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Elementary Students Create Opera

Jul 15, 2016 08:20AM ● Published by Tori La Rue

Students introduce their self-written opera at Arcadia Elementary School. The students created the opera through Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s Opera by Children program. – Tori La Rue

Gallery: Elementary Students Create Opera [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com


First and second grade students at Arcadia Elementary School transformed into bunnies, dinosaurs, caterpillars and spider ninjas as they performed their self-written operas on May 20.

“It was really fun because you got to act a lot,” Fadilah Salami, 7, said. “You get to show the experience to lots of people, and you get to be famous.”

This is the third year that Caryn Johnson’s class has participated in Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s Opera by Children program. All year the students come up with a storyline for their opera with Johnson, and then a music specialist creates a custom melody and background track for the opera based on students’ interpretations of what their song should sound like.

“It is really a student-led program,” Johnson said. “You just have to have faith in them that it will come together. Sometimes we have to put it up to a class vote for them to narrow down their ideas, but you try to keep as many as you can.”

Johnson said she loves the program because she thinks it helps students gain confidence. It’s not an easy program, and when they see the end result, they realize they can do hard things, she said.

Fadilah said she was really scared to perform to fill her role as an explorer in her class’ opera, but she said she kept telling herself that nothing would go wrong, which helped her to calm down. In the end, Fadilah said she loved getting up on stage.

Jack Winward, another student, said his favorite part was when he got to argue on stage. Jack and his twin brother were in the same opera and dressed up like explorers and dinosaurs. The boys’ mother made late night trips to Walmart to get materials for the costumes, and the family created the costumes together, Mathew Winward, the children’s father, said.

“Honestly this program was much better than I expected,” the father said. “You always want to come to these kinds of things to see your kids, but I think it was actually a good program, regardless of that.”

Sarah Jones said she was excited to see the program that her son Porter Jones had been working on at school.

“He tried to keep the program a surprise,” Jones said. “We’d ask him about it at home, but he wouldn’t tell us, so it was fun to see him up there.”

Porter said he didn’t like how the opera turned out but said participating in it was more fun than doing math or reading.

Overall, Johnson said that most of the students really enjoyed the opera, and she said it was a valuable learning experience for them because it taught them about storytelling and team work. Johnson plans to continue the program at Arcadia Elementary School Next Year.

For more information on the Opera by Children program, visit: operabychildren.org.

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