Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COT for Teens at Solorio Academy High School

Michael Roemer, COT for Teens Teaching Artist

Early in the month of April, the Chicago Opera Theater for Teens at Solorio gave their final performance. It was such a joy and thrill to see the students up on the stage as they saw the ten-week program through the end. Some were introduced to opera for the very first time! They performed “Modern Major General” from Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, “Prologue” from Sweeney Todd by Sondheim, “Va pensiero” from Nabucco by Verdi, “You can't stop the beat” from Hairspray by Marc Shaiman, and “We're all in this together” from High School Musical. We had one senior, Valeria Lopez, who sang “Nel cor piu non mi sento” by Giovanni Paisiello.

This is my second semester working with students at Solorio, and I'm always surprised to see which students step out of their comfort zone and accept the challenges during the program. The final performance marks an important benchmark for all of the teens. They were onstage in front of their parents and in front of their peers, which can be some of the most nerve-racking moments in life. No matter what happened on the stage, mistakes and all, they kept going. They saw it through, and the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes after is quite an amazing thing to see.

The final performance shows only a portion of what goes on during our program. We were very blessed to have many talented professionals come to talk or teach our students about different professional areas surrounding the arts. Performers from the Queenie Pie cast came in to talk with our teens, and they learned about how much energy it takes to be a performer. It was an inspiring moment to see Lil Daddy, Jeffrey Polk, showing the kids a more energized version of “You can't stop the beat” including added cartwheels. Several Chicago Opera Theater staff members came, including Jessica Weber, who spoke to them about building resumes and college preparation. Terry Harper and Jane Hulburt came and talked about their experience in the arts field. Terry awed them with stories from his life and Jane provided a nice perspective on the importance of communication, networking, and opportunities including internships. Earlier in the semester, we brought in Enanna Sheena, a student at Northwestern University pursuing a degree in speech and language pathology. They were amazed to see how the voice works from a medical standpoint.

All of these opportunities, guests, and experiences give the teens important exposure to a large world of possibility. We gave them an opportunity to act on the stage as a different person or learn what it takes to be a different person. Every semester is a challenge and a success story about how the students learn to be punctual, responsible, and energetic as they reach for their goals. Music and opera is a powerful tool that continues to inspire and challenge a future generation. I cannot wait for another semester to see new and returning students and present them with more opportunities and challenges. We return to Solorio with a summer program of Chicago Opera Theater for Teens, presenting The Music Man.

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