Above, Maria Elena Altany of the LA Opera takes a selfie with students. Click here to watch a video of her performance.
Many agree that spreading the joy of live music fosters creativity in children.
Luis Heckmuller, a director in Local District South, pursued that goal when he worked to bring opera and classical music to schools in South Los Angeles. He partnered with classical music station KUSC-FM, which helped bring in the LA Opera and Los Angeles Philharmonic for “pop-up concerts” on school campuses.
Few students had seen opera or classical music performed live, making for memorable moments.
“It was very educating and entertaining for our kids,” Heckmuller said.
Youngsters at 109th and 116th Street Elementary schools were treated to 45-minute opera performances, while those at 92nd Street Elementary and 96th Street STEAM Academy watched classical musicians perform.
“The kids asked a lot of good questions about the type of training the artists had – how they manipulate their voice to sing such high notes, and about the instruments they saw,” Heckmuller said. “They had to learn the difference between the sound of a viola and a violin, a bass and a cello. They were intrigued.”
At 116th Street Elementary, students from kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the performance, joining with the professionals in singing the scales. After watching the actors perform scenes from several operas, some students said they might consider opera as a career.
“They were mesmerized,” Principal Tyra Brookins-Henderson said.
At 96th Street STEAM Academy, Principal Lisa Smith said the classical concert connected with the students. After the program, students could be heard naming the instruments they wanted to learn, especially those who had been taking ukulele lessons at the school.
“Sometimes you think they may not appreciate it, but when exposed to the arts, their appreciation is really surprising,” Smith said. “They’re loving it, and I’m loving it.”