Changing of the Guard

When I think about “parent involvement,” during my kids’ years in Chatham County Schools, three things come to mind as most influential.

  1. 4th Grade trip to Outer Banks—Three days traveling with 100 students, their parents and teachers! With Mattie Smith’s superb organizational skills, it was a delight to watch a teacher’s fine mix of discipline and fun. And it was the first time I got to know a group of parents I would work closely with for the next 10 years.
  2. Band Boosters—Participating in a well-developed parent organization whose work was absolutely essential for the success of the program—raising serious money and putting in serious hours. Being welcomed as a team member by the community that is marching band.

    Byways, Highways & Skyways


    NHS All-Superior Pit Crew

  3. Establishing and working with NHSAEF—Recognizing that the entire arts education program needed the kind of support Band Boosters provided the instrumental music program. Learning that a group of dedicated parents and community members lending a hand, promoting, and advocating for students, faculty, the program, the school, and the arts could have a tremendous impact on perception, recognition, funding and opportunities.


    2010 NHSAEF Scholarship Recipients

Why Should You Get Involved?

  1. First and foremost, to support this tremendous faculty. Ten years ago Northwood was the only NC school the Kennedy Center recognized with their Creative Ticket for Excellence for its comprehensive arts education program. Today those junior faculty members have remained, and grown to lead this award-winning program. NHS is one of only about 45% of the US high schools with a theatre arts program and one of only about 12% of US high schools with a dance program.* This faculty was a stable force for our children during an era when other parts of Northwood did not have great continuity from year to year. They have modeled life-long learning—earning advanced degrees, board certification, pursuing professional development activities, developing facility on additional instruments, and auditioning for new dance companies. They and their students have earned statewide and national recognition, received grants to expand opportunities, and built a tradition of excellence to which new students aspire each year.
  2. Your efforts, your presence, your participation validates the importance of arts education studies for all  students.
  3. You maintain and increase funding and program stability by promoting NorthwoodArts to the community, the school board, the county commissioners and our state legislators.
  4. You meet super students and make life-long friendships with families who work alongside you.
  5. Your efforts provide much needed funds for annual college scholarships and teacher grants.

What Kinds of Things Does NHSAEF Do?

  1. Officers direct the business of the organization.
  2. Committee members work on projects in particular areas: Hospitality, Programs, Membership, Publicity, Fundraising.
  3. Program activities have included: Meet the Principal/Superintendent nights, Arts Integration Workshops & Art 21 Video Sessions for National Arts & Humanities Month, a student trip to Raleigh to meet with legislators on Arts Advocacy Day, PASPort Lecture/Demos with Stanley Baird, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Neenna Freelon, and Leslie Burwell.  Residencies with Dr. John Brown from Duke University.
  4. Fundraisers have included: Concerts & Auctions, Fashion shows, Dinner theatre, Zumba classes, yard sales, a holiday bazaar, a recycling collection drive, and the sale of concessions at NHS arts events.

If you’re lucky, you learn as much while your kids are in high school as they do—different lessons, but equally important. So that when graduation comes, you too will miss students, families, teachers, the rhythm of the school calendar, and truly understand that word we hear so often this time of year—bittersweet.

NHS and the Arts Ed Foundation need you. Contact arts department chair Leslie Burwell or NHSAEF Faculty Liaison Lori Major Carlin to volunteer for the coming year.

* Parsad, B., & Spiegelman, M. (9012). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10 (NCES 2012-014). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.


Supporting Arts & Arts Education in Chatham County: Remarks to Chatham County Commissioners

Chatham Delegates to the 2012 NC High School All-State Choral Festival from Jordan Matthews and Northwood High Schools

Investment and Achievement

Benefits of Arts in NC

In addition to improving the quality of life and promoting communities to new residents and business, the creative community offers tangible, economic benefits. As of 2009 in NC, this industry created and sustained almost 300,000 jobs, generated $10 billion in employee compensation, and produced more than $40 billion in goods and services.1 In metropolitan areas its easy to see how the Durham Performing Arts Center or the NC Museum of Art, for example, attract tourist dollars and contribute to the larger economy. In more rural communities, we need to look closer at the benefits investment in the arts brings. In Chatham County, our vibrant arts education program emphasizes these benefits. This is especially important as recent findings from longitudinal studies of over 20 years confirm that sustained involvement in strong arts programs are associated with increased college enrollment and attainment, and greater civic engagement, with higher levels of volunteering, voting, and participation in local and school politics. And these findings are most significant for at-risk and disadvantaged students.2

