In the third chapter in this series, we chat with Amber Yared, the Children and Youth Programs Co-ordinator for the Canadian Opera Company, one of PAONE’s organization members.
PAONE: What are you up to this summer at the COC?
AY: Right now it’s camps camps camps! I coordinate the COC’s Scotiabank Summer Opera Camps, and am focused on them for the month of July. But, in between contacting parents for health and safety information, talking about programming with our artist educators, designing invites, and other Camps-related administrative duties, I’m also working on planning the other two programs I coordinate that run through fall, winter, and spring.
PAONE: Can you tell us about your summer work and how it connects to arts education?AY: I think a lot of people conceive of camp in terms of fun and as addressing a need for childcare. But many camps are learning spaces in which both educators and kids are free of the pressures of the assessment, evaluation, and curriculum objectives imposed on schools. A yoga teacher I know once told me that we can’t learn unless we’re feeling relaxed and grounded. I feel like that level of comfort and openness is something we strive for at the COC’s camps—we want the kids to be feeling good and if they’re feeling good, relaxed, and confident then it’s more likely they’ll come away with some new, deep understanding of opera—the creation process; how to collaborate; what it means to perform; technical skills in singing, composing, drama, and/or stage design. The kids who attend the COC’s camps leave having had a pretty intensive art education experience.
PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
AY: I love summer programming. It’s one of the only times we get to engage with kids and youth for extended periods of time. We get them first thing in the morning for many days in a row instead of once a week at the end of a tiring school day. It’s a chance to get to know them in a different way and to work with them more intensively.
For the kids, summer programming means they get to leave the more generalized space of school and encounter other kids who share their interests. This is really important—especially for teenagers. And while I think that many kids don’t have nearly enough unprogrammed time in their lives, I also think that providing an alternative learning environment, outside of school, is truly valuable.
PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
AY: Mostly spending time with my husband and kid. Playing in the park, going for walks, visiting with friends and family, and trying to keep cool.
PAONE: What’s the best thing about summer in Toronto?
AY: It’s just great to be able to get outside. My family and I are taking full advantage of the splash pads in the park and are loving the summer fruits and vegetables.
Amber Yared is the Children and Youth Programs Co-ordinator at the Canadian Opera Company. She has an unshakable interest in art education that has led her to teach and coordinate programming in schools, art galleries, and community art programs and organizations.