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Through opera, students find their voices

By Mathew Plamondon - Staff Writer | Apr 2, 2019

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON While performing in front of MicroSociety Academy Charter School teacher's parents and other students, artist-in-residence, Nick Tocci leads while Logan Bechard, Jacob Quinones and the rest of their class sing along.

NASHUA – Kindergartners and first-graders at the MicroSociety Academy Charter School belted out some tunes for their parents, teachers and peers Friday after a week of learning about opera, singing and stage performance from the school’s latest artist-in-residence, Nicholas Tocci.

A baritone opera singer, Tocci has experience working in every state in New England. Having earned his master’s degree in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory, he has gone on to work in high-profile establishments in the region, including Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre, Barn Opera in Vermont, Raylynmor Opera and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tocci, a Nashua native studied in the Nashua School District, spent the week teaching the youngest students at MACS about opera singing and stage performance. He said he was pleasantly surprised with how the children with whom he spent time took to the music.

“They loved it, they really did. I was really pleasantly surprised,” Tocci said.

Through his lessons, Tocci said he made it a point to teach the students not only about the art of singing, but the overall art form that opera encompasses – the music, the story, the stage design and the costumes. He also made it a point to identify the voices featured in an opera, he said.

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON MicroSociety Academy's artist-in-residence teacher Nick Tocci leads Saniya Bilash, Sofia Szymanski, Yamee Aravindh and their classmates during their performance for teachers, parents and other students.

“That was a big point. I went down the list – soprano, mezzo, tenor and baritone,” he said, “I wanted it to be a part of this lesson because it’s really interesting – all the different voices you can hear in an opera.”

After sharing all his knowledge and conducting rehearsals throughout the week, Tocci and the students took to the “stage” where they performed classic nursery rhymes with an added twist. At one point during the show Tocci and one of the first-grade classes – voices all singing in unison – were singing a unique version of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?” much to the delight of the audience and performers.

Denyelle Klayton, the school’s program coordinator, said Tocci’s ability to create such a fun and educational atmosphere, as well as connect with the students is what resonated with her during his time at the school.

“Nick brought a lot of his personality to the program, and he really had a good sense of how to work with children and to break it down in way they understand it, and have them be excited and enthusiastic about music,” Klayton said.

During the week of lessons and rehearsals, Tocci said he was not focused on perfection. What he really wanted was for the children to take away an important lesson — that they can have an open mind that will help them continue learning and looking for knowledge and experience beyond what they already know.

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON While performing in front of MicroSociety Academy Charter School teacher's parents and other students, artist-in-residence, Lucas Silva and Henry Teeple belt out some nursery ryhmes with the rest of their class.

“I hope whatever I’m teaching is something that will open their minds up to the world in front of them,” Tocci said, “to see that there are things that they never even knew existed in the world that they can go out and find themselves.”

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON While singing in front their parents, friends and teachers, MicroSociety Academy students Sophia Lopez, Eli McGowan and Niharika Mantina show off what they have learned from opera singer and artist-in-residence teacher Nick Tocci.

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