Friday, June 19, 2015

My Favorite Thing about Opera for All

Erin Moll, Opera for All Assistant Teaching Artist 

My favorite thing about the OFA program was watching how much the kids improved over the course of the last several months.  The students’ boost in confidence, and the way they worked together as a team and helped each other to make the shows the best they could be – these all made a huge impression on me.  One of the girls who had a big part got sick the week of the show and another classmate stepped in memorized at the last minute – talk about team work!  Each of my students showed an incredible amount of responsibility and really stepped up to accomplish something they had never done before.  The end result was something phenomenal and left each kid beaming from ear to ear!  I’m so proud of my students!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Matt's Last Look at Field and Armstrong

Matt McNabb, Opera for All Assistant Teaching Artist

It's hard to put into words the feelings that move through you when you see the culmination of a year of work with very talented students! But I shall try....pride, joy, elation, worry (that everyone would remember their lines), relief, happiness and hope were all things running through my mind during the final performances at Field and Armstrong schools. 

To be able to share my passion for the performing arts with kids who need this exposure is such a rewarding experience. So much credit must be given to the Chicago Opera Theater teaching artists team and the partner classroom teachers. If you think of the logistics of getting masses of elementary school kids to find an interest in opera, compose a song, learn a dance, write a script, memorize it, and then create a polished performance, you might say, "That's Impossible!" But, I can proudly say that we have all pulled off the impossible, and I couldn't be more pleased! 

I have to say that my favorite part of the year was when Nathan, a 1st grader from Mrs. Kelly's class, ran up to me and told me he composed a song for me! He then proceeded to sing it. It was only about 10 seconds long, but the passion and effort he put into it made my day! I knew then that I had found a new home in arts education with Opera for All! Thanks Nathan! 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Great Work Chase Elementary!!!

Sara Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist

This past year with OFA, I was lucky enough to spend with the talented students of Chase Elementary. I worked with two 4th grade & two 5th grade classes every week & watched each class create their own unique dinosaur themed opera that could not have been more different from one another's.  We had everything from rival carnivore & herbivore lollipop vendors, dinosaurs battling with halitosis to a prehistoric game of Rock, Paper, Scissors that resulted in a meteor shower!  Some of our songs were happy & thanked the characters in our story who emerged as the heroes while other classes wrote anxiety driven melodies that dealt with taking wounded dinosaurs to the hospital or running from an exploding volcano.  We even included some rapping as well as an MC Hammer inspired dance break!  Throughout the creation process, our students were allowed to express themselves in different ways than they are not often allowed within a school setting & through each of the different art forms that exist within an opera (music, drama, dance, creative writing & visual arts).  Our partner teachers were so cooperative and encouraging from the beginning.  A few of them even stayed late the evening before our performance to decorate the entire gym in our dinosaur motif!  Though I try not to pick favorites, there was one 5th grade student with autism that stole my heart & was always so excited to participate in opera class.  He not only volunteered to be the first speaker during our winter assembly but also played one of the leads in his classes' performance.  He served as a perfect representation of the enthusiasm that I continually see when children are exposed to opera. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Fantastic Year at Armstrong Elementary School!

Jennifer D'Agostino, Opera for All Teaching Artist

What a great year in the CPS schools with OFA. Our students were very enthusiastic about all aspects of building and presenting an opera. It is so overwhelming, and sometimes emotional, when you walk in to a school and are greeted with an abundance of energy, hugs, and questions about today’s class in Opera. I am constantly surprised by my students’ reactions on participating in an art form that they initially think is so foreign. As we continue our plans, they start to realize how accessible it is to write, read, and act. There is always a time when what they do on stage becomes second nature, and it’s really exciting to see the evolution throughout the 20 or 35 weeks. I have been especially impressed with the 1st graders at Armstrong. Not only are they adorable, but, their enthusiasm was by far, the best I have ever seen working for Opera For All. Students who barely spoke at the beginning of the year were shouting the Dinosaur song at the top of their lungs at their performance. They all had that glimmer of mischief when they acted out their plots and sang the silly and fun songs they created with composer, Adam Busch. It’s great to work with a grade where the students aren’t yet feeling self-conscious because they will really do about anything. I will definitely miss those little tikes, and judging by the answers on their post test, I know that they will always have a special place for Opera.