has become cool, at least at Long Island City High School (LICHS).
Jessica Agudelo, a junior, gets up early to attend opera classes
at school twice a week at. She was recently selected as a Quiz
Kid panelist out of 150 students across the country in a competition
where they answered questions about Verdi’s
Aida, Bizet’s Carmen and
The Magic Flute.
feels a particular connection with Carmen because of her “Spanish
background.” She also loves the plot with its feminist themes.
“Its about her [Carmen] being so powerful and dominant,” she explains.
main goal in life is to become a singer,” says Agudelo. But she
wants to go to college, too. “I want to explore music as well
as academics,” she explains.
According to Principal Bill Bassell, who teaches an Opera Seminar
twice a week, 70 percent of LICHS students live below the poverty
line. But with grant money, he has created an art focus at this
neighborhood school. Along with opera, the school offers instrumental
and singing groups, visual arts classes, computer design and an
honors art history course. All with four full time art teachers.
“Arts education is so important because it becomes the hook to
keep students in school,” he says.
And Agudelo has been hooked. “Her biggest fault is that she tries
to do everything at once,” says Bassell. Jayne Skoog, who runs
the school’s performance-based Opera Workshop, agrees, “Jessica
likes everything.” Skoog worked with Agudelo to prepare for the
competition, making sure she knew the story, subtext and form
Skoog, a former professional opera singer, agrees with Bassell
about the importance of art. “This is an outlet for them to express
their emotions,” she says. “What we have at this school should
be a standard for all the schools in the city.”
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