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FWISD Teachers To Join Metropolitan Opera’s Premier Global Opera Summer Camp

Two Fort Worth ISD educators are among eight U.S. teachers presenting content this summer for the Metropolitan Opera’s premier Global Opera Summer Camp.

The teachers -- Benbrook Middle-High School Head Choir Director Emily Sáenz and Timothy Brendler, I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA visual and performing arts department head, music theory and piano instructor – are among master class instructors who will lead students globally through an eight-week program focused on interactive opera activities and online streams.

This spring semester, the two also participated in the Metropolitan Opera’s educator showcase events. Weekly, the program included online opera streams and activities for students, teacher resources for engaging students in the genre, and artist chats with opera stars who appeared in the week’s featured production.

In 2016, the Fort Worth ISD piloted an opera immersion curriculum with the New York-based company. The District was accepted into the opera company’s education program the following year.

Dinah Menger, FWISD director of choral and elementary music, said the program has not only fostered a love for the operatic genre among students, but it’s “enriched their overall music experience to include a time-tested art form that they can enjoy for a lifetime.”

“Led by two of our most creative and innovative FWISD educators, Dr. Emily Saenz and Mr. Tim Brendler, the Fort Worth ISD student chapter is the largest in the nation,” she said.

Operatic instruction includes “music, art, theatre, social/emotional learning, reading, writing, critical thinking and listening, story telling, classical literature, history, and even career opportunities,” Ms. Menger said.

This spring, the Metropolitan Opera launched Free Student Streams to “support teachers, students, and families working and learning remotely,” during this pandemic with operatic instruction according to its website. Weekly, Free Student Streams hosted on Zoom and Facebook Live focus on a deeper understanding of the genre and opera viewings.

Ms. Sáenz and Mr. Brendler have led several 45-minute Free Student Streams Educator Showcase lessons this spring. Two lessons on The Merry Widow and one on La Fille du Regiment were among the showcases presented by Ms. Sáenz. Mr. Brendler presented two fairytale operas: Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon, a classic retelling of Cinderella story, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. The lessons, focused on the weekly featured opera, allow the teachers to share their opinions and offer techniques for helping students engage with the genre. They also shared the work of their own students.

“I find it really meaningful to know that teachers from around the world are taking some of the activities we practice in our classroom and sharing them in their own schools,” Ms. Sáenz said.

Opera, Mr. Brendler said, exposes students to all aspects of life –loss, temptations, losing control, love, the rewards of hard work, life’s messy moments.

“What I love most about opera is that it affords our students an opportunity to experience and discuss matters that affect them everyday, particularly during their adolescent years, and reminds them—‘you are not alone,’” he said. “I firmly believe that opera is for everyone, and the lessons and activities that we offer for teachers, parents, and students to engage in help break down barriers and make opera accessible to all.

“On a global front, this pandemic has actually opened our eyes to opportunities for cross-cultural and cross-continental conversations amongst students that we never would have imagined. I am most excited for our students here in Fort Worth to engage with students around the world through their shared love of opera. We’re only scratching the service, and it’s really exciting to be a part of it and think of what this may morph into in future Live in HD school years.”

Ms. Sáenz and Mr. Brendler both joined the District in 2016.

Prior to becoming a full-time choral teacher, Ms. Sáenz spent several years as an opera singer. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on Opera Outreach Education and its effects on secondary students.

Mr. Brendler, in addition to co-coordinating the District’s Metropolitan Opera Educational Program with Ms. Sáenz, is the Fort Worth Children’s Honor Choir artistic director.


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