Good news! This past weekend we officially completed the recording for the 2018/19 school tour of Super Storm! The recording will be used to create our Tutorial CD, Full Cast Recording, and our Spanish Supplement (we now offer all of the children’s chorus music in Spanish!). This original opera by Scott Gendel and Diane Garton Edie will travel to 200 schools next season, reaching nearly 75,000 students, teachers, and families! Click on the image above to peek behind the scenes and watch our singers working with choristers from the Madison Youth Choirs during the recording session.
Every year we meet hundreds of innovative music educators along our tour, and we’re excited to introduce you to one of those teachers. Karl Kessler works with students at both Butte des Morts Elementary and Jefferson Elementary in Menasha, WI. We interviewed him at Butte des Morts’ performance of Rusalka this season:
Which students learned the music for the show?
K- I introduced it to K-2, and then 3-5 grade I taught all the songs – hopefully to give the performance surround sound!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background:
K- My background is music education – I’m certified for K-12, vocal, instrumental and general. LOVE theater. I’ve been in 27 different musicals – the whole performance is phenomenal for me.
What’s your favorite show or role that you’ve played?
K- It’s a toss-up between Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and Adam in Children of Eden.
When did you start performing?
K- In high school – I was Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie. The director needed a male vocalist and said, “Hey, you’re not a part of the drama club, but will you do this?” and I said “Sure!”
Do you feel like you had an “arts-full” childhood?
K- I loved singing, I took piano, and I stayed with choir and band throughout middle school and high school. Voice is my primary instrument and clarinet is secondary.
Tell us about your approach to teaching:
K- I feel like kids need to enjoy what they’re singing, so I give them the opportunity to pick from the quality music I find for them. They feel like they’re getting to choose, and so far it’s worked great – they have ownership for it now.
The teacher before me didn’t do anything with Broadway, and our spring concert is something the school hasn’t seen before. We’re doing 11 songs – An Evening of Music from Movies and Musicals. All of the songs have a message – “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”, stuff from Hamilton, Dear Edwina, Seussical, Newsies, a song from Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Lin Manuel Miranda called “Java Flow”– and the kids are just eating it up. My third graders are singing that in the Huttese language from the film. The kids seem to be enjoying this new interactive kind of show, and I’m so happy to share it with them!
Anything else you’d like to share?
K- I think OFTY is a wonderful company – to provide this exposure of opera for the kids…I mean this is…I can’t wait to do it again next year!
After a long winter’s break, the Opera for the Young touring artists are back on the road with Rusalka: A Mermaid’s Tale. The fall tour concluded on November 10th with 33 performances in 3 states. The tour inspired some colorful and creative underwater artwork and sea creature costumes in our student participants, and we’ve received lots of positive feedback from music teachers and students alike. We made this video to share some of our favorite reviews with you – click on the picture above!
It’s a busy summer here at OFTY – even as we prepare for our upcoming tour of Rusalka this fall, the first tidbits of our new creation, Super Storm (coming Fall 2018), are available to share! The first draft of the opera is nearly complete, and on September 7th, a quartet of singers will perform key sections of the opera for a special Preview Workshop. Take a listen to this video featuring OFTY Board Member Iris Kurman – she’ll tell you all about the commission’s development and the steps the board is taking to ensure its success. If you’d like to make a contribution towards the new opera, now is the time – the OFTY board is matching all donations made to the Super Storm Facebook Fundraiser by August 28th, meaning your gift to OFTY will be doubled! Not on Facebook? Click here and be sure to mention Super Storm in the “Special Instructions”.
Did you catch Opera for the Young on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Midday” last week? If not (or if you’d like to hear it again), we’ve added two special highlight videos from the feature to our “In the News” playlist on YouTube and the entire radio interview can be heard online in “The Midday” Archives. OFTY Artistic Director Diane Garton Edie and Norm discuss OFTY’s upcoming 2017-2018 school tour of Rusalka: A Mermaid’s Tale, an OFTY original adaptation based on Dvořák’s opera of the same name. Managing Director Saira Frank and pianist Vincent Fuh perform two of Rusalka’s dramatic moments from the show, then Vince describes some of the challenges OFTY faces (and embraces!) in adapting operas for children.
We just had to share this heartfelt “Thank You” video we received from Sugar Creek Opera following five performances in Iroquois County. Last week, Sugar Creek Opera sponsored five performances of Opera for the Young’s “Elixir of Love” in their local elementary schools: Watseka’s Wanda Kendall and Nettie Davis, Milford School, Thawville Elementary and Gilman Elementary. OFTY’s touring cast featured two former Sugar Creek Opera apprentice artists, Megan Brunning and Brett Potts. Megan Brunning played the Queen of the Night in Sugar Creek Opera’s 2015 production of The Magic Flute and Brett Potts was just seen as Al in The Grapes of Wrath this past summer. These two artists were also featured on a radio interview – listen to the interview here!
The Elixir of Love tour is almost here, and cast members from the show got together with members of Madison Youth Choirs to record The Elixir of Love Cast Recording and Tutorial CD. Every year, these two valuable tools are sent to teachers in a packet of teaching materials with in-depth information about Opera for the Young’s program. By familiarizing their student choristers and audience members with the music and story before the day of the show, teachers help create for them a positive opera experience with a lasting impression. The Tutorial CD can be played in its entirety in the classroom – instructional tracks lead students and teachers through the music, beginning with vocal line only tracks, then moving on to rehearsal tracks that allow the students to sing along with the piano accompaniment. To share the experience with families and siblings, these rehearsal tracks are also available to students online. In this way the whole family can take part in the experience and get excited for the big performance day!
Opera for the Young is thrilled to announce the release of three videos outlining the mission, in-school experience, and artistic excellence of our annual school tours. The three short introductory videos are the result of a year-long enterprise: a collaboration between Madison filmmaker, Miles Hofschulz and OFTY. The company was ready for a professionally produced video that would reflect the quality of our work – an ambitious undertaking given our widely varied and acoustically challenging locales. Enthusiasm for the project came from Hofschulz’ love for the arts: “I’ve always been a fan of classical music and the Opera for the Young cast features incredible talent, both the singers and pianist, so it’s a lot of fun to listen to and watch these artists perform. But it’s also a blast to see these kids feel the music, especially when their faces light up with wonder on the soprano’s high notes. Then they get a chance to sing along and may even get a speaking line in front of the whole school, it’s just such a unique experience.”
Every season, the schools that host Opera for the Young’s annual production are invited to participate in the “Be a Designer!” contest. Teachers are encouraged to help their students create multi-media visual art projects to decorate their classrooms, the school hallways, and the performance space. In addition, many children enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to put on face makeup and costume pieces to wear the day of the show. Our twofold goal is to reach those creative children who may not be as interested in the performance aspect of opera and to drum up excitement for the opera throughout the entire school. Click on the link above to see examples of artwork from the first half of this season’s tour of The Magic Flute!