By Vanessa Smith, School Programs Manager
While it’s true that every child is different, there is one thing about children that stays pretty constant - they’re always on the move! Running, playing, dancing, fidgeting – movement is always present in their bodies and minds. When tackling a subject like opera, which can be difficult and foreign to younger students, it’s good to “start from where you are” – in this case, we decided to start by getting moving!
About a year ago, Howard Park Junior Public School approached the COC education and outreach team to discuss ways to give their entire school an opera experience. In consultation with the school’s Arts Council and teachers, we came up with a plan to teach sections of the dance curriculum through opera workshops this spring. Each class, including both French immersion students and English students, would participate in two to three workshops over the course of three weeks in March and April.
Music teacher Wendy Spademan worked with the students in their music classes to get them familiar with the music, plot and characters of the operas. French classes learned about Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, while the English classes explored Dean Burry’s The Brothers Grimm, which they saw in the fall as part of the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour. COC artist educators then visited each class, from JK – Grade 6, to explore the operas further.
Artist educator Meara Tubman-Broeren leads a kindergarten class through a movement exercise.
Artist educators Meara Tubman-Broeren and Sarah Joy Bennett took the students on a journey through each of the operas using movement, drama, and dance. Students played dance tag, created character bodies, explored how emotions are tied to movement, depicted characters in the operas by creating statues and tableaux, and explored the connections between storytelling and music. It was very evident that the students were having a great time during the workshops, and you could also see how they were thinking about and connecting with the work.
Artist educator Sarah Joy Bennett helps a group of students shape their tableau.
Students pose as statues of various emotions during their workshops.
In the video below, Wendy and Meara explain a bit more about the process and why Wendy wanted to expose her students to opera.
In total, the COC ran 69 workshops as part of this project, and helped introduce approximately 550 students to opera. The best part is how much the students enjoyed it! Programs like these help to ensure an appreciative opera audience in the future. Thanks to Wendy, Meara, Sarah Joy, and the parents and students at Howard Park. We can’t wait to see these students at an opera performance in a few years!
Vanessa Smith is the COC's School Programs Manager. To discuss bringing opera workshops to your school, give her a call at 416-306-2392 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information on our Education & Outreach programming can be found at coc.ca/Explore
Photos: All photos by the COC.
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001