In the fall of 2015, the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched two exciting new partnership programs for Chicago Public Schools: an in-school residency program, and a teacher professional development and curriculum building community. On this page, you will find more information about the curriculum program, through reflections by teachers who are program participants. To learn more about the curriculum program on Sounds & Stories, please click here.

On October 1, 2016, teachers from five Chicago Public Schools gathered for the first of a series of professional development workshops as part of the CSO-Connect program. During this day-long workshop, teachers from a variety of disciplines were inspired by musical interpretations of Romeo and Juliet as expressed by composers Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, as well as the text by the bard himself. Staff and teaching artists from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, led by Roxanna Conner, Marilyn Halperin, Jason Harrington, and Molly Truglia, guided teachers though many activities that they could use in their classrooms to teach students meaningful and engaging ways to experience the text of this play.

In the afternoon, teachers drew inspiration from the music and the play to begin developing an arts-integrated curriculum, using the broad theme of choices and consequences that would provide ways for students grapple with this larger idea. For example, in a music class, students composed original music, making musical choices in response to certain scenes of the play; in a science class, students explored the consequences of genetic mutations; and in a literature class students wrote a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet, which included modern day consequences that the star crossed lovers faced.

The second professional development workshop on November 23, 2015, focused solely on the music of Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. This workshop, led by CSO teaching artist and Docent lecturer Brenda Fineberg, asked the teachers to use a listening tool that allowed them to closely analyze the music and understand the choices and consequences the composers made when writing this music. Later in the day, teachers and Civic Fellows* met to discuss the upcoming visits the Fellows would make to each school, performing the featured repertoire of this program. The discussions that teachers had with the Fellows gave them further inspiration as they continued to develop or refine their lessons.

As you will read in the teacher reflections, this dedicated time for professional development has had a significant impact on each teacher and their practice.

*The Civic Fellowship Program immerses eight emerging professional musicians in rigorous training that enhances their membership in the Civic Orchestra.

Wendie Bloxsom – Art Teacher
Clinton Elementary School

“Working with the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Civic Fellows, and Brenda Fineberg has been truly influential for current lessons and units that I am working on. By having this dedicated time to explore content in a deeper and richer way, my skills and passion as a teacher have been refreshed. As a visual arts teacher, looking to other art forms for inspiration is where influential and authentic art is made. I hope to continue with this program for the remaining years of this partnership.”

Library Science and Design Teacher
Agassiz Elementary School

“This has been a hugely beneficial program, both for the opportunity to integrate arts into other disciplines, and to focus more deeply on interdisciplinary collaboration. My colleagues and I would not have been able to work on this unit as cohesively and broadly without this shared time and focus. I have been particularly pleased that many of the exercises … are easy and appropriate to bring straight back into the classroom. The CSOA staff and presenters know what works in a real educational setting and imparts the knowledge and best practices to the teachers in a meaningful and instructive way.”

Ben Rogers – Library Science Teacher
Swift Elementary School

“During the first two workshops … focusing on Romeo and Juliet, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with artists, actors, musicians, and dynamic CPS teachers from across the city. Performing improve activities with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, composing musical interpretations of R&J with Brenda Fineberg and the Civic Fellows, and developing lessons and units and EXPERIENCES with my colleagues has already taught me so much about the art and joy of teaching and learning. My students will directly benefit from the shared expertise and enthusiasm of all members of this group.”

Chris Dixon – Music Teacher
Edwards Elementary School

“I’m personally thrilled to be working with the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The partnership that Edwards School has through the CSO-Connect program is outstanding and will be a great way to introduce students to the classical music world. The workshops are amazingly helpful and are some of the best professional development I’ve been to for arts teachers.”

Danielle Pearse – Literature Teacher
Disney Magnet School

“The CSO-Connect professional development workshops really opened my eyes as to how I can incorporate music into my literature classes. If we can connect music to novels, plays, and story-telling in general, it gives students another way to interpret text and understand the author’s perspective and mood. Thank you for giving me the tools to bring music into my classroom.”