Not all artists will, or can, teach, but I love it and this year has been very rewarding, although very busy for me, in the teaching artist realm. I’m currently working at six schools/programs in the Chicago area. I have also recently had the pleasure of guest teaching at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, where I guest-taught a lecture for photographer Francis Ford’s opera class; and of mentoring a teaching artist graduate student in Columbia University’s TAD (Teaching Artist Design) program. Teaching artists continue to gain traction as valuable contributors to the traditional classroom. I am proud to be at the forefront of this rapidly developing career field.
I am in residence at two schools and one after-school program for Chicago Opera Theater’s “Opera for All” program, in which our students grades 4-6 create and perform their own original opera! I specialize in teaching the kids how to create characters and write scripts/librettos. This year’s stories, inspired by COT’s interstellar production of Die Zauberflote, focused on space adventure. Our kids will soon be performing “Supernova Saga”; in which a group of intrepid explorers attempt to find a new home for Earth’s population, and “Kids in Space”, in which students on an outer space field trip get caught in a confrontation between the fearsome yet peaceful MegaNebulans and a team of super-villains! Our after-school kids stuck closer to home and wrote about their day-to-day blues and the summertime that relieves them. Marillac Center performs “After-School Blues” next week, with the other schools wrapping things up by mid-June! Links to performance pics to follow!
My work with Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education is also reaching its climax for this year. I am at two schools for the Portfolio Development Project; a three-year federally funded grant researching the impact of arts integration through the creation of student arts “portfolios”. My students in this program, grades 4-6, have studied the roots of hip-hop and Puerto Rican music and the film West Side Story in order to create a culturally fused rap that reflects their immediate neighborhood, Humboldt Park. Other students have created musical-visual personal portrait collages; composed themes and musical narratives for anime characters, both in Garage Band and in improvisatory groups; studied work songs and composed/written their own kids’ “work song” as part of an economics unit; and created non-traditional scores for classical works and their own compositions. In another CAPE project, Sound Design, I am working with high school freshmen and a social studies teacher to teach elements of Aristotelian argument and social justice through social protest songs. We started that unit with “Words I Never Said” by Lupe Fiasco. The kids will be choosing an issue to protest in the near future.
A website for the CAPE PDP is soon to go live. I will link from this site to that one as soon as possible. Videos, artwork, and photos of these incredible students and their colorful, inspiring work will provide a window for other educators into the work CAPE teaching teams are doing. In the meantime, visit Chicago Opera Theater and CAPE’s main sites for more information about these fantastic, education-enriching organizations! Pic above, of me, was created by a student at Clinton.