Every Step Counts – Walk for Kids in Congo

Reply with Music 5k Walk Team Memebers Kai Gibson, Nick Kochmann, Alistair Dobson, Leo LaPlaca and Niccolo Bechtler at the amphitheater of Pettronello Gardens, NJ

OPERAnauts’ Reply with Music 5k Walk Set-up Team Members Kai Gibson, Nick Kochmann, Alistair Dobson, Leo LaPlaca and Niccolo Bechtler at the amphitheater of Pettoranello Gardens, NJ




Every Step Counts – Walk for Kids in Congo at the Princeton “Reply With Music” Annual 5k Walk


PRINCETON, NJ – A local music NGO will host community residents and high school students in their first annual “Reply with Music” 5K Walk for children in Congo at 9 AM on Sunday, September 25th.


The “Reply with Music” 5K Walk is open to the public and welcomes on-line registrants at https://operanauts5kwalk.eventbrite.com. There is also registration on the day-of the “Reply with Music“ 5k Walk.


“From my experience teaching singers all these years, our ‘Reply with Music’ 5k Walk touches the CORE of what I believe — that we can inspire and engage children with opera music!” says Joy Bechtler, founder of OPERAnauts Inc.


OPERAnauts is a team of performing artists, artisans, and creative artists – including opera singers, musicians, dancers, photographers, videographers, journalists, and designers — who envision a world where the transformative power of opera helps both individuals and societies recover from violence and poverty.


There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Kinshasa, the capital city-province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has been estimated that one in ten child soldiers – or 30,000 children – are found.


Studies show that traumatic life experiences like the ones currently experienced by children in Congo cause them to lose the ability to understand and share the feelings of one another. OPERAnauts aim to give opportunity and restore empathy to these children through music.


100% of donations go to OPERAnauts’ music program to help children in Congo. For more about OPERAnauts’ activities, visit their website at http://operanauts.org.


OPERAnauts, Inc. is a non-profit corporation based in the U.S., with a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status and registered in New Jersey operating exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. Contributions to OPERAnauts, Inc. are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.



Invitation to Reply with Music 5K Walk

Invitation to Reply with Music 5K Walk


Every Step Counts. Walk for Kids in Congo!

REGISTER NOW event page:   https://operanauts5kwalk.eventbrite.com

September 25 – 9 AM – Princeton, NJ

100% of donations to the Reply with Music 5K Walk goes to music programs for children!
Join us in Princeton, New Jersey on Sunday, September 25th to join with University and high school students to walk for children in Congo.
The local event will take place in Princeton, beginning on the corner of Walnut Lane and Franklin Ave. and going to Community Park North, before heading back to Walnut Lane. The halfway point is at the amphitheatre in Community Park North, where a classical musician will play to an audience of participants who can pause, rest, and listen while enjoying complementary refreshments from the water station before continuing back to the start/finish point. Whether you are eight or eighty-eight, you can enjoy a scenic walk through one of America’s greatest college towns for an exciting cause!

PIPs for Volunteers


PIPs are Positive Impact Points – Rewards you earn when you do good things. 3P Partners, home to PIPs Rewards is a Certified B Corporation, a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

OPERAnauts’ Volunteers are VIPs (very important persons)! Volunteers play a crucial role in cultivating community relationships and partners to establish sustainability.

OPERAnauts gifts PIPs to VIPs to reward them, thank them, and amplify their good work!

OPERAnauts and PIPs Rewards volunteer program was recently featured on the PIPs Rewards blog.


Do you want to join to become one of OPERAnauts 50 VIPs – who assist with music events, programs and publicity?

1) Contact us by email and let us know that you want to help, and how many hours you would like to give.
2) We’ll gladly give you our link to the volunteer hours tracking platform we use (and, if you like, help set up your account!)
4) Then, enroll with PIPs Rewards to receive PIPs Rewards for your volunteer hours. (Takes 5 seconds!)
5) And, we’ll schedule a short orientation for you with the VIPs coordinator, and get you going and giving!

Congo Jazz Co-Jazz in Kinshasa

Congo Jazz Co-Jazz in Kinshasa

(Kinshasa, January 15th) On MLK’s birthday we presented the debut jazz concert of violinist HERITIER MAYIMBI and his group CoJazz. The concert successfully demonstrated the collaborative and community-building process that has become OPERAnauts’ hallmark. Having discovered this lively 180-seat theatre during our recent feasibility assessment trip to Kinshasa (August, 2015), it became the perfect place to introduce this exciting new art music form to a Congolese audience. (photo below courtesy of CoJazz)

Musicians of Cojazz

We are especially proud of Héritier who has been participating in our 2015 Opera Fellowship program. He is a disciplined musical artist, the concertmaster for the OSK, and teaches music theory at the Institut Nationale des Artes (INA) in Kinshasa. Here are a few comments from the international, intergenerational audience we had hoped to engage:

“OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD! The music was amazing! The theater was packed and rocked right along with the musicians! Oh, you would have loved it! Armand played guitar with them!!”

