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Opening Minds through the Arts

Inspired by exciting, ongoing research into connections between brain development and music, Tucson's Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA program) is a leader in a national movement to integrate arts education with core curriculum. OMA uses instrumental music, opera, dance, theater and visual arts to help teach reading, writing, math and science to children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Each fully implemented OMA school has an Arts Integration Specialist and a team of seven artists who work alongside classroom teachers, adapting each lesson to support teaching of core content and knowledge. In addition, children learn to play the recorder, violin, a wind instrument and keyboard. In Tucson, the OMA program employs 26 artists from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera Company, University of Arizona Schools of Music and Dance and other arts organizations to teach 30-minute, twice-weekly classes for 36 weeks of the school year that support core curriculum goals.

Kindergarten: LISTENING – Students work with an instrumental ensemble strengthening essential listening skills while enriching and reinforcing the kindergarten curriculum.

1st Grade: LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT – Students work with opera singers to strengthen vocabulary and enhance reading/writing skills throughout the creation of original operas.

2nd Grade: KINESTHETIC AWARENESS – Students work with dance artists to identify mathematical structures and concepts in music.

3rd Grade: WRITING & ACADEMIC SKILLS – Students learn to play piano keyboards, Orff instruments and/or recorders while reading, composing original music and developing decoding skills important to language arts and mathematics

4th Grade: ABSTRACT REASONING – Students study violin, developing their reading and fine motor skills.

5th Grade: RESEARCH, CREATE, PERFORM – Students compose, direct and perform original works that examine universal themes through an inquiry based learning approach.

6th, 7th and 8th Grade: COMPOSITION/ANALYSIS – Students work with theater and dance artists, instrumental ensembles, and/or visual artists to create and perform original works. This improves students’ comprehension, writing skills, and further develops their ability to use critical thinking strategies.




Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) of Tucson Unified School District, and Odaiko Sonora, Arizona’s premier taiko drumming group, propose a program of fully implemented taiko instruction at Cavett Elementary School and Morgan Maxwell K-8 School. We will continue the success of our past two years of taiko instruction at Morgan Maxwell School that was made possible with the support of two Strengthening Schools Through Arts Partnerships grants. In addition, for school year 2015-2016, we will build upon a fledgling taiko program at Cavett Elementary, a D rated school. This past school year Odaiko Sonora provided instruction in the art of Japanese drumming to Cavett’s intermediate students for one semester. With the ACA’s support we will expand Cavett taiko instruction to the full implementation of a year long program that will include performances. A fully implemented taiko program will include the instruction of taiko kata (form), Japanese language and culture, and the musical methodology for teaching and creating taiko songs. Over the course of the year, each classroom will learn 3 to 7 drills used to build taiko skills, 1 to 3 traditional taiko songs, and will create 1 to 2 original taiko songs.



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OMA brings the arts to Tucson Unified School District classrooms as a means of ...

  • Teaching core curriculum
  • Improving test scores
  • Fostering cognitive development
  • Igniting love and understanding of the arts
  • Narrowing the gap between less-privileged and more-privileged students
  • Building community
  • Encouraging self-expression
  • Supporting the arts

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