Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting to the Young By Brian Dickie

Brian Dickie, General Director of Chicago Opera Theater

COT has an extensive program of activities with the Chicago Public Schools and the City's cultural department. I am a great believer in participation by the children - getting them to play, sing and dance, and to get involved in all aspects of production as far as it is practical. And there is no doubt that we have had some great success in this. And the spin off of higher grades in other studies, as well as improvement in discipline, is well documented not just hearsay. With the huge reduction of commitment to the arts in our educational establishments, the work that professional companies do in this area is indispensable.

I was down at the Hampton School on the South side of Chicago this morning - and first of all discovered that it is named for the great Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. And as you can see from the photo above its full name includes the words "Fine and Performing Arts School". In fact I am not sure that they able to concentrate extensively on the arts (resources just do allow that alas) - but their Principal Zaneta Abdul-Ahad is a most distinguished lady who gave an enthusiastic and extremely eloquent welcome to this morning's event. And it is clear that this week has been an important one in the life of these children.

Our work in this and a number of other schools this year is directed to preparing them for COT's production of The Magic Flute next September. We have a family of teaching fellows who work with the schools throughout the school year. Today's event was the culmination of a week of intensive exposure to Mozart.

And so the climax to the week was a visit to the school by the remarkable Classic Kids Live with their excellent show Mozart's Magnificent Voyage. This was one of their rare excursions into a school - and it was a huge hit in this gymnasium setting (below), a familiar place where the children could relax and enjoy the show without all the complications of an exhausting field trip. Their attentiveness and clear appreciation was testament to the work done by Mrs Abdul-Ahad and her team, as well as to the preparation by our Education Manager Linden Christ and the teaching fellows.

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