Friday, May 19, 2017

Gearing up to Perform!

Heather Keith, Opera for All Teaching Artist

Opera for all students are busily preparing for their upcoming performances. Here is your inside look into our rehearsals:

 Mrs. Gonzalez’s class at Reilly is busy recall their blocking.

Ms. Alarcon’s class strikes a final pose in their dance.

Ms. Zavala’s class reads over their lines and work on character movements.

Ms. McAloon’s and Mrs. Gonzalez’s combined class at Hanson Park work on projection.

And Mr. Rivera’s class sits and listens as we give out notes from a run.

The students are working incredibly hard and I know the shows are going to be fantastic! Toi Toi Toi to all the other OFA schools who are performing this month!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dance It Out!

Sara Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist

This past month, all of my Opera for All classes have been working with our fabulously talented choreographer, Laura Marsh. Laura currently works at the Chicago High School for the Arts and has an extensive dance background that includes playing Curious George in a touring production about the cantankerous primate. She also specializes in improv dance.

Laura choreographed 5 original dances for my classes, taking into consideration each of their original opera stories so that each dance makes sense within the context of their operas. We chose a fun mix of songs that include “Try Everything” by Shakira, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, for the stories where animals are trying to kick destructive humans out of their habitat. The best part is that we got to learn some of the original choreography from Michael Jackson’s music video!

These are some of my favorite guest artist sessions because I love to dance and I love watching my students experience that sense of accomplishment when they finish learning their choreography and finally put their dance all together. Like all of the artistic disciplines and really any new experience, certain students excel right away while others tend to struggle. But the best part is that they have the opportunity to try it. Here is a video of Ms. Nuñez’s amazing 4th grade dancers dancing to the song “Life is a Magic Thing” from the Fern Gully soundtrack. Make sure you watch until the end when they make a conga line!

Up! Up! And Away!

Daniel Grambow – Education Assistant, Chicago Opera Theater

I’m sad to say that this will be my last blog post as the Education Assistant for Chicago Opera Theater. Looking back at what we have done in the past three years is a triumph and everyone in the OFA family should know about it.

It has been one of my greatest joys watching this program grow. When I started at COT we had under 500 students involved in the program and now we have grown to over 1200 students. I have seen students come out of their shells. I have helped them sing, dance, act and create some of the most compelling art I have seen in the city. I am proud of them and I am proud of the Opera for All program and I’m convinced that Opera for All is one of the best arts education programs in the city of Chicago.

Much of my job these past few years has been allowing our students the opportunity to feel like what they are creating in Chicago is more than just an assignment but a performance they can feel proud of. We have watched the data and I’m happy to say that the majority of our students have increased confidence, vocabulary and love for the arts.

Some of my favorite memories over the years have ranged from Super-Dino saving the world (and a basketball game), Mr. T’s Crew transporting Abe Lincoln into the future, and watching five hundred students play and create together in Millennium Park. I can’t wait to hear about next year’s performances.

Color and Canvas

Luther Lewis, Opera for All Guest Artist

For the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of serving as a Guest Artist with the Opera for All program. My responsibility has been to prepare backdrops for the students' productions as well as assisting them on their Art Days. Art Days consisted of painting the 9 x 9-feet backdrops for each classroom. 

I had the fortune of assisting my fellow Teaching Artists at Langford, Whistler, Healy, Disney II Prep, and McAuliffe elementary schools. The total number of backdrops that I helped prepare was 17! Like each classroom of students, each backdrop was different and unique. I had an especially fulfilling time at the Southside schools (i.e. Langford and Whistler). As a Black (African-American) male, I believe it was important and impactful for these primarily Black students to have an Art instructor that looked like them and understood their particular backgrounds. It was also fulfilling to be able to provide some exposure to Art in schools where Visual Art is not provided. Overall, my time as a Teaching Artist with COT has been rewarding on a personal and professional level.

Singing at Solorio

Andrew Sons, Choral Director, Eric Solorio Academy High School 

Eric Solorio Academy High School has had the immense privilege of being partnered with Chicago Opera Theater since 2013.  When I first made contact with educational outreach director, Linden Christ, I never imagined how successful our programs would become. Through after school musicals, in class performances, masterclasses, and private voice lessons, COT has made an immense impact on over 300 students in Solorio’s music department over 4 years. 

Solorio Academy High School is a neighborhood high school on Chicago’s southwest side. We serve approximately 1,200 Latino and African-American students who come mostly from within our attendance boundary. Solorio is not a selective enrollment or charter school. Everything we have accomplished is because of our dedicated instructors, including COT or Teen’s current teachers: Emma Cox and Chungers Kim.

Beginning in 2013, we brought Chicago Opera Theater for Teen’s to Solorio to start a musical theater program. While working to develop our choirs, I did not have the time or budget to also put on an after school musical. COT was able to do this for me and our students have now performed in eight productions including Oklahoma, South Pacific, Once on this Island, Little Shop of Horrors, and Beauty and the Beast.  This May, they will perform their most ambitious work yet, Shrek: The Musical.  We now have seniors who will be performing in the final show of their high school career. These kids have spent three or four years developing their talent and will be sorely missed when they graduate in June. Many plan on continuing to sing and act at the collegiate level thanks to Chicago Opera Theater!