The conversation I had with the carbon monoxide detector was apparently ineffective. The chirping began at 12:30AM and I promptly disconnected its internal plumbing. We’re no longer on speaking terms. It was difficult, but necessary and I finally got some sleep. Happy Wednesday readers!
Danielle is up with the dawn today – way before anyone else is out of bed. She’s decided to walk into town for coffee and a visit to the local bookstore. The rest of us aren’t quite as ambitious. Our idea of an adventure this morning is to make pancakes. Emily plays chef for the first round and I take the second. Emily is fabulous in the kitchen. She’s organized, inventive and has mad skills with a spatula. She continues however, to stub her toes almost hourly. We’re thinking of starting some kind of pool… As I wait for my shift at the stove, I collect the glasses and other used dishware that has accumulated around the cabin. You never really fully appreciated a dishwasher until moments like this. After breakfast, we have some time for the Young Artists to review their repertoire for today’s Arias & Ensembles concert and I am able to get some work done. I’m entertained by watching as one by one, the Young Artists each wage battle with the dreaded clothes iron. Trying to hold back my giggles, I plan the workshop I’ll teach later today and prepare for a battle of my own… with middle schoolers. I love working with them, but they are a unique species.
Time to head off to the school. When we arrive, Danielle and Emily hop out and go inside to check us in. Once that’s done, the whole group heads to the auditorium. We meet up with Mary Jane, our contact from Breckenridge Music in the Schools, and get things set up. We review some staging, check the balance in the house and go over anything musically that needs it. I talk with Donna Clark, the choir teacher here at Summit Middle School and let her know how today will run. She gives Alaina and me a piece that the students will sing for us. That will be a treat – we hardly ever have people sing for US. As the students begin to arrive and fill the seats, I make my way backstage.
The program will feature some opera selections as well as some lighter pieces from musical theater. As I listen to the introduction, I receive quite a surprise. Apparently, I’ve been given a promotion. I’m introduced as the Artistic Director for Opera Colorado. Who knew? I take my cue, re-introduce myself (I’ve been demoted) and talk with the students about today’s program. I introduce Alaina and Ben and the concert portion of today begins. It’s our final Arias and Ensembles program of the season. I rarely agree to do this program for students. It’s a much better fit for adult audiences. I agreed to this program because we’re performing for choir students and I’m hoping that the absence of a set, costumes and props will allow them to focus on the power of the voice and what can be shown simply through character and acting. The program goes pretty well, but the students aren’t responding as I had hoped. They’re being respectful, but they’re not too enthusiastic. As the last number ends, I go out to start the Q&A. No hands go up at first, but with some cajoling, we get a few questions. I don’t think they’re disinterested based on what I can pick up on from their body language. I just think they’re not sure what to do with us. So – I give the Young Artists a breather and start the workshop portion.
I have all of the students come up on stage with me and lead them through a series of exercises designed to build their skills as singers. I’ve structured it so that each activity builds on the next and it’s highly participatory. I don’t teach workshops where the students just sit and listen to someone talk. They need to learn by doing. We work on breathing, posture, support, diction, pure vowel sounds and much more. Ben gets some fabulous pictures of me making some really attractive faces. I’m fairly animated when I teach. He also gets some where I’m surrounded by the kids as they work with me which I love. Now they’re engaged. They’re not only participating, but they’re laughing, smiling and when I move to another activity, the inevitable chatter that happens isn’t about their Instagram post or their tweet, it’s about what we’re working on. The Young Artists have moved in amongst the students and are participating in the activities with them. It creates a really cool atmosphere. They’re working alongside professionals. This is what 21st Century Career Readiness teaching looks like.
Before I realize it, I’m almost at the end of my time with them. I have yet to get to everything on my lesson plan, but I can see the progress that they’ve already made and that’s enough for me. The Young Artists and I move to the house as the students take center stage. With their teacher leading them and Alaina, accompanist extraordinaire sight-reading the music, the kids sing for us. I can already see them incorporating some of the skills we worked on. We applaud, they smile and the workshop ends. Their teacher comes up to us and raves about the experience. She’s already thinking about what we could do next year. Teaching a workshop like this isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. Moments like today are what keep me motivated to go into classrooms across Colorado each year. While I thought today would be the final workshop of the season, I was wrong. We have one more tomorrow with a youth theater group.
We gather our things and head back to the cabin. Alaina, Emily, Charles and Will decide to go for a hike. They’re not altogether properly outfitted (Charles is wearing something akin to dress shoes) but I get them to at least take some water along. I thought about deploying a tracker but there wasn’t time. Ben decides to stay and work on some music for his summer program, plus he has to create a second photo album on Good Docs as he has maxed out the first one. Quite a few of the pictures that I’m including in the blogs were taken by Ben. He’s even tried his hand at taking some night shots here in Frisco. Danielle… well, I’m not sure where Danielle is. Maybe bedtime has become an afternoon thing. I grab some lunch and then work on some projects for next season.
We all decided earlier to meet up for dinner at the local brewery. Ben decides to head down first and get a table. The hikers return, having successfully conquered the mountain. I see photographic evidence of their adventure, one picture in particular catches my eye. It involved Charles embracing a tree and prior to the posting of this blog – was removed from circulation. Danielle also reappears and no, she has not been sleeping. Still not sure what she’s been up to. She has an innocent smirk, but we’ve all learned that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. She’s a mysterious one, our Danielle. I suspect one of two things: coloring without supervision or illicit dog-petting while Charles was away. Alaina decides to hang back at the cabin, cook her own dinner and join us later, so the rest of us walk to the brewery and meet up with Ben. It’s gorgeous outside; just the start of twilight. Dinner is totally unhealthy and very tasty. Charles gets fried mac & cheese for an appetizer and then Will and Charles both order a pizza topped with macaroni and cheese. Charles says that the hike must have been harder than he realized because he’s having trouble breathing. Yeah… it’s because of the hike. He’s fine. The guys watch basketball on the big screen while we dine. Alaina joins the party and we discuss books. Charles says if they ever write a book about The Red Badge of Courage audiences would love it… we gently explain that it is, in fact, already a book. Maybe he’s not fine. We discuss movies, horrible roommates and the fact that Emily is going to bathe in mosquito repellent when she returns to Houston. While we can still move, we make the walk back to the cabin.
During the evening, the guys watch a game for a bit, Alaina reads, Emily seizes the chance to grab a vacant shower and Danielle? You guessed it. It’s bedtime for mezzo. A couple of people decide to enjoy the hot tub one final time before we have to leave tomorrow. I get to writing the blog. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Carbondale for an afternoon workshop and an evening performance of Carmen. Tour is quickly coming to an end. I hope you’ll join us for the final few chapters.
Have a good night readers,