Foundation include a partnership with the Foundation for the NIH to develop a toolkit for standardizing music & health clinical research for brain disorders of aging.

Dr. Indre Viskontas is an opera singer turned director with a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience. She is on the faculty of both San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of San Francisco. She conducts research on the neuroscience of creativity, and is the author of How Music Can Make You Better. She has published more than 50 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity, including seminal articles in top scientific journals.


Beyond passive viewing of videos, Playground Opera explores innovative approaches to real time interaction between students and teaching artists. This ‘active learning’ online platform allows students to interact with teaching artists and upload their own work relative to each episode’s project focus. Additionally, they will see their own self-created art and video content integrated into the cumulative opera video production. Opera on Tap’s curriculum can be implemented with assistance from a music teacher or a classroom teacher, and we provide our schools and educators with all the necessary support and materials. 

Playground Opera offers regular, consistent music instruction by:

  • Expanding and scaling our reach into more public schools nationally, utilizing an equitable fee model that particularly supports children enrolled in Title I schools, which can receive the program free of charge.
  • Providing guides for parents and caregivers to build a deeper community involvement even through a digital, musical arts platform.
  • Contributing to research on the effectiveness of our program in particular, and music education in general, on cognitive, emotional and pro-social development in school-aged children.

Opera on Tap believes in nurturing the totality of cognitive, emotional, social, and physical factors that impact student learning, building confidence that goes far beyond the four walls of the classroom and affirming a positive sense of self and respect for the identities of others. Opera on Tap also creates opportunities for a vast array of emerging and professional artists, teaching artists, administrators, and production staff who face barriers in the traditional models of opera and arts education. 

Opera on Tap enjoys expanded support from the National Endowment for the Arts, NY State Council of the Arts, Teach for America Enduring Ideas Innovation Lab, the West Harlem Development Corporation and Opera America; as well as many individuals and various family foundations including Friends of Public School Harlem, the Seth Sprague Charitable Trust, and the Lee MacCormick Edwards Foundation.


Opera on Tap began as a small monthly gathering of ambitious, classically-trained singers looking for more performance opportunities. OOT has grown into a producing organization that has gained a loyal audience base and national recognition as an innovative force on the classical music scene. Through its Chapter program, which now has twenty-five vibrant national and international chapters, OOT has created the world’s largest network of operatic performers, creators, and supporters. Visit our chapter page to view our chapters. 

Along the way, Opera on Tap has developed the Immersive Opera Project, New Brew, and other programming that commissions living composers, performs works of contemporary composers. Our flagship education program, Playground Opera, educates children in the world of opera, music and theatre across the globe. We are headquartered as a national organization in Brooklyn, NY and, in addition to supporting our chapters around the world, present locally produced programs intended to adhere to our mission of community engagement through opera.


Renée Fleming is one of the most highly acclaimed singers of our time, performing on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls. Honored with four Grammy® awards and the US National Medal of Arts, Renée has sung for momentous occasions from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. In 2014, she became the first classical artist ever to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. 

In recent years, Renée has become known as a leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health, and neuroscience, giving presentations with scientists and practitioners around the world, and winning Research!America’s Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion.  In 2020, Renée launched Music and Mind LIVE, a weekly online interview show exploring the connections between arts, human health, and the brain, amassing nearly 700,000 views, from 70 countries. The series was inspired by the Sound Health initiative she leads as Artistic Advisor to the Kennedy Center, in partnership with the NIH and the NEA. She is a Founding Advisor for the Sound Health Network at UCSF and Co-Chair of the Johns Hopkins/Aspen Institute NeuroArts Blueprint.

Renée’s latest album is Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene, with Yannick Nézet-Seguin as pianist. A collection of classic songs and specially commissioned world premieres, the album focuses on nature as both inspiration and casualty of humans. Her voice is featured on the soundtracks of Best Picture Oscar winners The Shape of Water and The Lord of the Rings.

Artistic Advisor-at-Large to the Kennedy Center, Renée also leads SongStudio at Carnegie Hall. She is Co-Director of the Aspen Opera Center and VocalArts at the Aspen Music Festival. Renée’s other awards include the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. www.reneefleming.com