In the fall of 2000, Valerie Pineda and her long time voice teacher, Sonia Lewis, decided Central New Jersey deserved a venue for local opera. Their goal was to create a company that would appeal to seasoned opera goers while also cultivating new audiences.
What started out as a simple concert performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro soon blossomed into a staged concert with full orchestra, conductor, chorus, costumes and a star narrator, legendary stage and movie actress, Celeste Holm.
In a nod to these “humble” beginnings, Valerie dubbed her new endeavor Little Opera Company of New Jersey. Within a few years, LOC was presenting fully-staged productions of standard repertory works with full orchestra employing a mix of professional opera singers and local talent. more >
What’s In a Name?
By 2008, LOC's husband and wife producing team, Juan and Valerie Pineda along with siblings Fausto and Patricia, wanted to expand on the opera company’s original mission. Having already worked locally as a producing/directing team, the quartet decided to develop their own unique program for outstanding middle and high school students that would complement the opera company; thus, Pineda Conservatory of the Performing Arts was formed. The 501(c)(3) non-profit entity would now serve as an umbrella organization encompassing a range of music and theatre programs and performance opportunities including the newly christened Pineda Lyric Opera Company (formerly Little Opera Company of NJ).
In the spring of 2008, Pineda Lyric presented its first all-student opera, The Pirates of Penzance. These all-student productions presented by our Young Artists are now a much-anticipated part of Pineda Lyric's regular season.
In June of 2008, Pineda Conservatory launched its Summer Conservatory Program, a five-week intensive musical theatre immersion program. On top of a rigorous schedule of classes, in just three short weeks conservatory students learn a show from script and score to full production and performance. That first summer, the conservatory hosted sold-out productions of the epic Les Miserable and Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic, Cinderella.
The inaugural summer boasted an enrollment of over 70 students and distributed over $14,000 in talent and need-based scholarships. Instructors come from all levels of professional experience (Broadway, national tours, regional theatre, opera and conservatory graduates).
In the fall of 2008, Pineda Lyric premiered its first professional production, The Merry Widow.
The 2010-11 season marked the opera company’s tenth anniversary. With a gala champagne reception at the historic James Ward Mansion in Westfield, NJ, friends and supporters of Pineda Conservatory welcomed the company into its second decade.
2012 is the Summer Conservatory’s fifth season at Cranford Dramatic Club with an enrollment of over 100 students with a waiting list for all its programs. In four short years, the summer professional faculty has doubled in size to keep up with an overwhelming enrollment demand.
2014's Summer Center Stage production of RENT is one of the very first high school productions in the country to present the unedited adult version of the show. Students raise over $2200 for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS by collecting donations at each show and through a silent auction of Broadway themed items.
Beginning Fall 2016, Pineda Conservatory will open its first satellite location in Richmond, VA. Pineda Conservatory Richmond will offer a range of theatre classes as well as private voice lessons for all ages and experience levels taught by professional staff with conservatory training and Broadway experience. Click here to learn more about Pineda Conservatory's programs.
▲ 2010 Gala Silent Auction and Gala performance at James Ward Mansion
October - First LOC Production, The Marriage of Figaro, a staged concert
May - LOC presents its first fully staged production, L'Elisir d'Amore, which tours to local theatres
February - LOC hosts its first annual Vocal Excellence Awards, a vocal competition for students and professional singers
February - LOC presents its first and only all student opera, Hansel & Gretel
May - Pineda Conservatory of the Arts is formed & its first all student opera, The Pirates of Penzance, produced
June - Pineda Conservatory launches its Summer Conservatory
November - Pineda Lyric Opera (formerly Little Opera Company) produces its first professional opera, The Merry Widow
June - The Summer Conservatory adds Starlight Theatre, an elementary school program to its summer roster of programs.
November - Pineda Lyric celebrates its 10th Anniversary Season with a Gala fundraiser at the James Ward Mansion
July - The Great Pineda Chill-Out raises over $16,000 to install central air for the CDC Theatre and the Pineda Summer Conservatory
September - Pineda Conservatory Richmond begins offering classes and lessons in the Richmond, VA area.
◄ Co-founder Sonia Lewis, conductor Robert Butts & guest narrator Celeste Holm
The Little Company That Could
Pineda Conservatory of the Performing Arts a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization