Photo by Erica Ayala.

Opening Minds Through Music

"Each student tried new forms of expression, gained confidence through trying again, and ultimately created and shared a final song."

Kiss Me, Kate:

Opening Minds Through Music

“How do writers create songs for musical theatre?” was the guiding question put to 35 students in a Curriculum Connections Residency at Curtis High School on Staten Island last year. The mixed-grade, music survey class used our recent production of Kiss Me, Kate as a way to examine genre, style, and expression as they explored lyric writing and chord structure.

Roundabout Teaching Artist Daniel Robert Sullivan, a professional actor and musician, partnered with classroom teacher Patricia Calabrese, a recent attendee at our Theatrical Teaching Institute, to craft ten lessons that would engage and inspire the class.

“When the class began there was not a single student comfortable with sharing their writing with the group,” Sullivan explained. But throughout the residency each student tried new forms of expression, gained confidence through trying again, and ultimately created and shared a final song — with lyrics and chords — around a theme of their choosing.” The Teaching Artist went on to describe the skills and understanding gained in the classroom: rhyming techniques, chord structure, and the differences between pre- and post-Golden Age musical theatre writing.

During the residency, the students attended Kiss Me, Kate to see how the artists at Roundabout explored the form and themes — seventy years after it was originally on Broadway. “I love working with Roundabout! My students were introduced to a Broadway show, and they got to experience things they might, otherwise, never experience,” shared Calabrese.

Our school partnerships aim to enrich student’s social and emotional learning as well as bring new dimensions to how teachers teach. Assistant Principal Jennifer Korten describes the instruction that is happening as, “…utilizing theatrical teaching strategies to transform classrooms into a vibrant stage for learning,” and says the students and teachers, “…feel invigorated and empowered to connect with the arts.”

Teaching artists will be back at Curtis High School this year and look forward to connecting classroom curriculum to a new season of plays and musicals.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Education programs at Roundabout are also supported in part, by the New York Stage Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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School Partnerships are supported by the Gray Foundation.