Opera for the Young – Reflections Now That It Is Done

The Opera for the Young (OFTY) group came and performed on 4/25.  Overall, I thought the experience was a valuable one for the kids. There were many students that stopped me in the hallway that day to tell me how excited they were for the afternoon performance. Since the opera was scheduled on a day that I did not have a full day of classes, I was able to help gather up students an attend the practice with the opera singers.

Practice
The opera singers had all types of directions to give the students to get them ready for the opera.There were some small instructions for the kids that had lines in the show. For the chorus, there were directions about where to sit, how to get get from their seated position to 2 different formations for standing, hand motions to do with some of the songs, and a simple dance. Plus they went over the tiny one word lines that I didn’t have time to teach them. If I had been a student, I would have been worried about remembering all this stuff on such short notice. The opera singers were well prepared though and were able to seamlessly herd the kids to the desired location without much distraction. I was tempted to ask them why they didn’t send the hand motions with the songs. I could have easily layered them on top of the words when I introduced the songs to the kids. A video on Youtube for demonstration could have helped  make sure the movements were exactly what the opera singers wanted. But realistically, I barely felt like I got the pitches to the song taught. Plus I felt very overwhelmed by the process to begin with. One more thing might have pushed me over the edge.

Since I was already worried about having the songs learned completely, having 6 days off school for Spring Break the week before the performance was a bit nerve wracking. I was worried that the kids would forget everything over break but that didn’t happen. I think it probably helped that I selected the students for the chorus the week before break, so at least those 16 kids were really motivated to practice.

In Music Class:
The music classes that I prepped the songs in tended to be “sit and sing” type of classes. These are not the type of classes that I strive to teach as a music educator. Each week we would learn 1 song and listen to a piece of the show recording. In the early weeks I was able to do another music activity during class as well to get us up and moving but as the weeks progressed it basically took the whole music class to do the opera preparation. As such, I ended up skipping over 6 weeks (12 classes) of music curriculum. However, I did add in a whole unit about opera. I have covered opera in previous versions of my curriculum but my current one left this area out.  It was a nice treat to be able to pull my big opera voice from college out in my elementary music room, as this is not a voice I typically use with my students.  If I do another OFTY production, I will need to think creatively about ways to add more activity into my lessons.

The Performance:
The kids loved seeing the characters in costume and with their props. The show was about an hour long, which is quite a long time for young elementary students to sit still and stay focused. I did find that about 50 minutes in some of the kids were starting to get wiggly and lose focus but most of them still had smiles on their faces when it was over.

Overall, it was a good experience. I would do another one with some modifications in the later lessons of preparation.

Brenda Muench

music educator tech specialist

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