Integral to Lyric Opera’s mission are Education and Community-Engagement Programs that annually benefit 135,000 Chicagoans of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. More than half are at-risk youth from low-income, crime-plagued city neighborhoods. Our youth participants reflect the diversity of Chicago with many African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Latinos, Middle Easterners, and first-generation immigrants actively engaged. Lyric’s programs help them excel both in their classrooms and in their communities. These popular, widely accessible programs introduce opera to new and non-traditional audiences.
Lyric’s Education and Community-Engagement Programs spark students’ intellectual curiosity and creativity, encouraging higher levels of learning, teamwork, and positive social growth. Lyric’s professional education staff sees that these programs are delivered at the highest standard and relevance to learning goals.
Need for Lyric’s Educational Programs
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has discussed the urgent need for a well-rounded curriculum and the importance of arts education: “The arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college. Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a global economy. The arts are valuable for their own sake, and they empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic work."
Early exposure to the arts has a lasting impact on a person’s ability to analyze and integrate knowledge and think creatively. “Yet, one-third of school-age children in Illinois receive no instruction in music and the arts” (from Champions of Change, a recent national study on the arts’ impact on education). Lack of exposure to the arts is especially detrimental for children attending public and parochial schools in low-income, crime-plagued neighborhoods of Chicago. Organized arts enrichment activities provide positive alternatives to gangs and other detrimental activities.
Lyric Opera is dedicated to providing arts enrichment in Chicago schools for two very important reasons. First, the company has the unique talents and resources to achieve that goal. Year after year, for more than three decades, Lyric’s programs have made vital impact in developing students’ capacity and motivation to create and learn. We know this from thousands of positive survey responses from teachers and students, creative writing assignments, and thank you letters we receive each year. And, just as important, our school-based programs are helping to cultivate the next generation of opera artists and patrons.