Michael Roemer, COT for Teens Teaching Artist
My name is Michael Roemer, and I’m new to Chicagoland and Chicago Opera Theater for Teens. My collaborator, Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino and I are leading a new branch of COT for Teens at the Eric Solorio Academy High School. The school is new and fresh, but as the semester has progressed, new artwork and student activity has embellished the halls. We take our activities to the choir room where we’re putting together Guys and Dolls. Both Dr. D’Agostino and I are thrilled to help the Solorio students explore acting and singing!
Each day before we start our sessions, we usually wait outside the band and choir rooms. The sounds heard are certainly not similar to my high school band experience where most students had been playing their instruments since grade 5. No, here, some of these students are encountering these instruments for the very first time. As we selected our teens for the program, we found they were also encountering opera and musical theater for the very first time. We’re fortunate to have the support from Solorio’s choral instructor, Andrew Sons, and band instructor, Madeline Molinedo. They have provided us with great insight in the recruitment and interview process.
It has been a challenge and pleasure to work with these students who are afraid to make noise at times, but that doesn’t mean they lack enthusiasm. We have a few stand-out stars who show considerable dedication, talent, and energy even after a full day of school. One of the teachers, Leah Velez, leads a ballroom dance club, and we’re excited to collaborate with her for our “Havana” scene. In addition, we’re bringing Whitney Hershberger for a stage combat session in a couple weeks.
Another highlight of our program was the field trip to the Eckhart Park Natatorium for a dress rehearsal of Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice. The students loved this trip, and only complained about not seeing the entire production! It was a great way to expose them to what opera can be in contrast to the stereotypes they may have floating around in their heads. One student commented on a particular scene being “so beautiful, I cried.” The students met with Jerry Tietz and Andreas Mitisek for an introduction and Q&A session after the dress rehearsal.
|Teens at the pool|
We’re excited to see how the students progress towards the end of the semester and performance, and we can’t wait to see them put on a show for the first time!