That’s why the first thing we did when our group of Little Opera educators and artists gathered to discuss the upcoming season was to re-member together, to summon pieces of the past into the moment as a way of shedding light on the road we’ve traveled.
Oh, it’s been an exciting road, that’s for certain. Contemplating the work we’ve done added not only momentum for envisioning what comes next, it also reminded us of our unique perspective as both artists and educators.
The specific overlap of these roles is a fertile ground. We asked ourselves, “What are the main tenets of our artistic discipline that are vital to teaching it?“
We pondered this question individually for some time. In dance and choreography, it is important to cultivate a comfort in one’s body, an alignment with one’s range of motion. In theatre, spontaneity is key, the opening into worlds of possibility by saying “Yes!” to whatever comes. Singing and composing hinges on one’s connection to melody, one’s relationship with the voice as instrument. Writing involves trust in one’s imagination and an awareness of the elements of story.
These are ingredients we have been throwing into the pot from the first day, deepening our own literacy in these fields through teaching and practicing, honing and adapting — and in no small part, learning from the kids themselves.
But the one thing that earned overwhelming consensus as the creative epicenter for all our disciplines was the element of empathy.
When can we say we “know” something? When we’ve felt it. When we’ve “tried it on” and been moved by it — literally, physically, emotionally. Empathy expands our repertoire as human beings, and strengthens our role as members of an ensemble, artistic or otherwise.
Empathy is an art. And cultivating our capacity to empathize with a wide range of experience is one of the main pillars to teaching anything, really. Specifically, empathy is at the heart of storytelling and performance because it allows us to come closer to the unfamiliar, to stretch our understanding of our own and others’ inner lives, in a way that makes us more adept at sharing our lives in meaningful ways.
And we cannot wait for the sharing to start!
— By Eva Langman
Lead Teaching Artist 2014-2015