Friday, June 7, 2013

Chase and Reilly Elementary's Final Performance

Jennifer D'Agostino - COT Teaching Artist

This Monday we had our shows at both Chase and Reilly Elementary.

For me this day has been coming for a long time because I knew I'd had to wake up before 7am. (I'm just not a morning person) 

I arrived at Chase at 7:30 to find a couple little bumps in the perfectly created road Linden and I had left after the dress rehearsal: The tape had all been removed from the stage and we were missing a microphone! Thank goodness, we were reassured by the amazing support team we have at Chase. Our principals, partner teachers, and staff immediately took action! Our items were found and Linden re-taped the stage before the students even arrived.

At Chase, we are truly lucky to have our partner teachers and fantastic principals. (And, may I add, this is their first year!) Aside from all of the usual amazing work they do, for the show Mr. Dzija painted his head green, Ms. Mehlberg tie-dyed EVERYONE'S t-shirt for the show, and Ms. Martinez created a Robot costume out of a box! It was unbelievable! Some other awesome things we saw that were teacher inspired: Ms. Martinez's class put green tape all over their shoes, students reflected their character in their costumes, and the students worked with the art teacher to create a fantastic backdrop.

As the students came in to the gym to get ready for the show, the excitement was through the roof. We had two students who were our stage managers that immediately began running around and preparing. Giggly, wiggly girls exclaimed "Ah! I'm so nervous!" As everyone got to their places- they looked great. With blue, purple and green tie-dyed t-shirts and sparkly eye headbands on, the students were ready to start Blasting Off! 

Linden and Jennifer direct Chase Elementary School in "Blasting Off!"
During our first show had a few hiccups, but with Linden and I reminding students of lines, pointing to the next person with a line, conducting, and mirroring the dance movements we got through without any large road-blocks. In fact, the kids were so motivated that they had EVEN MORE energy for the "Blasting Off" song opener of the second show. Some of my favorite parts of the show were the times where the audience's response shocked our students on stage. Parents and audience members clapped during the songs, they yelled shouts of encouragement, laughed at funny parts, and my all time favorite was part was when the ENTIRE AUDIENCE randomly shouted who they thought should be the winner of the dance competition! It was at that moment that the kids really realized that they had communicated to and inspired their audience. Yay! Success!

The second performance was even better than the first. It's like the kids were sad to see the show end and gave it their best efforts. I am so happy with the outcome of our shows at Chase and I can't wait to hear their feedback Monday! 

Chase students with Ms. Martinez as MARTI, the robot

After the show at Chase ended, Justin Callis (pianist/teaching artist/composer extraordinaire) and I booked it over to Reilly to prep for their show. It was so good to see Miss Mandy Compton back from Africa, the kids really missed her. As Mandy and I began to set up the stage, I was reminded at how hard our kids worked on their props and how lucky we are to have Sonja Henderson as our artist and Mr. Pineda, the art teacher at Reilly. Our props were OUT OF THIS WORLD, I think my favorite was the fuzzy pizza!

As they arrived, our students were jumping out of their seats with excitement. We were able to have some time to run the 2nd grader's songs with Justin, and with our fantastic photographer Morrie's encouragement, their voices soared through the auditorium.

By the time we began the show, I had completely forgot that we'd have violinists as our "overture." Their portion was ADORABLE! I especially loved their focus while they were playing and how they each stood in their place aware of their window in order to be seen. I can't wait to utilize that idea with younger students in the future, they were so young and yet so disciplined. It was very impressive! 

Reilly had SO MUCH enthusiasm during "Blasting Off." They love the music they wrote, but they especially love to sing "Blasting Off." We are lucky to have students who are complete diva/divo's! I couldn't keep my eyes off them. There is a part in "Blasting Off" when I have the students go down to their knees and pretend they are American Idol contestants singing a super dramatic ballad. I think they'd give American Idol a run for their money! It was great to be able to showcase their talents with "Space Adventure!" 

Some of my favorite parts of the opera at Reilly include having a student, Pablo, do a front flip last minute during the final dance, the costumes like Scruffy's full dog suit, Hogancan's space mask and long fingernails and Mom and Dad in full parental regalia. I loved seeing how happy Ms. Alvarado's class was during "Qua lo Qui," the excitement and responsibility Ms. P's class had over their props and of course... the dances! Reilly's got moves! 

Reilly students dance to "Space Jam"
Reilly Elementary overcame and surpassed our expectations to help their ESL (English Second Language), Spanish speaking second graders, be a part of our Opera For All program.  At times, it is hard to get second graders to pay attention, let alone in a language they are unfamiliar with, but with a lot of hard work on the students' part we were able to perform in only English!  Luckily, the arts are a great addition to learning a new language and what better art than OPERA?! We loaded them up with props, really energetic dances, tons of dialogue and opportunities, and super fun melodies to their songs.  At the end of the show, we got to tell the kids they could keep the props they used. It was as if we had told them they had won the lottery! 

I received many compliments on how clear the Spanish speaking class spoke during their dialogue. Before the show began, one student who had very little experience using English at the beginning of the year, yelled out to me with enthusiasm "I love your shirt! It's beautiful!" I was wearing my Tie-Dyed t-shirt from Chase and I was floored at her statement. She is usually so shy and I have made a point to talk to her in the past with no response! I almost cried. I could have left the school at that moment and been happy. I don't know whether it was her excitement from the day's festivities, or the bright colors on my shirt but all I know is that it was a shining moment for me that I won't soon forget. 

Reilly's leads wave Opera for All goodbye for the year!

As we go in to our final week with Chase and Reilly, I am sad to leave these blossoming little opera performers, but happy with all the amazing things we've all learned since I started in January. I can't wait to see the students in the halls next year, or sometime down the road. I know that their involvement with this program has inspired them. We had so many circumstances where a student came full circle within the Opera for All program. Students who refused to sing ended up being our loudest singers, or led major line cues. Students who didn't want to participate ended up being the best dancers in the class. So many students really showcased their talents by drawing pictures, dancing their hearts out, leading our songs and helping with transitions. It has been an amazing experience that I leave feeling completely inspired and ready for next year. Is it August yet?!