Dive into January’s newsletter for a glimpse into Stuart’s Opera House, and the humans behind the scenes who make the magic happen!

Discover the latest on Stuart’s Arts Education programs, meet members of our passionate team, and explore the upcoming events happening at Snow Fork this summer. Plus, we’re shining a spotlight on Lynn and Bob Garbo, dedicated volunteers shaping our community.

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Click here to read the inaugural November 2023 Newsletter and the December 2023 issue.

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A Peek Behind the Curtain

Meet Melanie Wilt, Nelsonville-York Drama Club Program Director

The Nelsonville-York Drama Club is gearing up for an exciting new year, with a “We Love Broadway” cabaret fast-approaching in February (a fundraiser for the students’ trip to New York City) and auditions for The Wizard of Oz musical.

The Drama Club’s Program Director, Melanie Wilt, has been involved in the arts from a young age.

“Some of my earliest memories are learning to play the piano at the age of five and from that moment on, music has been a constant in my life,” Wilt says.

She went to college to study music and earned a degree in Music Education and remains dedicated to the field.

“I have had the most wonderful experiences singing, teaching and directing musicals over the many years since.”

Wilt and her husband moved to Nelsonville from Columbus in 2020, and she quickly became involved with Stuart’s Opera House through Stuart’s Director of Education Devin Sudman. When he offered her the Program Director position, she “jumped at the chance.”

“Some of my best memories are from my high school drama club and it is a privilege to be able to pay it forward to the talented thespians of NYHS,” she says.

Wilt, as well as everyone at Stuart’s Opera House, is invested in teaching kids about the importance of the arts and giving them opportunities to express themselves.

“Thanks to Stuart’s Education Department and to its generous donors, these young thespians are getting such special opportunities that will bless their lives in so many ways now and in the future.”

Engaging the Community Through Artistic Creation and Expression

January Arts Education Highlights

Educational programming at Stuart’s Opera House is off to a strong start for 2024!

The Arts Education Department’s three recurring, monthly events–Open Mic Night, Old Time Jam, and Paint & Pour–all began the year with strong community participation. Open Mic Night had a full sign-up list and saw many dynamic performances of poetry, original music, and theatrically-trained singing to musical scores. The all-ages and free Old Time Jam continues to attract and grow a local community who enjoy playing and listening to traditional stingband music, and tickets to the adults-only Paint & Pour evening sold out. These events are made as accessible as possible for those who wish to participate, and they’ll be taking place again in February, so make sure to check them out!

Participants in Stuart’s year-round and free arts education programs continue to progress in leaps and bounds as they enter the second-half of the school year. The Afterschool Music Program (AMP) bands thrive as the students write songs and rehearse for their showcase at the end of the year, and their skills improve every day.

“We see improvement in their skills every single day, especially for our beginners who started the school year completely new to their instrument,” says Stuart’s Assistant Director of Arts Education, Adam Remnant.

The Nelsonville-York Drama Club is also preparing for their upcoming cabaret, “We Love Broadway,” which will be held on February 16th in the Grand Lobby at 7:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling our box office at 740-753-1924.. The cabaret is a fundraiser to support the drama club’s trip to New York City in March.

On the whole, Stuart’s Opera House has seen an incredible month of educating students and bringing the community together through the transformative power of the arts. We look forward to fostering even more inclusive and enriching artistic experiences for people of all ages in the year ahead!

From Passion to Profession:

Staff Member Juno Beard’s Journey at Stuart’s

Juno Beard, the Arts Education Program Coordinator and newest part-time staff member at Stuart’s Opera House, has always found solace and connection through the arts. With a background in psychology and fine art from Ohio University, during his college years Juno actively contributed to the vibrant music and arts scene of Athens, assuming leadership roles in F-Word, a poetry and performing arts student organization, and sharing his musical talents with local bands.

“After graduating, I wanted to take time to further explore my artistic interests before pursuing a Master’s degree, while staying close to my local creative community,” Juno reminisces.

This quest led him to discover the Americorps VISTA position at Stuart’s Opera House, despite never having attended a performance there.

Juno’s previous experiences interning with art therapy organizations and facilitating arts activities for both children and adults had instilled in him a profound belief in the transformative power of the arts.

“I’ve seen firsthand how much participating in the arts can build confidence, social skills, and a greater sense of community,” Juno reflects.

In his year as an Americorps member, Juno dedicated himself to providing his community with opportunities for artistic expression and growth through Stuart’s Opera House. Now, as a permanent member of the team, Juno is thrilled to continue his work in the Arts Education Department, where he serves as both an AMP instructor and Open Mic Night co-host, among other roles.

His journey is a testament to the profound impact of community and artistic exploration, and the Stuart’s team is stronger with him on board!

Two hearts beat as one for Stuart’s Opera House & NMF

Spotlighting Lynn and Bob Garbo, dedicated volunteers and ardent supporters

Lynn and Bob Garbo with “Queen of Bluegrass” Rhonda Vincent after ushering her 2024 performance. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Garbo)

Lynn and Bob Garbo bring their authentic energy wherever they go. Both are long time volunteers and supporters of Stuart’s Opera House and the Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF). For them, volunteering for regional nonprofit organizations with missions they are drawn to is embedded in their bones. They’re passionate believers in the work carried out by these organizations and enjoy a deep connection to them.

Read on to learn more about their service to the Opera House, about Lynn’s long career in serving other Nelsonville-based organizations, and about Bob’s desire to help people that morphed into a career in non-profit public service and volunteer work in the region.

Lynn Garbo grew up on Pleasantview Avenue in Nelsonville, two blocks away from the city’s historic Public Square.

