Thursday, June 19, 2014


Emma Bonanno, COT Teaching Artist Intern

It’s been a whirlwind semester with Opera for All! Over the past several months the students have been putting together all the pieces of their operas – the songs, the dances, the fight choreography, the props, the costumes, the staging – and finally we have arrived at performance time. During this week and next week, students at all six of our schools had or will have their final performances of Jazz on Fire, and boy, are they excited!

It’s always incredible to see how far these shows come and how fantastic the finished projects are. Many of the students begin our program never having sung, danced, or acted. Most of them have never seen an opera, and maybe don’t even know what an opera is. And here they are, a mere nine months later, performing in their very own opera that they have created! It is such a great feeling to see these students take charge of their work the day of the performance and really knock one out of the park.

The rehearsal process in the weeks approaching a performance is many times tedious and stressful, even for professional adult performers. There were times over the past few weeks when morale was low, students and teachers alike were worried and stressed, and it was hard to keep focused. However, when the students were finally able to get the show in front of an audience, everything came together!

For many of these kids, this was the first show they have ever been a part of - the first time they’ve ever felt the thrill of getting up in front an audience and putting on a performance that they, their teachers, their parents, and all of us here at COT can be proud of. These performances are the point at which they finally see how far they’ve come and take ownership of their work, just like true professionals.

Also like professionals, the students learn through their final performances that the show must go on. Everyone, even the most famous actors and singers, has made a mistake on stage at one point or another – and often these mistakes happen much more frequently than we imagine! None of the Jazz on Fire shows came out with every little tiny piece exactly as it was written on the page and rehearsed, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. And judging by the smiles, excitement, and laughter following the performances, I think the students would agree with me!


All Jazzed up from ‘Jazz on Fire’

Bryna Berezowska, COT Teaching Artist

We finished the epic year long endeavor to make learning and creating an opera super fun. This process give students the unique experience of not only performing a show, but actually creating every single little bit of it all by themselves! The students not only wrote their own awesomely detailed character bios, scripts, song lyrics, melodies, but they also designed their own props, sets, and learned some pretty tricky dance moves and cool slow motion fight choreography. The students put all the elements together for an excellent final performance! 

Dominic, a student at Courtenay, was just thrilled and shocked that his drawing made it onto the final T-shirt design. All he could say was ‘wow’! It is quite an honor to be chosen, because all the students at every school will be wearing the shirts for the final performance! All of the hard work and effort that each student puts into creating a show of this magnitude really pays off when they get on that stage and see it all come together. The teachers and audience get into the show, and you can see the confidence it gives the kids.   

The final performances were great successes at both Sabin and Courtenay! Both schools really pulled it together, sang beautifully, dances full out, acted amazingly, and really gave there all in the final show! It was an excellent year all around!
Final Performance at Courtenay

Final Performance at Sabin

Opera for All at Chase Elementary School

Jennifer D'Agostino, COT Teaching Artist  
 We have been having so much fun this semester during our second year of "Opera For All" at Chase Elementary! My team and I are working with the 5th and 6th grade classes of Ms. Quick, Ms. Martinez, and Mr. Borges. We are very excited to premier our performance of "OPERA ON FIRE" Tuesday, May 27th @ 2pm.
Since I usually lead the classes, it's often hard for me to step back and document all of the fun learning moments. Some really great guest visits gave me a chance to use my iPhone and take videos and pictures!
Combat Workshop, led by COT Marketing Manager Whitney Hershberger and her combat partner Mark Penzien, was a session that got our students REALLY excited! It was great to see the kids listening carefully, following directions, and executing real stage combat moves! My favorite part was when one student, Diego, had to pair up with his teacher Mr. Borges! After a well delivered fake punch to his teacher's gut, Diego exclaimed: "This is the best day of my life!" Enjoy a video and some pictures of the day's final product!

Every year, we are impressed with the skills of artist Sonja Henderson. This year was no exception! We are so excited to show off our well-painted Chicago Skyline backdrop, our detailed costumes, and especially our Takis!
Dance day is always received with enthusiasm! This year, choreographer Caryn Ott taught each class a unique dance that utilizes a jazz song. Thank goodness kids are awesome dancers... we only had TWO DAYS to put it all together!
A lot of people may wonder: "How do we compose these fantastic songs with our students?" It's a process that we have really grown to love! After the students write the lyrics our composer comes in to help them develop a melody. Our composer this semester was Justin Callis. You can read more about the experience from his perspective on his OFA blog post.
The Chase kids are so great. They are ready for their performance and we still have 3 weeks left! I have been overwhelmed by the positive support from the teachers, staff, and students, who all get to benefit from having "Opera For All."