Monday, February 29, 2016

Music Inspires at Healy Elementary!

Linden Christ, Director of Education and Outreach

Healy Elementary School had an exciting week of music called Music Inspires!   This week long program is provided by Classical Kids Music Education, Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Opera Theater.  Each year we bring Music Inspires to two of our Opera for All schools. One Monday, the students attend an assembly with two professional actors, a string quartet, and your’s truly!   This week focused on CKME’s production of Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.   Our task is to help the students relate to Vivaldi and his beautiful music.  Vivaldi was the „Rock Star“ of his day, composing over 600 pieces of music.   We connected Vivaldi’s fame with today’s hit, Hello by Adele.   The string quartet played the music and I sang this song and encouraged the students to sing along with me.   There was an abundance of giggling and then all the students joined in singing „Hello“! On Tuesday, Daniel Grambow, our COT Education Assistant and I visited with all five of the Healy 4th grade classrooms and presented them with a lesson plan focused on their three ‚V‘ vocabulary words, Violins, Venice, & Vivaldi.  We shared a violin that they could touch and pass around, as well as Venetian masks and played excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the A Minor Violin Concerto.

One of our teaching artists, Sara Litchfield commented, “ I was really blown away with some of the students reactions to Vivaldi's Four Seasons. One very quiet, thoughtful student named Kenny thought the movement must be about spring because it sounded like the music was growing like plants and flowers to in the spring. Surprisingly, he was not the only one with this response!

On Friday, the students returned to the auditorium to see the full performance of Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra and the professional actors from Classical Kids Music Education.   The students were mesmerized by this event.

One student asked if he could be a donor and donate $50 from his allowance so that other students could experience this program!   

Friday, February 19, 2016

Choreography Days Wrap Up!

Erin Moll, Opera for All Teaching Artist

The last two weeks at Opera For All have been chock full of booty shaking and move making! One of the really phenomenal aspects of the Opera For All program is that students get the opportunity to learn from working professionals in creative fields. Our students have already had the opportunity to work with real live composers, and now for our dance days, students have the opportunity to work with a professional choreographer! It’s so important for them to see that these are jobs that they can someday pursue if they are interested!

(Guest Artist Caryn Ott Hillman with 6th grade students from Disney II Elementary)

During our choreography days, each class had the opportunity to work with guest choreographer, Caryn Ott Hillman, for two full sessions in order to learn the dance for their show. There are six different dance tracks to choose from which were carefully selected to fit the demands of each class’s scripts. Each dance is very unique – my favorite probably being the dance to “Eye of the Tiger” which features boxing moves as well as a bit of hip hop! That song is a perfect fit for McAuliffe 6th grade’s production of “Lincoln v Booth” which features a boxing match between those two historical characters!

(Fourth Grade Students from Disney II Elementary learn to slide like rock stars during their dance “Don’t Stop Believin’”)

One of the best aspects of our dance days is the opportunity for different students to shine. Our students have a variety of talents, and it’s extremely rewarding to see a student who was too shy to participate before really start to move and shake during our choreography sessions! It’s amazing to watch their confidence grow!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gianni Schicchi!

Sara Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the final dress rehearsal for COT's production of Gianni Schicchi, half of the double bill with Poulenc's La Voix Humaine currently playing at the Harris Theater. While Puccini is known for his dramatic operas, I find this piece to be one of my favorite operatic comedies.

Of course many associate this piece with the show stopping aria, “O mio babbino caro,” and the title character has some show stopping music as well, but the true star of this opera is the ensemble that makes up the colorful cast of characters in the Donati family. These greedy relatives of the wealthy and almost deceased Buoso Donati, plot with the cunning and opportunistic Gianni Schicchi to change Buoso's will after they learn that he has left everything to the friars. But in the end, Gianni Schicchi, disguised as Buoso, leaves the best of Buoso's will to himself! Having sung the role of Ciesca before, I know how deceptively challenging the ensemble numbers are in this show and I was really impressed with how the cast moved and sang as a hysterically funny unit while still retaining individual personalities.

Artistic director, Andreas Mitisek, chose to set the opera in a very groovy late 1960s Florence complete with funky furniture and go go boots and Gianni Schicchi was costumed to look like Austin Powers. The backdrop mirrored the constant motion on stage and shifted between a few bright, iconic 1970s patterns. Did I mention the backdrop was bright because it was VERY bright. At times I almost needed a pair of vintage 60's shades! All in all, I really enjoyed the production. Michael Chioldi's portrayal of Schicchi was boisterous yet clever, Emily Birsan sang a gorgeous Lauretta and on multiple occasions, I was laughing out loud. And not only this but it's paired with Patricia Racette's La Voix Humaine? I mean, it's a no brainer. Go see it! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Heather Keith, Opera for All Teaching Artist

Opera for all is back in the swing of things!  The last three weeks we have been editing our script and reviewing our song. I am so impressed with how much the students remembered over break! I also have been noticing a renewed sense of focus at all of my schools. I think everyone has caught the show bug. 

(Student at Chase excited about reviewing her class song)

The editing process was such a great opportunity for the students to start working as more of an ensemble and to learn about compromising individual ideas for the good of the group.  One McAuliffe 6th student, who I believe has the makings of a future SNL writer, had so many great ideas, but not all of them fit into the story his class was creating. I was so proud of him for recognizing the need for compromise in this process and letting some of his best jokes go to make the script better as a whole. 

At Reilly I’m seeing some great improvement in the way the students communicate with each other. Reilly is such an amazing school and the students are always well behaved, this semester I am seeing the students have discussions with each other about the plot of their script in a much more collaborative way. Real teamwork is being implemented at Reilly.

Since this is my second year at Chase, I’ve set the bar pretty high for the students there and they are doing a great job of meeting my expectations. Through out the editing process they were supportive of each other’s ideas and they were very productive in fixing plot holes in their scripts. I feel the quality of show the Chase students will be performing this year is at a much higher than last year and I couldn’t be prouder.

 Also I am very excited to announce OFA added a brand new school: Hanson Park Elementary! I am so excited to be working with such a talented group of students.

Last week at Hanson Park we reviewed famous Chicago and Illinois historical figures. This week we chose several of those figures and created our basic plot. The students also wrote lines for themselves, which we will integrate into a script.  Students not only wrote their own dialogue, but also drew pictures to help communicate their ideas of settings and who their individual characters will be.

(Picture drawn by a 4th grade Hanson Park student of the Science and Industry Museum, 
which is the setting of one the operas)

(Character drawing by a Hanson Park 4th Grade student)

(Character drawling by a Hanson Park 5th grade student)

(Dialogue example for a 5th grade Hanson Park student.)

As you can see, the students at Hanson Park are incredibly creative! The process of creating an opera in one semester may seem daunting to some, but if the last 2 weeks are any indication, I think Hanson Park is going to have two amazing student produced operas!