“Nelsonville was like Mayberry (the town where the 1960s television show The Andy Griffiths Show was set),” Lynn says about the Nelsonville of her youth. “Every storefront was open with businesses because in those days downtowns were where you shopped for everything; groceries, drug stores, jewelry, furniture, clothing and even a movie theater, before shopping malls came into the picture, then big box stores.”

Growing up, Lynn and her family enjoyed productions of the (then) Berean Community Players, now the Athenian Berean Community Players, or ABC Players. Later she joined the Stuart’s Opera House Guild, formed after the theater’s 1980 fire. The Guild members ushered events and supported the Players through member dues and by selling ice cream and soda in the former lobby of the Opera House, called The 1879 Room.

In the 1980s, Lynn volunteered for the former non-profit Nelsonville’s Doctors Hospital TWIG 8 group. The proceeds from the group’s efforts supported the hospital in many ways. Lynn organized annual Cruise Ins and Sock Hops fundraisers through TWIG 8 on the Public Square for 10 years before the hospital became OhioHealth Doctors Hospital Nelsonville.

Lynn retired in 2010 from a 28-year-long career as a paralegal at the then Southeast Ohio Legal Services (now the Legal Aid of Southeast and Central Ohio), which gives free legal help to people with low incomes and limited savings. In 2011 she became the part-time director of Mainstreet Nelsonville, a program led by Heritage Ohio that promotes tourism and revitalization to downtowns. Lynn organized theme-based train rides on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway for the Mainstreet Nelsonville program until the end of 2012.

She then founded the Historic Downtown Nelsonville Association to continue the mission of Main Street Nelsonville. In her 10 years of service at the Association, she organized more themed train events with the proceeds supporting the production of the many art murals that can be viewed today on the facades of several Nelsonville’s historic buildings.

Lynn served on the Stuart’s Opera House board from February 19, 2008 to mid-2011. Her love of and advocacy for her native Nelsonville is unwavering.

“It’s in my blood and is rewarding work,” she says. “It’s about giving back to my hometown.”

Today, Lynn continues to serve as a volunteer at the Opera House and at NMF in her upbeat, spirited way.

Bob Garbo was drawn to the priesthood as a young man growing up in his native Chicago. After attending the seminary for many years, he changed course in 1966 and joined a new federal program, the AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA), and was assigned to work with people in a remote region of Appalachian Virginia. He was drawn to the people he met and the social issues he worked on while serving the region and to kick off a 45-year professional career working in service of the people in Appalachia and setting up his home in Athens County. Of those 45 years, 38 of them were spent at Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, which helps families and individuals achieve an improved quality of life by mitigating the effects of poverty, and eventually became its Executive Director.

Bob enjoyed going to shows at the Opera House, joined the Opera House Guild and began ushering in 2007. In fall of 2008, he was invited to serve on the Opera House’s board. He put his fundraising skills to use by serving as Campaign Co-Chair during Stuart’s successful $4.2 million Capital Campaign from 2011-2014.

“People give to good things,” he says of the campaign’s success. “Stuart’s successful programming had nothing but good things to offer.”

He stepped off the board in 2019, marking 11 years of service, yet continues to not only usher mainstage shows with Lynn, but also created a live history program where he impersonates George Stuart, the founder of Stuart’s Opera House, and brings guests on an historic tour through the building. Bob has volunteered annually at NMF since 2008.

The spirit for volunteering for a cause must “come from having a passion” for an organization’s mission, Bob says.

The Garbo’s expanded their passionate volunteering by their involvement in a local Friend’s Group, Burr Oak Alive! which sponsors events and projects at Ohio’s Burr Oak State Park.

Stalwart volunteers and patrons like the Garbos bring long standing volunteer service and generous support to the Stuart’s mission, says Executive Director Melissa Wales.

“The Garbos and their advocacy for all we do here at Stuart’s—from serving our community through arts education and experiences, which are free of charge for school-aged students, to being a premiere driver in the region’s arts and culture economy—make them a special gift to us,” she says. “We are so grateful for their spirit, their energy and their support of Stuart’s and NMF!”

In The News

NMF Early Bird Tickets On Sale Now!

Mark your calendars and grab your passes! Nelsonville Music Festival is just under 6 months away and we cannot wait to see all our friends at Snow Fork Event Center July 26-28! Discounted Early Bird tickets are on sale now for “one of the Midwest’s most loved festivals” (Consequence) showcasing a diverse lineup of national, regional, and local acts from a variety of genres, along with scenic campgrounds, kid’s activities, unique artisan and retail vendors, local food, and more. All proceeds raised at the festival support not only the continuation of our beloved annual gathering, but year-round programming at Stuart’s Opera House, including our tuition-free Arts Education programs.

Click here to learn more and secure your passes!


Happy Hollow Hootenanny returns to Snow Fork

The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest in North America, and the hills and hollows are filled with traditions passed down from generation to generation, enriched by a wide variety of people and culture. Happy Hollow Hootenanny, in its second year at the Snow Fork Event Center, will center and celebrate the arts and cultural traditions of our Central Appalachian Foothills, with a focus on Old-Time Music. Concerts featuring renowned Old-Time musicians, workshops, square dancing, traditional crafts, and more will be offered throughout the 4-day, all ages camp out.

Whether you’re an Old-Time music veteran, a casual fan or wondering “what is Old-Time music?”, Happy Hollow Hootenanny is a joyous, immersive educational experience that connects participants with the rich artistic traditions that have shaped our region for centuries.

Early Bird Registration begins next week, so keep an eye on your inbox and social media for details!