Sarah Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist
It's been a tremendously successful start to another year of Opera for All! This year, I am returning to the same 3 schools that I was fortunate enough to teach at last year. This will be my third year at Chase Elementary School! While most of my students are brand new to the program and to opera in general, I do have a handful of OFA veterans for whom this will be their second or third year in the program. I can't wait to see how much more these students will be capable of now that they've already created and performed their very own operas! Our first session serves as a fun, interactive introduction to opera in which we define opera as "storytelling through music." I think it's important to communicate that opera incorporates many different art forms (specifically music, acting, dance/movement, creating writing, and visual arts.) Ultimately, every student is not going to be interested or comfortable in the spotlight, but these students may really shine as set designers or script writers. The first session is also an opportunity for us as teaching artists to get to know our students, and let me tell you, there is a lot you can learn about a group of grade school kids through a couple of introductory theater games! I tried to make mental notes of those kids who always have their hand in the air, chomping at the bit to participate as well as those who are reluctant about new activities. This usually tends to change as the year progresses, and without a doubt there will always be students who surprise me. Lastly, we use this first class session to sing to our classes! There is something so awe-inspiring and genuine about a kid's reaction to hearing opera for the first time. It's usually a combination of excitement, shock and wonder! As for those who think opera is not accessible or appropriate for kids or young adults, I wish they could see how positively a group of 5th graders respond to live opera singing.
Our next step is to create the stories that will eventually be developed into their opera scripts. We will use a visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to gain inspiration for our nature themed operas, and I can't wait to see what they come up with!