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, BM.,
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 is passionate about YOEP's mission and has a demonstrated ability to creatively lead organizations and shares YOEP's commitment to diversity and inclusion. He is a skilled executive with strong collaborative and administrative skills, and has worked with membership organizations to advance their mission, practices and goals. He began his professional career in local management at an early age, 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 Master, 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 rank of Eagle Scout as well as membership into BSA's Honor Society, Order of the Arrow, in which both Mr. Nakamoto and son are Arrowmen.
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 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 Performance, Music Education, and a Minor in Piano at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
Dr. Esequiel Meza, D.M.A.,
Artist in Residence,
Youth Opera of El Paso
Dr. Esequiel Meza has been involved in many administrative and academic roles in addition to his personal devotion to teaching and performing. He incorporated numerous courses in administration during his Doctoral studies at the University of Arizona, and has used administrative theory and administrative skills in his professional positions throughout the years. In 1993, Dr. Meza was hired as Assistant Dean of Advising and Cultural Diversity for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma and was involved in all aspects of university leadership. Those experiences helped him to integrate his knowledge of technology and broad based curricula into the comprehensive role of a collaborative leader in higher education.
As an artist and educator, Dr. Meza has been personally devoted to teaching and performing. He has taught numerous courses in applied piano, music theory, music appreciation, piano literature, vocal diction, and accompanying. As a piano pedagogue, his primary focus is to build bridges and help students learn for themselves, as well as maintain a sincere dedication to developing, in each student, a passion for high artistic standards based on the understanding of a clear approach that will inspire their creative process and help them to develop their own individual voice as musicians. He believes in a diversity of learning and in an international perspective. As an active performer, teacher, and collaborator in the field of music, he firmly believes in the importance of artistic and musical literacy and the expansion of aesthetic values in our global society. He is an artist, a scholar and an intellect with a strong commitment to improving higher education today and has a deep understanding of the importance of diversity, fundraising, student advising, technology, teaching, student global engagement, and global learning.
Robyn Leigh Pelking-Chavez, B.L.A, B.S.,
Artist in Residence,
Youth Opera of El Paso
Robyn Leigh Pelking-Chavez is a native El Pasoan, and was raised in a musically gifted family. From an early age, Mrs. Pelking-Chavez studied piano, various wind and string instruments, and vocal techniques which she pursed in high school band, choir, and orchestra. She began studying voice with Kimberley Wolfenbarger-Nakamoto, which gave her the foundations of vocal music, performance etiquette and technique, and an appreciation for all musical genres. She completed her Bachelors of Liberal Arts degree in English and Secondary Education from the University of Texas at El Paso, in addition to seven additional teaching certifications. Shortly after, her life-long love for music led her to Full Sail University in Florida, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Music Production.
Robyn began teaching English and Debate in public school for three years, when she was approached and asked to work for St. Clements Private School as the Speech and Drama teacher, and she excitedly accepted the new challenge. She soon discovered there were many talented singers, and no choral program, so she created one. Although St. Clements has a number of extracurricular activities, she wanted her students to have the same opportunities that were afforded her, and contributed to her love and knowledge of music. Since then, her students have had success in All Region Choir, they've partnered with the orchestra for bi-yearly concerts, participated in holiday chapel services, and have been invited to sing at special events. She loves combining her creative writing and musical experience to write and produce original shows for her students.
Robyn primarily teaches 6th-8th Grade Speech and Drama, 5th-8th Grade Music, and core subjects and/or other enrichments as needed. In addition to being in the classroom, she is the Music Ministry Coordinator where she selects and organizes worship music for each chapel service and supervises a student-led praise band. On the Chapel Committee, she helps decide curriculum to be used for instruction and arranges special events for the school.
Outside of teaching, Robyn is highly involved member of St. Clements Church. She sings and plays multiple instruments in the praise band every week, directs Vacation Bible School and Christmas pageants, participates in a weekly Bible study, and just completed her term on the Vestry. At home, she is a self-taught pastry chef, baking and decorating custom desserts for numerous clients and for her own theatre productions.
The newest addition to Robyn’s list of activities is Stage Manager, Audio/Visual Editor, and Director for the Youth Opera of El Paso. Robyn says, “I am so grateful that Kimberley has given me this opportunity to work with growing musicians and develop my skills in this setting. As an original member of her studio and one who performed in the first-ever Broadway Scenes, I am truly amazed with how far this program has come and am blessed to be a part of it again. Being involved also allows me to remain in contact with many of my former students. Kim has been so supportive of me throughout my whole life and has helped me tremendously in growing my own programs as a teacher. Thank you, Kim and Dave, for bringing me back to where it all started. I would not be where I am now without you!”