Thursday, March 10, 2011

COT for Teens performs at the Gala

Chicago Opera Theater honored COT for Teens on Sunday, March 6th at their annual Gala at Carnivale. Over the last decade, Chicago Opera Theater has worked with hundreds of teenagers to provide an artistic outlet. The program originated through individual partnerships with two high schools, Curie on the south side and Schurz on the northwest side. Students from these two schools were integral to the creation and performance of COT’s annual Education and Outreach productions, notably Benjamin Britten’s Noah’s Flood in 2001.

The program codified six years ago when COT entered into a partnership with the City of Chicago’s After School Matters initiative, now drawing in students from CPS high schools all over the city. Each year, students from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods come together to study and create opera. For some, this marks the first experience with singing and opera as they attend schools with no music or art offerings. And for others, it is an extension on a young interest in singing. Regardless of background and experience, all of these students come to us with eagerness to explore a new art form and spread their wings. For three hours a day, three days a week, the COT for Teens students immerse themselves in what we love: opera.

The program culminates in the spring with their own production. This year COT For Teens will present a condensed version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, an excerpt from which you will hear shortly. This program instills artistry and appreciation in not only tomorrow’s opera-goers, but tomorrow’s opera stars, as well. 10 of the 30 COT for Teens students were featured at the Gala under the direction of Christopher Richard and Marta Johnson.

The transition that each student goes through from the beginning of the program- where some are completely unfamiliar with opera and singing- to performing in a production that would make even the toughest critic get on their feet, is astounding. And interpersonally, the students grow, too. Our students gain confidence in themselves and take great pride in being part of such a special team. The typical after school ritual of TV is replaced with this incredible creative outlet that is inspirational.

Every year a handful of our students decide to pursue careers in music. Our alumni have gone on to schools such as the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, DePaul University and even Eastman School of Music in New York. And regardless if they pursue music as a career, each of these amazing students come out of our program with greater self-respect and confidence--qualities that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

One of the high school performers texted this message that night to director, Chris Richard. "Thank you so much for tonight!!!! It was truly an inspiration and a reminder as to why I want to be a musician! This is a night I will never forget and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity! Tonight truly was the greatest experience I've ever had!"

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