Skip Navigation

Office of School and Community Partnerships
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

Performing Arts Series


Since 2008, the Teachers College Performing Arts Series (PAS) has brought more than 7,000 children and their teachers from 35 Harlem schools onto campus to see children’s opera, theater and music. The goal of the Series is to expose K-12 students to high-quality live performances that will stimulate their minds, enhance their cultural knowledge and excite their emotional engagement in learning.


The PAS gives children who might otherwise never see live performing arts, the opportunity to attend regular productions given by high-quality performers. It also provides teachers with curriculum materials, lesson plans and resources to support the integration of music/theater education into the core subject areas.


The Series provides a repertoire of music and theater that reflects the diversity of the audience and builds creative educational connections for children outside of the traditional academic context. Productions address relevant academic and social topics, such as immigration, social justice, and history, among others. Supporting classroom materials, developed by a team of graduate students from across the academic departments, link the themes and concepts of the performances with the learning experience with New York State standards and help teachers prepare for and follow-up the performances.


Discover Opera: The Opera Prince and the Singing Pauper,Thursday, March 22 10:30 a.m. (Grades 2-5)

Undergraduate students from Manhattan School of Music performed a musical parody of The Prince and the Pauper, written by Mark Twain. The show included selections from musical theatre, pop and opera, and introduced children to the basic elements and vocabulary of opera and musicals. Students discovered how opera is a type of performance that extends beyond borders. They learned that opera is a cultural event that tells of fables, history and music from different times and places. It concluded with a Q&A.

Download the classroom materials for Discover Opera here.

Dance Theatre of Harlem: Diaspora Project, Tuesday, March 27 10:30 a.m. (Grades 2-6)

Diaspora was an interactive performance featuring dance and multimedia. Written specially for children, the production drew a connection between the audience and international and local history. 

Download the classroom materials for Dance Theater of Harlem here.

Opera-in-Brief: Hansel and Gretel, Wednesday, April 4 10:30 a.m. (Grades 2-5)

Manhattan School of Music presented its Amato opera-in-Brief of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. The show, originally based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale published in 1812, began with an explanation of the key vocabulary and elements of opera and concludes with a Q&A.

In order that we can continue improving and developing the Performing Arts Series, we ask that all participating schools complete the following online questionnaire:


Through collaboration with Columbia Global Centers, Teachers College expanded and enriched components of the Performing Arts Series that spoke to global and international learning. Specifically, two of the performances held in the spring semester of 2011 focused on themes that examined historical and social issues in different cultures around the world, and the classroom materials for all four contained lesson plans on topics related to global issues.

Dance Theater of Harlem, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 10:30 AM (Grades 3-6)

An interactive educational performance took young people into the world of classical ballet. A combination of lecture and dance performance, Professional Training Program students will engage the viewers with their personal stories, insights into the art of ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem as well as lead an audience participation segment. Students learned that ballet is a universal language for telling stories through movement. 

Download the classroom materials for Dance Theater of Harlem here.

Discover Opera: The Secret Music Garden, Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 10:00 AM (Grades 2-4)

Undergraduate students from the Manhattan School of Music performed a musical piece based on the novel The Secret Garden. Students learned basic elements of opera and musicals, while discovering the capacity of opera to convey stories and emotion. The Manhattan School of Music has contributed to the vibrant culture of New York City for over 85 years. It is one of the premier private music conservatories in the nation, with nearly 275 faculty members dedicated to shaping over 800 students from 40 countries into world-class musicians.

Download the classroom materials for Discover Opera here.

Romeo and Juliet, Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, 10:00 AM (Grades 7-12)

Theater and literacy are promoted in an abbreviated version of Shakespeare’s iconic romantic tragedy of innocent young lovers falling victim to family hatred and cruel destiny. The play explores themes of social justice, citizenship, adolescence, love, tragedy, conflict and exile. Accompanying lesson plans will examine and compare culturally unique renditions of Romeo and Juliet.

Download the classroom materials for Romeo and Juliet here

Jazz, Thursday, April 14th, 2011, 10:30AM (Grades 3-5)

An ensemble of musicians from the Manhattan School of Music guided students through an exploration of historical, cultural and social influences that shaped America and the global history of music. Students were introduced to jazz terminology and instruments, along with various styles of jazz, such as Dixieland, swing and bebop.

