Last week I was fortunate to visit several schools in Chicago where OpusYou has developed a unique partnership supporting dedicated weekly arts instructional time as part of the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan. I started off the week as a guest of music teacher Mark Britt at Portage Park Elementary School attending classes with 3rd and 4th Grades who have been using the resource regularly in their 30-minute lessons. I was accompanied by Edward Oppenheimer from the Oppenheimer Family Foundation and as we sat back to observe the first session it was clear that the resource was being used as a supplement to a unit of work called "Music Moves Me" taking classical music and adding various props, Orff instruments, and even a parachute! I am always interested to learn how teachers are utilizing OpusYou in the classroom - do they use it as a stand alone resource or is it used to complement an existing scheme of work? In this case it was clear that the young students responded to a combined approach.
Next came a meeting with Kathleen Johnston, Music Teacher at Walter Payton College Prep, where we spoke about future commissioning and a desire to add an evaluation component to each resource. At Walter Payton they have an excellent choral program and so part of the discussion focused on how we might incorporate resources designed specifically to support this work.
Lastly, came a visit to Skinner West Elementary School as a guest of music teacher Lisa Maatouk observing 2nd and 5th Grade classes who have been using OpusYou regularly in their 45-minute lesson. Accompanied by John Covell, a founding member of OpusYou, we observed the resource being used to its maximum focusing on Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. As the students focused their attention to the screen at the front of the class the introduction and then the musical excerpt was played with Lisa asking questions about what they had just heard and, for those moments that did not click first time, the excerpt was played again to reinforce important points. To conclude the lesson Lisa choose to focus on the bonus material element of the resource which is a selection of twelve piano excerpts played by the incredible Andreas Boyde. It was a perfect way to end the lesson and a great way to focus the attention of the students back to the front of the classroom given the question and answer session which had just concluded.
It was extremely encouraging to see all of the students leaving the lesson with a smile on their faces and for me it was an enormous sense of pride to know that OpusYou is making a real difference in supporting music teachers, and non-specialists, deliver a music curriculum for all around the world. It is clear to me that although OpusYou is leading the way for online musical education it still relies on the incredible talents of teachers who know their students and can continue to ask those all-important questions. Although music is being cut widely from school curricula around the world, it is the teachers who continue to fight for music education within schools on the frontline, OpusYou can assist in that fight and is here to assist for the longterm!
Originally published in 2014