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Opening Minds through the Arts

Opening Minds through the Arts | 2025 E. Winsett, Tucson, AZ 85719 | (520) 225-4900

What's New

Fruchthendler Elementary wins
National Blue Ribbon Award

Fruchthendler Elementary  says their students' exemplary performances on state standardized tests are a product of emphasizing enriching experiences like the arts as well as strategies that target extra help to struggling students.

Fruchthendler provides Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) integrating the arts into required curriculum objectives at every grade level. Kindergartners and second graders have weekly dance lessons to relate body movements, shapes and patterns to science and math lessons. Opera artists guide first graders through designing their own opera presentations emphasizing word choice and story structure. Third graders making their first forays into fractions, are taught how to read music notes to play recorders. “Students like to come to school when there are fun things to do,” said Fruchthendler Principal Mary Anderson.

Fruchthendler students scored higher than state averages on standardized tests during the pandemic, putting them among five Arizona schools to win the 2021 National Blue-Ribbon Award in the Exemplary High Performing Schools category from the U.S. Department of Education. This recognizes schools whose student cohorts perform in the state's top 15% in English and mathematics.

Principal Anderson believes this success requires a community effort. “The key is to work with people who share a vision and commitment to excellence, and working collaboratively with everyone, and I really mean everyone. It takes our staff, our students and our parents.”

Arts in Education Week

Back in April the TUSD Governing Board approved:

14 new positions created to fulfill the vision of a fulltime Music and/or Arts specialist in every elementary school.

$4.5 M approved by TUSD School Board in April to "memorialize the arts for TUSD". This was Dr. Trujillo's original vision.

#JoyinTUSD #OpeningMindsthroughtheArts

Tucson Unified School District, Fine and Performing Arts, OMA

The 2021 Opening Minds through the Arts / Fine Arts Department Virtual Showcase

A collection of 20 student works produced during distance learning.

Thank you to all our OMA and Fine Arts Teachers for their dedication during this challenging time!

ESSA Conference Selection

TUSD Fine Arts/OMA schools and their students will be featured at the statewide 2021 Virtual ESSA Conference on February 23 and 24. Selected from numerous applications, Arizona Department of Education describes these virtual presentations/performances as embodying the state's theme of adapt, innovate, and respond while demonstrating engagement and the highest quality of arts education during unprecedented and challenging times. Congratulations to these schools, students, teachers, and administrators!

  • RUHS Dance Students choreography and virtual performance entitled In a Society, Beth Braun, teacher
  • RUHS Dance Students choreography and virtual performance entitled Forever, Beth Braun, teacher
  • Doolen MS Orchestral Students entitled Strings Performance, Paul Ensey, teacher
  • TUSD students from HS Choirs, Pueblo HS Mariachi, Doolen MS Band and Orchestra, Fruchthendler OMA students, Warren OMA Visual Arts students entitled On-Line Creativity, Joan Ashcraft and Thom Lewis, coordinators

Arizona Department of Education Arts

OMA for Kindergarten Students

As families begin to explore the many options available for their Kindergarten-eligible children, they recognize the power of the Arts in their children's development. TUSD shares that belief and provides the award-winning Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) program​.

OMA integrates music, movement, and visual arts with the children's grade level curriculum​ and is a vital contributor to each child's first step​s in school. ​Through arts integration, OMA focuses on specific areas of each child's academic and social development.

In Kindergarten, OMA provides experiences throughout the week to develop

  • listening and speaking skills through Music
  • fine motor skills through Visual Art
  • spatial awareness and flexibility through dance
  • social/emotional growth
  • creativity and resilience

Our OMA Gold Schools offer full year programs in a variety of art forms. Our OMA Exploratory Schools offer one semester in Visual Arts and one semester in Performing Arts. Find the list of OMA Gold and OMA Exploratory Schools here!

OMA Lessons Integrate Arts in Instruction

Miranda DeBretto, OMA Arts Integration Specialist (AIS), at Peter Howell Elementary, provides this sample OMA lesson that demonstrates the integration of the arts with academic, tested instruction. The OMA lesson entitled Accordionly is designed around a children's book by Michael Genhart which links the accordion to factions of a family that have trouble communicating. Children are asked to identify the main idea and key details of the story while acknowledging diversity within their own lives.

Collage with the word Smile

It changes your mood, it relieves stress, and it helps you stay positive.

Painted paper collage created in OMA Art with Mrs. Sarah Howard, by the classes of 2028 and 2030 at Harold Steele Elementary School.

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.

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

Huichal Yarn Painting at Blenman Elementary - An OMA Project

OMA Books

Book Cover for Opening Minds through the Arts: Where Integration Meets Innovation Book Cover for It's Time for Opera Book Cover for OMA Goodness

OMA: Where Integration Meets Innovation

Opening Minds through the Arts

Book Cover for Opening Minds through the Arts: Where Integration Meets InnovationWhere Integration Meets Innovation

By OMA Staff

As members of this incredible team of certified arts teachers, integrated arts specialists, and professional artists who are trained as teaching artists, we have laughed at our mistakes and drawn upon each other’s experiences and artistry  to conceptualize and develop a unique and enduring arts integration program – one that has become a model for schools and educators nationwide. We offer our words and experiences as a way to encourage you in your own journey of arts integration. While we are certainly proud to present these experiences alongside government-backed statistical data collected from OMA, the final analysis still exists on a more personal level: the true legacy of OMA speaks to its ability to affect the lives of not only children but also the lives of teachers, parents, and administrators. The OMA program is a model for rethinking education; it is a model for positive community change.

It's Time for Opera!

It's Time for Opera!

Book Cover for It's Time for OperaA Handbook for OMA Opera Teaching Artists

By Kimberly Chaffin, Juan Aguirre, and Gregg Reynolds

Being an OMA opera teaching artist is an experience that will test your artistry and teaching skills. You will have the joy of sharing the art form with students who would otherwise not have this opportunity. The children create “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences integrating English Language Arts standards and Music/Theatre Arts standards through their original stories, lyrics, music, staging and performing. Throughout the handbook, the authors impart their knowledge from over twelve years of experience in the OMA Program. Welcome to the most challenging job you will ever love!

OMA Goodness

OMA Goodness

Book Cover for OMA GoodnessServing Up Tasty Tutorials and Delicious Morsels of Mathematical Arts Integration

By Trista Tamura and Amanda Gehl

Our two OMA Visual Arts Specialists created this handbook to share some of their ideas, successes, and thoughts on how to incorporate visual arts integration into the classroom in an easy, interactive, hands-on, fun-filled way. The integration focuses on process not product. Having a degree in Fine Arts or being a professional artist is not required!

Opening Minds throug the Arts

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1010 E. Tenth St., Tucson, AZ 85719 | 520-225-600