Eye on UMSL: ‘The Big Bad Day’

by | Dec 5, 2022

Third-grade students from Normandy's Jefferson School go through a dress rehearsal of their original opera, "The Big Bad Day," last Tuesday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Students from the Normandy Schools Collaborative perform original one-act opera, “The Big Bad Day”

Third-grade students from Jefferson School in the Normandy Schools Collaborative go through a dress rehearsal of their original opera, “The Big Bad Day,” last Tuesday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

The one-act piece – written and performed by the students – was based on the book “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka. The production resulted from a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Normandy Schools Collaborative, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Teaching artist Valerie Smith led students through the creative process of writing the libretto following the national curriculum Music! Words! Opera! She began meeting weekly with the students in NSC Fine Arts Director Suzanne Palmer‘s third grade class at Jefferson School.

“This opportunity to create a libretto is a welcomed creative writing experience for our young scholars,” Palmer said.  “When I was approached by Opera Theater St. Louis to do this project with them, I thought this experience of singing, acting and performing combined with an emphasis on scholastic growth is exactly what I want for students of all ages in Normandy.”

The students wrote the words, and Smith then set them to music with their input. She shared it with local composer/orchestrator Terrence Abernathy, who scored the music. The students then had the opportunity to perform the work in at the Touhill with world-class musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. They did a dress rehearsal in front of fellow students last Tuesday morning and held a public performance Tuesday night.

“This is such an exciting project for the Des Lee Fine Arts Collaborative,” said Michael Smith, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Music Education and director of the collaborative. “It is a perfect example of the kinds of wonderful opportunities that can be created when our community comes together to share all of our varying resources and talents.”

This photograph was taken by UMSL photographer August Jennewein and is the latest to be featured in Eye on UMSL.

Media Coverage
St. Louis Public Radio
KTVI (Channel 2)
KSDK (Channel 5)

UMSL Daily

UMSL Daily