“I was at the concert of Congo Jazz on Friday. The concert was fantastic!”

“It was fantastic! A real meal of oohs and aahs! Our [Congolese] friend said it was a total distraction from the problems and challenges that pile up. We all completely enjoyed it. Thank-you for this wonderful opportunity! Please let us know if you do it again.”

“Exceptional Congo jazz by CO-JAZZ! We enjoyed it with dear friends tonight. I love Congo jazz! So proud right now to belong to Congo!”


OSK Choir Sings Carnegie Hall

OSK Choir Sings Carnegie Hall

(New York, December 1st) We celebrated the work of philanthropist & rock singer BONO and his ONE Foundation, along with the beautiful 20-voice choir from the OSK (l’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste) at CARNEGIE HALL in New York City. The choir was invited to sing backup for pop musicians you may know – Bono, of course, the Edge, Hozier, Miley Cyrus, Jessie J., their bands and accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Dressed in stunning gold Congo-print gowns and matched tailored shirts, the choir, lead by Maestro Armand, opened the event with an a cappella Congolese sacred song. It was amazing! (photo below courtesy of Charles Chauvel)

OSK Choir at Carnegie CharlesChauvel 2

We are especially proud of MIREILLE KINKINA, who is a participant in our 2015 Opera Fellowship program. Mireille was responsible for preparing the choir; she coached them on style and singing in English (OPERAnauts provided for her English class in Kinshasa), all within only a few days’ notice!

Video – A Postcard from Congo

Video – A Postcard from Congo

A few months ago, as part of an OPERAnauts’ feasibility trip, we visited Kinshasa. OPERAnauts in collaboration with l’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste aims to stage a Classical Music & Opera concert (possibly the first in an ongoing series) in The Democratic Republic of Congo.

We met potential producers, partners, and sponsors. Hands down and a consistently warm-hearted, stylish, and wonderful people who graciously await our return. With fundraising, sponsorship, and development underway – Joy thought she would share this slideshow of a few highlights of our trip.

The team Getting on the plane

It’s a weekday morning in Congo’s capital city

It’s a weekday morning in Congo’s capital city

Photo credit: Laurence Paverd

It’s a weekday morning in Congo’s capital city of Kinshasa, and the humid air is thick with the sound of voices. Children weave in and out of stands selling bananas and oranges, melons and decorative beads, making their way to the dirt road leading to school. The walk is a long one, but their troubles have only just begun.

When they arrive, the rumors they heard are confirmed: the teachers have finally gone on strike since the government refuses to offer them even a meager salary. Deflated, the students begin the trek home once more. Without an education, where will they go? Who can look after them during the busy work day? It certainly won’t be the government. There are no role models to speak of in that area. They have nothing to do, no books to read, no web to surf, not even electricity to power their homes. Without their teachers, the children are lost. The town is still bustling when they return home.

Here’s where OPERAnauts comes in, bearing music and hope for better days. By providing music scores and mentorships for singers and musicians, they bond together while sharing the restorative power of music, proven time and time again to be the fastest boost to existing empathy skills, and strongest aid to those who lack them. As the students grow in their musical studies, they grow as people too; people with direction and resilience, people with the strength and determination that only mastering a difficult skill like musicianship can bring.

Change is wrought by those who feel they have the power to bring it, and for the suffering children of Kinshasa, power is in short supply. But, with OPERAnauts’ help, someday soon the road to school will no longer be paved with disappointment. It will radiate with hope in the brilliant morning sun.

by Niccolo Bechtler

Opera Strip for La Petite Carmen

Opera Strip for La Petite Carmen

Welcome to the first draft of our opera comic strip for La Petite Carmen! Using a sequence of pictures, the opera strip is meant to give highlights of the story. The speech bubbles are actually an English translation of key words from the French opera arias and duets sung by the characters.  The characters’ names are, (in the order that they appear,) Escamillo and Micaela, then Carmen and José. So far, we have 10 panels forming the narrative, and we plan to add more.

The narration was written by Emily Lidstone and is written from Carmen’s point of view. Nishant Mudgal is the illustrator; he is very talented and can draw in many different styles.  In order to match the opera strip to future opera performances, Nishant used the costume design drawings for detail and the performers’ photos. Find out more about these and other creative artists in Our Community.