Please contact the Office of School and Community Partnerships at to have a copy of these lessons plans emailed to you.

In 2011, the Performing Arts Series teamed up with TC's Art Education program to celebrate the visual arts in a new project called Experiencing Cultures. This created several new opportunities for our public school partners, including a K-12 art competition with prizes for different grade levels, school visits from graduate assistants in art education, and the opportunity for K-12 teachers to attend lectures given by high profile speakers on the College campus.

The Performing Arts Series is run out of the Office of School and Community Partnerships and is directed by Dr. Emily Zemke. She can be reached at: (212) 678 7420 or



JAZZ: Get Into The Groove!

Jazz instruments and concepts were brought alive for students from six Harlem schools when they visited Teachers College on April 8th, 2010.

Jazz musicians from Manhattan School of Music directed and produced the performance.  They introduced students to the elements of jazz such as improvisation, melody and rhythm through a special jazz family: Mother Jazz on vocals, Father Jazz on saxophone, three Groove Brothers on piano, bass and drums, Uncle Jimmy on trombone. They played some familiar jazz tunes, including When the Saints Go Marching In, and discussed the importance of communication while playing music and working together.


Teachers College graduate students created classroom materials that explore the content and themes of the shows, and help teachers integrate the theater experience into the classroom curriculum. Click on the link below for the pdf file:

Jazz: Get Into the Groove Classroom Materials

(Recommended Grades 3-5)

  • Exploring Tone, Rhythm and Repetition through Jazz Singing and Poetry
Students will be introduced to jazz concepts through scat singing and Langston Hughes poetry
    • What is scat singing and how does it use improvisation?
    • How do musicians express emotion through scat singing and poetry?
    • Videos of scat singing and Langston Hughes' Weary Blues are included.
  • Jazz in Harlem
Students will identify the importance of jazz history and landmarks in the Harlem neighborhood
    • What role did Harlem play in the history of jazz?
    • What is the importance of the landmarks: The Savoy Ballroom, The Cotton Club, Apollo Theater, Duke Ellington Blvd and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem?
    • Maps of Harlem and landmark descriptions are included.
  • Understanding Jazz Through Successful Advertising Campaigns
Students will develop their own band name and members and create a concert flyer.
    • What made concert posters successful?
    • How will you represent your band visually?
    • Samples of historic jazz concert posters are included.
  • Compare and Contrast Jazz Styles
Students will create a chart showing the similarities and differences between Swing and Dixieland jazz styles.
    • What are the major differences between jazz styles?
    • What instruments do they use?
    • Instructions for an art activity included.

Related Links

Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

The adventures of Claudia and Jamie Kincaid through the Metropolitan Museum of Art captivated students from Harlem Schools on May 19th, 2010.

From the Mixed Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg was adapted for the stage as a musical by ArtsPower. The characters have run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and uncovered a mystery that they are determined to solve. Through their performance, students follow them through art history, New York City, and their search for identity.


Teachers College graduate students created classroom materials that explore the content and themes of the shows, and help teachers integrate the theater experience into the classroom curriculum.
Click on the link below for the pdf file:

  • Investigating Michelangelo and the Renaissance
            Students will explore Michelangelo's importance in the Italian Renaissance.
    • What was characteristic of Michelangelo's sculptures?
    • How do you interpret pieces of Michelangelo's paintings?
    • Pictures of Michelangelo's work are included
  • Study of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
            Students will explore the floor plans of the Met and artifacts that relate to Mixed Up Files.
    • What are floor plans and why do we use them?
    • Where would these artifacts be found in the museum and what is their history?
    • Floor maps, descriptions and images of artifacts are included.
  • Writing Descriptive Summaries for Class Artifacts
            Students will use their own adventures to choose artifacts and create a class museum.
    • What objects do you use in your adventures?
    • How would you write a museum tag for these objects?
    • Worksheets and model texts included.
  • Perspective Letters to the Kincaids
            Students will write letters based on the performance with attention to audience and perspective.
    • What letters would the characters write to Claudia and Jamie Kincaid?
    • How do you format a persuasive letter?
    • Sample texts included.
Related Links


Participating teachers: Help us to continue improving and developing the Performing Arts Series: Click Here for Questionnaire

Other Performing Arts Series stories that may be of interest to you: