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 the piano. In a 2-word composition challenge, Yaidra gave Alex two ingredients (a mood, and a setting), and he improvised something to fit it. They were five or six little pieces in before I realized what was going on, and walked over to listen. “Can we play this with everyone when they get back from break?” Yaidra asked. Of course we could.
After Alex flawlessly interpreted a full round of moods and settings (busy downtown; stormy jungle), the game changed: It was time for students vs. adults. Here’s how we played:
– Each group gave the other group a mood and setting
– Each group had three minutes to create a vocal sound-scape to musically illustrate that setting and mood
– Then, we would perform
The students gave the adults a Lively Concert, and we adults challenged the students to create Lonely Bottom-of-the-sea.
The students asked to not have their soundscape recorded (it wasn’t yet publishable, by their standards), but when I heard what they created in three quick minutes on a Wednesday afternoon, here is what I was struck by:
– All 7 of our Tchaikovsky students jumped into the work of creating the soundscape together. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the collaboration take place. Everyone added an idea. Everyone said yes. And every idea added something important.
– Every single student looked like a comfortable, confident performer. For 7 middle-schoolers to put something complex together in 3 minutes and perform it giggle-free for a whole 66 seconds is a serious accomplishment.
– What they made was a practically perfect representation of the prompt we gave them. It was lonely. It sounded like the bottom of the sea. There were 7 distinct parts that all played against each other — some melodic, some rhythmic, some environmental. And it sounded really, really good.
– Erin Bregman