Lower School music teacher Mary Heveran was one of several teachers able to combine a D-E professional development opportunity with realizing a lifelong dream. Her grant from the School enabled her to visit the places where classical music began — and to use what she saw and did to enrich her teaching.
The journey really began when Heveran first began to study music and dreamed of going to Vienna, Austria. As her studies continued, she began to concentrate on two areas of interest: opera and the music of Mozart. Her passion for opera led Heveran to introduce the Creating Original Opera program, offered in cooperation with the New York Metropolitan Opera, into the Lower School’s fifth grade curriculum over the last 27 years. In recent years, Heveran was one of four teachers in the United States to be chosen to partner with teachers in London who wanted to bring opera into their school’s curriculum.
Heveran’s desire to follow in the footsteps of Haydn and Mozart in Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest has always been closely related to her teaching. “For many years I have been telling children the stories of the childhood and young adulthood of classical composers,” she explains. “I choose this approach in the hopes that children would realize that, at one time, these famous composers were children just like them and to hopefully inspire them to become the next great composer of our time. As I would read these stories to the children, and I would mention certain places in Europe, I always wondered what it would be like to visit the house where Mozart was born or where he composed his first opera or go to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna where Haydn first sang as a boy. It has also been my dream to attend an opera at the Vienna State Opera House, combining my passion for opera with the experience of being in the city of music where Mozart conducted his operas.”
In Vienna last summer, Heveran had a private tour of the Vienna State Opera House and spoke with stagehands, lighting designers, and opera singers. She also visited the home where Mozart lived as a young man; attended Sunday mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral (pictured at right); and toured the homes of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, and the home where Beethoven composed his only opera, Fidelio. She attended a concert at which the conductor and all of the musicians dressed in the style of Mozart and a performance of her favorite opera, Tosca. Finally, she visited the cemetery where Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Strauss are buried and where there is a monument to Mozart.
In Salzburg, Heveran visited Mozart’s birthplace and childhood home. On an all-day “Sound of Music” tour, she went to “all the places where the von Trapp family lived, played, sang, and summered, as well as the chapel where Maria married Georg von Trapp.” Ending in Budapest, Heveran attended “several outdoor concerts, street fairs, and festivals where all types of music were being played, everything from string quartets, to opera, to accordion music, as well as attending high Mass at St. Matyas Church.”
Sharing her experiences with her students this past school year was as rewarding as the trip itself. “It is so satisfying and heartwarming to see the faces and hear questions and comments from children in all grades say things such as: You actually went to Mozart’s house? You stood on the same floor he did? What was it like to see the clavier Haydn played? You mean you actually got to see the violin Mozart played as a child? You saw the actual writing implement that Haydn used to write his symphony! Are you saying that the Vienna State Opera House sets up their costumes just like we do for our original opera?”
As a final element to her grant, Mary is now editing the 700 photos and 50-plus videos that she took for a PowerPoint presentation that will be regularly presented to D-E students and serve as a resource for her fellow teachers.