‘Pinstripe Harry’s Tea Room Cabaret’ Shines Spotlight on Islander Music Students

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Every spring and fall semester, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Department of Music offers an interdisciplinary Opera Workshop course to expose students of all backgrounds to a variety of musical styles, performances, and professional knowledge such as resume building. 

Students in the Opera Workshop put on a performance showcasing each of their talents every semester. This year’s fall performance is a brand-new piece of musical theater titled, “Pinstripe Harry’s Tea Room Cabaret,” written by Dr. Ellen Denham, professional assistant professor of music, Opera Workshop, and voice. Denham took great hits from 1920s composers like George Gershwin and Cole Porter and crafted them together to create a humorous tale with plenty of comic dialogue and captivating twists.

“It’s a lot of fun to combine the two things I love the most – writing and music,” shared Denham. “This year’s production exposes students to music that’s more contemporary and comic than previous semesters, which is important because our goal is to give students opportunities to perform pieces belonging to different time periods and styles.”

After meeting this semester’s crop of singers, Denham hand-picked the musical numbers to highlight each student’s talent. From solos to a big ensemble number, every student in the workshop is given valuable stage time to help them grow as professionals.

“We’re in the business of developing singers,” said Denham. “If students don’t get a good part, then they’re not getting trained properly.”  

One Islander student participating in the Opera Workshop is Theodore Woods IV, a sophomore music major and Houston native. This is his third semester studying in Denham’s course, and he will be starring as Pinstripe Harry during the performance.   

“Theodore’s strength is his willingness to do whatever you ask of him cheerfully,” said Denham. “His dedication to developing his beautiful voice and initiative in improving his character roles make him a great student to work with.”

Woods has studied music since the age of four when he started playing the piano. At the time, he had big dreams of becoming a concert pianist. After he joined the choir and began winning voice competitions, Woods realized he could take singing further than he imagined. The biggest turning point for Woods was in high school when he participated in a classical music festival hosted in Eisenstadt, Austria.

“Going to Eisenstadt was a big experience for me,” shared Woods. “That’s when I knew music is my calling.”

Not long after, Woods set his sights on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He was first accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston, but when he saw how much the Island University values its musicians, he decided to become an Islander.

“What I love most about our university are the personal relationships I’ve built with my professors,” said Woods. “I can walk into my voice teacher’s office at any time and talk to him to get help. Even outside of my music classes, I’m connected with professors from different fields.”

Woods has received many scholarships, including the Department of Music scholarship, the John Chapman Endowment Scholarship, and, notably, was the first recipient of the Corpus Christi Chorale Scholarship. While he has performed all over the world and studied at the Cornish-American Song Institute in England, his future goals are to open a performing arts school that offers low-cost education to inner-city kids in his hometown.

“People never expect a black man to become an opera singer,” said Woods. “I want to show kids that it’s okay to be a person of color who performs classical music and enjoys art or dance. I was lucky to have people in my life support my music education, which is why I want to lead the pathway for future musicians.”

To see Woods in action, check out the world premiere of “Pinstripe Harry’s Tea Room Cabaret” on Friday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for students and military with proper ID. Tickets are available at the door on the day of the performance.