David Anderson, BMus’08, takes a formal approach to the battle against schoolyard bullying.
He’s one half of The Acoustic Opera, a tuxedo-clad duo which tours elementary schools to deliver a message that being weird is awesome.
Anderson’s Acoustic Opera partner is Blake Fleischacker, BA’07. They met at Western after each grew up excelling in “non-cool activities”. Both played in school bands. Anderson was a Highland dancer and boy soprano.
In addition to The Acoustic Opera, Anderson is a vocal coach and has been hired to sing with some of the world’s most impressive choirs. He has his own health and wellness business and weaves positive attitude, health, wellness and music into every aspect of his personal and professional life.
Both his parents, Carol Stewart and Bob Anderson, are music teachers and Western graduates in music and education respectively. Their son intended to go to teachers’ college when he finished his performance degree. Instead, he took a sales and training job with Apple. A conversation with Fleischacker over coffee sparked their Acoustic Opera partnership.
Each hour-long program begins with the duo entering the school in tuxedos. Before they even speak, the students see them as being weird, different.
Fleischacker begins playing guitar; Anderson taps a rhythm on a drum and urges students to clap along. Instead of belting out a pop tune, as the audience expects, Anderson surprises them with a Mozart aria. When he asks how many thought that was a little bit weird, hands thrust up.
Then he asks how many thought it was a little bit awesome – and more hands are raised, laying the foundation for their message.
“We wanted to do something with youth and create something that was our own,” Anderson told Western Young Alumni. “We sat in my apartment for a week and when we started, we had no idea where we wanted to take it. We filled the walls with chart paper – stories from childhood, things we’ve done, our musical talents and what would be valuable to teach young people. By the end, we had a sketch for The Acoustic Opera.”
Once they landed on a theme, the weird/awesome angle seemed to be something that would resonate with all ages. “We’ve found ourselves calling people ‘weird’ – and that’s what makes them awesome,” Anderson says.
The Acoustic Opera has been presented to schools in eight different boards with audiences from 30 to 500. As for the future, Anderson and Fleischacker have plans for a sequel. They are also creating curriculum materials to enable teachers to extend the program in the classroom and secondary school programs.
For more, go to acousticopera.com.
Read the complete story: Young Alumni Magazine
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