MPS students sing and sign with Florentine Opera in first for company

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MILWAUKEE – Students from Milwaukee Public Schools’ Milwaukee Sign Language School sang and signed Tuesday alongside members of the city’s Florentine Opera in a first for the company.

The unique performance featuring 23 MPS second graders – including eight who are deaf or hard of hearing – was the Florentine Opera Company’s first involving both students and sign language. Florentine Opera’s work in MPS and other schools is made possible by the Herzfeld Foundation.

Students and company members performed “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day,” an operatic version of the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Students at MPS' Milwaukee Sign Language School sing and sign with members of the Florentine Opera Company

Students at MPS’ Milwaukee Sign Language School sing and sign with members of the Florentine Opera Company

Sarah Jones, Education & Community Engagement Manager, provided the students with an introduction to opera along with discussion about the specific piece. Milwaukee Sign Language School teachers taught the students the music and the corresponding signs.

“I go to dozens of schools every year and have been completely inspired by the students and staff,” Jones said. “It’s been an amazing pleasure for us to work with them.”

Students benefit from exposure to professional performers and the arts, which foster student learning tied to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, Principal Taimi Parey noted. In this case, the students efforts’ tie into the Common Core areas of speaking and listening; collaboration; and fictional literature.

Milwaukee Sign Language School is one of 10 MPS GE Foundation Demonstration Schools, which use innovative methods to implement the Common Core.

All students at MSLS receive instruction in American Sign Language. The school is open to neighborhood students as well as students from across the city who are deaf or hard of hearing and their siblings.