TOA uses the model of the Renaissance Atelier, in which the craft is learned through completing progressively more complex tasks. Tasks are planned according to complementary topics in a holistic way. The tasks are adapted to age and level. Students are encouraged to construct meaning through engaging with the materials within the spiral curriculum. Learning modalities and approaches alternate so that all students can grasp the materials.
TOA’s approach is constructivist rather than prescriptive. The Socratic method, the pedagogical contributions of Piaget and Freire, the theory of multiple intelligences, the ideas of universal design are some of the principles underpinning our educational practices. From Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, we have adopted the idea of desire as the motivator, i.e., we will learn that which we desire to learn. No amount of conscription will accomplish the desired result without the volition of the individual student-something sometimes left out in one size fits all educational approaches. TOA educational activities are informed by National and Florida standards of learning, with connections to other disciplines, whenever possible, including Maths and Sciences, as, for instance, in the study of the physical elements of sound.
For example, when tackling scales, the alphabet of the musical material, we do not rely on rote memorization. Rather, after students are exposed to a variety of scales from different cultures, the study of western music scales is started, based on their pattern or formula. Students construct scales using educational materials that allow for different representations, going from the concrete to the abstract.
For example, in an activity twelve students each representing a particular note of the chromatic scale, learn to organize themselves in sequences, according to the scale, combining whole and half steps. When students learn to represent scales as mathematical sets, they begin to understand relationships between scales that share many tones, as different from the ones that share fewer tones. This helps in understanding modulations. Only after having mastered the sequence of tones and learning to play them on the piano, does the more abstract representation of writing on the staff and key signatures is arrived at. The study of intervals and the rudiments of harmony are derived from the preliminary study of scales.
Within the Singing and Interpretation Studio area of The Opera Atelier participants work primarily with Professors Jorge Arcila and Daniel Daroca on solid technical, musical, and artistic development according to the highest standards, including the development of the voice, technical aspects, musicianship, interpretation development, diction and declamation applied to the specific repertory. The Singing and Interpretation Studio also counts with the support of professionals from diverse fields who work with artists and with youngsters and their parents and guardians to support artistic growth through supplementary disciplines and integrated creativity coaching, always according to the unique requirements of each artist. As students, progress is through performance workshops and opportunities, students put into practice the skills and techniques that will allow them to pursue their individual artistic goals.
The Opera Atelier provides students with the essential elements to grow as singers, musicians, and artists. Participants receive private lessons that cover the healthy development of the voice, musicianship, interpretation, study techniques, and repertory.