March in Washington is marked by many wonderful events: the end of winter and emergence of spring, the full bloom of cherry blossoms, and several WCO education and outreach programs that celebrate Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM).
Established in 1985 by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), MIOSM is an annual celebration in the month of March that engages teachers, students, arts organizations, artists, and communities from around the country in promoting the benefits of music education. As a former middle school music teacher and professor, I knew WCO would play a role in this month-long initiative, working with students of all ages in a variety of “classrooms.”
I kicked off MIOSM by meeting with university groups visiting Washington for Americans for the Arts’ annual Arts Advocacy Day: one from Ohio State University and the other from Southern Utah University. Both groups were made up of artists and aspiring arts administrators. We discussed topics ranging from diversity in opera to new models of engagement and fundraising. To say these students impressed me with their knowledge and passion for the field is an understatement.
A week later, I headed to New York City to work with students on a Spring Break Arts Immersion trip from the Department of Music and Theatre Arts at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. We spent time together discussing the fundamentals of running an opera company in today’s economic and social climates, repertoire, and arts entrepreneurship. We also enjoyed a show at the Metropolitan Opera (Donizetti’s Don Pasquale), museum visits, and an evening of jazz at Birdland--a quintessential New York weekend!
I went back into the traditional classroom last week for a new venture with one of our partners, Inspired Teaching School, called Intersession. Intersession is a four-day program where students learn about a subject not commonly addressed in the curriculum. In collaboration with the school’s music teacher, I had the pleasure of working with kindergarten, first, and second graders learning about musicianship and opera, culminating in a performance of “Papageno! Papagena!” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. It was a tremendous joy to work with these young musicians, and I think I found some WCO artists in the making!
The arts feed us on so many levels and fuel us in so many ways. They know no bounds and break down barriers unlike any other discipline. Opera is not only the marriage of breathtaking music and moving stories, it’s exciting, diverse, and more dynamic than ever before. I know through this year’s MIOSM activities, and other events throughout the year, WCO will continue to connect with our communities and extend our impact beyond the concert hall.
Dr. Ursula M. Kuhar