Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Opera for All at Armstrong Elementary School

Sara Litchfield - COT Teaching Artist

Teaching Artist, Justin Callis and myself have had the privilege of working with two exceptional classes (Ms. Kolb’s 4th grade class and Mrs. Dayer’s 3rd grade class) at George B. Armstrong International Studies Elementary School.  For having started almost a month later than the other schools participating in OFA, we have been able to cover quite a bit of material with them to lay the groundwork for the creation of our spring operas.  

For our Winter Showcase, the students began by teaching their parents one of our favorite theater games, Zip Zap Zop.  We then performed the following jazz songs for our audience of students and parents: I’ve Got Rhythm by Gershwin, Moon River by Henry Mancini, It Don’t Mean A Thing and Take the A Train, both written by Duke Ellington.   Each song was introduced by a pair of students who were also asked to include an interesting fact about the piece or composer that they had researched on their own.   Justin and I even learned a few things from these informative introductions, in particular that Duke Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.”  

In between songs, the students shared poems they had written in preparation for the songs we will be writing this semester.  We had poems ranging in topic from Duke Ellington, who was described as a “Swellington” to Justin Bieber, who tends to pop up a lot, much to my chagrin.  Justin Bieber aside, these students are always eager to participate, share and learn and very often approach Justin and I with really thoughtful questions or facts about jazz or opera that they have discovered on their own time. 

In one of our final classes, a young man asked me if he could use some free time to sketch set and costumes ideas in his opera journal and then explained how his mom recently bought him his very own opera journal so that he could start composing his own opera at home.  Talk about a, “cup runneth over” moment.  From the creativity and originality that I have already seen from these two classes, I could not be more excited to observe the opera creation that will unfold in the months ahead. 

Opera for All at Sabin

Michael Orlinsky - COT Teaching Artist             
               We have been having a wonderful time at Sabin this semester.  I started the semester in Mrs. Loerzel’s class assisting Bryna Berezowska.  The students were very energetic and excited.  We had been putting together some music to be performed with Chicago Opera Playhouse’s production of Hansel and Gretel and for our Winter Showcase.  There are many standouts in this class with good voices and an interest in performing.  Before I transferred to another class I had a conversation with one of the students about magic tricks.  He showed me some of the tricks that he could do, and I came back for the last class to show him some of the card tricks that I had learned when I was younger. 

                The field trip was a ton of fun as well!  We started the trip with a visit to the park, and we spent some time playing at the Lincoln Statue behind the museum while another school was finishing their introduction to the museum.  We received our introduction from the director of the tour.  I ended up leading the classes, and organizing the field trip so we could efficiently fulfill our goals for the day.  Much thanks to our parents and chaperones that lead some of the groups that day.  Once the day was organized we split up in to small groups and toured the museum.  We had lots of fun in the Jazz and Blues section, and especially so pretending to be a hot dog in the kids section of the museum.  We had also spent a good portion of time enjoying the train and the Chicago Fire exhibit.

                After the museum trip I moved over to Mr. Cerda’s class.  We started right in to our projects for the Winter Showcase.  There were a couple of different exercises we started for our Winter Showcase including the “Tableau”.  This was a series of physicalizations of a storyline in which we froze and formed a stage picture together of the moment.  We came up with a scenario together in which we fled the Chicago Fire.  We stopped for Chicago Dogs, but they were so hot we kept dropping them!  Then we all got on a boat and successfully fled from the Chicago Fire!  It was a very energetic portrayal of this story done at the Winter Showcase. 

                Following our tableau game we read the lyrics that we had come up with together that we will be using in our opera next semester.  Some of the students read the lyrics out loud for the showcase, and some of the kids even shared some of the character bios that they came up with for their roles in the opera.  After these exercises we sang through our Jazz song that we have been practicing in our classrooms “I Got Rhythm”.  In preparation for the holidays we had a sing-a-long of “Jingle Bells” as well.

                Our last class of the semester I came in and took over the classes for the students to do Evaluations.  We got through our evaluations, and moved on to some games.  I showed the kids some magic tricks and we played some games incorporating the cards.  We all seemed to be enjoying ourselves very much.  I’m very much looking forward to next semester when we start seriously delving in to the creation of this opera!