Little Opera Blog

Thoughts on our work from the Little Opera team.

humperdinck recits

Composing in the kiddie pool

How does one go about writing music? The more I consider the question, the more clueless I realize I am. There are so many factors that come into play, from the macrocosmic (What am I writing about? How will the end result be performed? By whom?) to the microscopic (What note should this be? What was the note before it? Do I need to re-write all the other notes in order for this one note ...
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After LO

Leaving the “I dunno” reflex behind

When put on the creative spot, many kids respond with a shrug, a shuffle and an “I dunno!” What do you think we could put on this poster? What kind of card would you like to make? What would you like to write about, draw or create? "I DUNNO!"— the response of someone reluctant or unfamiliar with the creative process. From our very first Little Opera class every year, we ask for many creative opinions. The kids make ...
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Ryan blog post drawing

Student Perspective: Ryan’s Interviews

    Hi, I'm Ryan, a student at Little Opera. I love it there! It's fantastic. We compose, create props and sets and anything related to opera. At Little Opera, I feel like myself. I get to share my thoughts without being embarrassed. I call it "A Forest of Melodies & Rhythms." p.s. I'm also the class blogger. Ryan interviewed two of his fellow Tchaikovsky classmates (our middle school group) about their experience at Little ...
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kelp forest

Mood + Setting = Music

My favorite moments at Little Opera are almost always the ones I didn't plan. They're moments when someone has an idea we all say yes to, and the teachers and students spend the next part of class totally engaged, having a blast, and doing something new. For this past week's greatest moment, we have one of our oldest students, Yaidra, to thank. During break, she and Alex Stein (Little Opera composition teaching artist) were playing around at ...
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Gertrude's project

Singing Like a Ballerina

Gertrude Stookey, a 6th grader in her third year at Little Opera, recently won 2nd place in her middle school science fair for making an intriguing comparison: Do singers talk like ballerinas walk? Can you recognize the characteristics in a singer's voice that distinguishes him or her as a professional in that field the way you can tell a ballerina by her physical posture and poise? Using a spectrogram application on her iPad to record the ...
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Wagners Directing

Lesson Learned

There’s one foolproof test a teaching artist can do to assess just how engaged his or her students are on any given day, and it’s totally counterintuitive to what you think of when you imagine great teaching. The test is this: Get up, and leave the room.* We put this test into action last week, entirely by accident. Due to a student behavior issue, three of the four instructors working with small groups in one of our classes were ...
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Taking Shape

A Different Kind of Conversation

I have been a classroom teacher for about 26 years, mostly teaching seven to nine-year-old children in public school. This is my third year as a Teaching Artist for Little Opera. Before Little Opera, I worked with my regular classroom students making mini-operas as in partnership with San Francisco Opera’s ARIA program.  I have been thinking about the differences between working with children in a small after-school program and during a regular school day, trying ...
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Sophia's Witch

Creative Chaos

When we are young, we are encouraged (one hopes) to learn a little about everything, to experiment with an array of art forms and disciplines to see if any of those languages resonates particularly strongly with who we are and who we are becoming. All those things we are introduced to as young people are potential pathways for our expression, and we are excited by the seeming limitlessness of perspectives on the world. When I ...
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All together now

“I’m Nervous…and Excited!”

Oh, the audition. An entirely artificial situation in which someone who wants the part has to put their money where their mouth is and do it...without the luxury of props, costumes, or anyone else to collaborate with. And as simple as it might sound in theory, anyone who's watched old “I Love Lucy” reruns can tell you just how much can go wrong. Right before the holiday break, all three classes held auditions for the various roles in ...
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Queens spying

A Year-End Wrap in Plus/Delta/Challenges

At the end of every Little Opera class, we do two things: Ask kids to share their plus/delta/challenges for the day, and sing a song. In the spirit of closing off 2014 on a similar note, here are my own top 10 plus/delta/challenges from the last year at the helm of Little Opera. PLUS (the hands-down highlights) Watching Little Opera students watch the opera they wrote being performed by professional opera singers at our first ever Little Gala. Building sets, ...
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