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Opera's Flexibility in Connecting with Education
Paula Fowler, Director of Education and Outreach, Utah Symphony and Opera; Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink12/17/2007

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The idea of opera as an inclusive art form is not a new one. Opera touches on several aspects of the performing arts, and can be a very powerful tool when integrated with scholastic curriculum. So how exactly can you successfully align opera with other content areas?

The Music!Words!Opera! (M!W!O!) curriculum offers teachers and their students an opportunity to apply and expand their studies of language arts, history and more through opera. Paula Fowler, director of education and outreach at Utah Symphony and Opera, says, "Through the school-year-long process of writing a libretto, composing music, designing and building costumes and sets, and participating in a production, students also put into action many life skills, especially collaboration." Fowler's organization is one of many professional companies throughout the country who participate in the encouragement of opera education.

Students from kindergarten through grade 12 have the opportunity to participate in the curriculum, which is split into three levels to focus on age-specific groups. However, the curriculum is not only for in-school participants, it has also successfully been brought into the homeschool setting. "She was an excellent participant," says Fowler of a homeschool parent that participated in an M!W!O! workshop. "We made plans during the summer for her to network with other homeschooling families in her community and they started on an original opera project," she adds.

"In Salt Lake City," says Fowler, "we have added an extra level of opportunity for classes involved in our M!W!O! program. Each spring, we present a Children's Opera Showcase in a downtown theater and teachers who want to plan their schedules to be ready with their productions by the performance date, which we select together during the summer workshop, can perform their operas on the professional stage. Teachers, students and families have found this a fabulous extension of the entire project experience. It's a great evening in which we celebrate children's developed ability to work together and to create all the kinds of art that go into every opera production. Students own their stories and music and productions, and are always proud of their accomplishment."

Teachers learn how to use the M!W!O! curriculum during week long training sessions held each summer at various locations throughout the U.S. and one location in Canada. For more information on the program, please e-mail Education@operaamerica.org.

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