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West brings opera rehearsal to Cody High School

in arts and culture
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Music students at Cody High School got a glimpse into the world of professional music in November when Kanye West brought the cast of his new opera to Cody for rehearsal.

West’s opera, “Nebuchadnezzar,” was performed Nov. 24 at the Hollywood Bowl after rehearsals by dancers and musicians at Cody High School on Nov. 21.

“They had about 50-plus dancers in there, plus over 100 in the choir and then they had the soloists,” said Wade French, Cody High School’s band teacher. “They were just writing the opera as they were performing it, as they were rehearsing it.”

West, who this year bought a ranch near Cody and has moved the headquarters for his clothing and shoe business to the city, contacted the high school when he needed rehearsal space, French said.

One of French’s students who got the chance to play saxophone with West’s group said the experience has convinced her to pursue music in her future.

“They know what it’s all about,” said senior Kate Beardall. “They know what the music industry is about. And they really just opened my eyes to what I want to do.”

The opera, according to a news release, tells the story of an ancient Babylonian king and his “transition from wicked, imperious, self-declared ruler to a true believer who finds salvation in his faith.”

French said the experience of watching professional musicians practice and put their own spin on the material was interesting.

“It was the music that was very impressive,” he said. “We got to see that first-hand. We got to see those artists and those musicians creating it and really just tweaking it. Making it their own.”

Powell man part of team to row across Atlantic

in Recreation/Community
FightOrDieTeam
The members of Carl Christensen’s “Fight OAR Die” team, from left to right: John Fannin of San Antonio, Texas, Luke Holton of Juneau, Alaska, Christensen of Powell and Evan Stratton of Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fight OAR Die.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s the slogan for a group of military veterans who next week will begin a weeks-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean… in a rowboat.

Powell resident Carl Christensen is part of a four-man team of former military servicemen who will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands next month in their “Woobie” to raise awareness and support for the mental and physical health of U.S. veterans. 

The team will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. It’s a symbol of the hardships faced by veterans, and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.

Christensen is a 2001 Cody High School graduate who attended the Naval Academy, then served as a submarine officer and an instructor until his service was over in 2014. He said he watched last year’s team, which boasted members from both Powell and Cody, and was inspired to join the movement to support fellow veterans in their struggles with both mental and physical health post-service. 

But the task he’s facing is no small feat, either.

“Last year’s team did it in 54 days. 40 days is the average, the world record is 33 days,” he said. “We do have 60 days’ worth of food on board.”

Fight OAR Die map
This is a map of the path to be followed by Powell resident Carl Christensen and the other three members of his “Fight OAR Die” challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Christensen’s team represents more than just the Navy, however. Two Marines will be in his boat – one from San Antonio, Texas, and one from Denver, Colorado – and an Army veteran from Juneau, Alaska will round out the crew. It’s the first time for each of them. 

“The goal is to put four new veterans on the team each year,” he said. “We’re showing other veterans that they can row their own ocean, overcome their challenges.” 

He said the Fight OAR Die team has one mission – they want veterans to stop taking their own lives, and start living them instead.

Training is a must for a physical feat such as this. Christensen said he’s been staying in shape as a member of the Park County Search and Rescue volunteer crew. In addition, his wife, who is a personal trainer, purchased a rowing machine to help him train specifically for this journey.

In August, Christensen said the team did a month of training on an actual rowboat in Mobile, Alabama. There, the city’s mayor presented team members with a key to the city for their efforts in raising awareness of post-traumatic stress and post-combat hardship, as well as raising funds for treatment and research.

Part of the team’s mission is to raise support for other organizations that assist veterans, according to Christensen. The Sturm Center at the University of Denver and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Aurora, Colorado, are both working on ways to help veterans adapt and heal after their combat missions. 

“We are actually research subjects,” Christensen said. “They’ll follow us for a year.” 

In fact, he says the Sturm Center is now offering students the opportunity to follow a new specialized path – professional military psychologist – specifically to help veterans. 

Christensen pointed out that people who want to support their team’s mission financially can donate to the Sturm Center and the Marcus Institute to further their efforts.

Of the upcoming challenge, Christensen said it’s important to him to continue to serve his brothers and sisters in arms. With 60,000 veterans dying by suicide over the last decade, he said he is proud to be a part of a group that is working to raise awareness – and funds – to help support those who can perhaps end that trend.

“We’re trying to turn the tide,” he said.

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