Friday, May 13, 2016

Opera for All

Matt McNabb, Opera for All Teaching Artist

I recently had a coworker at one of my jobs ask me how the student recitals were going. And I said, “what do you mean recitals?” We proceeded to have an exciting and eyeopening conversation about what really takes place in the Opera for All program. I explained that these are not just recitals, these are fully scripted and fully staged minioperas performed by the students under our guidance. When people hear what is actually involved in the process of creating our new student operas, they can’t believe something so wonderful exists in the public school system.

Well I am here to tell you that it does exist, and that the program is wonderful! A huge
part of Opera for All is of course about offering a chance to expose students to the magical
world of opera. As teaching artists there is nothing more rewarding than seeing our students
rock out to the overture of “Carmen,” or see their eyes pop open the first time they hear
Brunnhilde’s battle cry!

But Opera for All is also about so much more. It is about teamwork and collaboration. The students quickly realize that in order for a performance to come together as a coherent piece of art, everyone must tow the line, and everyone must contribute. Most rewardingly, the students WANT to be part of this process, and they love sharing their creative ideas and can’t wait to see them take shape in the form of scripts and songs and dances. In Opera for All, we create a culture of trust and hard work and fun, and we strive for excellence in all we do.

Opera for All is about building confidence through performance and other artrelated mediums. Students are allowed to work in the visual arts with scene design and drawing. In fact, we just completed a Tshirt design contest where over 700 students turned in entries to be judged. Through theatre games, performance skill building and creative expression, students are allowed to blossom in ways that they can’t find in other school subjects. Students are allowed to explore their strengths, and many students sometimes surprise themselves at what they can accomplish. The students all come away with a stronger sense of best performance practices, and they understand what constitutes a great performance vs. a mediocre performance. These are skills that will lead to success in many areas of their lives.

Opera for All is about sharing the joy and the necessity of the arts in schools. So many
students don’t have any other outlet for creative expression, and opera time is something that
our students look forward to on a weekly basis. We are greeted with hello’s and highfives
when we enter the classrooms, and it is a great feeling to know that what we do matters!! Opera for All is an essential experience that more and more students need to enjoy!

Our end of the year performances are coming up in the months of May and June. Come and experience what Opera for All has to offer! And, just a special mention Thursday May 5 was the Chicago Opera Theatre gala. The teaching artists had a blast as costumed characters from next season’s operas! A huge thank you to our wonderful parents, Ms. Rhodes and the 4th graders from Disney II Magnet School, who had the awesome privilege of performing “Once Upon a Windy City” and “Hot Dogzilla” to a wonderful audience of COT family, donors and opera lovers. They received a standing ovation, and I couldn’t be more proud!

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