Arts Education at Northwood

Arts Education opportunities at Northwood include Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Instrumental Music, Choral Music, and Dance

Arts Education in Chatham

Arts Education has had sustained support from the County Commissioners, the Board of Education, and the administration of Chatham County Schools for many years.  Investments made more than 30 years ago, continue to provide unique opportunities for students and recognition for achievements. Distinguished faculty, dedicated students, and involved community members, organizations, and businesses work to make arts education one of the hallmarks of the school system, a fact often mentioned by local real estate agents and websites.

I’d like to note highlights at Northwood High School, since that has been the focus of my volunteer work.  But certainly arts residencies at Margaret Pollard, the documentary film program at Sage, professional development workshops in the arts at Woods School, and the establishment of the new arts education foundation at Jordan Matthews also attest to strong community support and involvment across the entire county.

A decade ago in 2002, the NHS Arts Education Department was the only high school in North Carolina to receive the prestigious Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award, presented by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for its comprehensive and outstanding Arts Education programs.3 Today, those junior faculty members lead the current department and they and their students have continued to excel. They have earned board certification, advanced graduate degrees, statewide and national recognition, and numerous grant awards to supplement and expand learning opportunities for their students.

Northwood is one of only 12% of the public schools in the nation to offer high school dance studies.4 It has the distinction of being the oldest public high school dance program in North Carolina. In addition NHS has one of the few National Honor Societies in Dance Arts in a typical NC high school. With its establishment, Northwood now has honor societies in all arts disciplines (National Art Honor Society, Tri-M International Music Honor Society, and International Thespian Society.) We are excited that senior Julia Sloane has been selected as 2012 Regional Finalist for the NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award.

Student achievement can be seen by participation and honor recognition in the annual Scholastic Art Awards, area Marching Band competitions, NC All-District Band, NC All-State Choral Festival, Central District Band Festival, Governor’s School, and All-County Chorus. Our students attract thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to continue their studies. Last year three of the major arts departmental awards at East Carolina (Outstanding Senior in the Musical Theatre Program, Outstanding Senior in Dance Performance, and Outstanding Senior in Dance Education) all were awarded to Northwood High School alumni. Our students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in music performance, music education, theatre, visual arts, advertising, dance, fashion design, and filmaking, just to name a few. Others have graduated with honors, performed at Carnegie Hall, entered graduate programs, and begun to work professionally, not only in the arts, but as scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, journalists, and international relief workers.

Faculty grants and community investment have provided residencies, workshops, and master classes so students have the opportunity to meet and learn from world-class performers and educators. Drama students participated in the NEA-funded Shakespeare in American Communities Program with UNC Playmakers and their teaching artist David McClutchy. Distinguished educator Dr. John Brown, head of Duke’s Jazz program, provided master classes, as did the Lula Washington Dance Company from Los Angeles. The Glenn Miller Orchestra has visited, as have performers from the Lion King national tour, the renowned musician, composer and educator Stanley Baird, and six-time Grammy nominee, jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Choral instructor Marilyn Shugart was the recipient of the very first Raising Voices Grant from the Triangle Community Foundation last year to produce our All-County Choral Festival and expand that opportunity to middle school students. And Eugene Cottrell, previous national winner of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Award, was one of only two NC music educators recognized for his work by the North Carolina Symphony, receiving the 2011 Jackson Parkhurst Award.

Arts education is a vital part of our cultural life. Visual art students participate each year in the Studio Tour Opening. Band and choral students perform at civic events. The recent NHS spring musical attracted some of our largest audiences—almost 1400 for three performances of Seussical. Dance concerts regularly attract audiences of 1000. Last year’s Motors for Music Car Show had 500 visitors and this year, the organizers (the NHS Band Boosters) are expecting between 600 and 1000 visitors to Pittsboro on April 28. This organization invests $60,000 in the school music program each year.

With this year’s awards, NHSAEF will have presented $25,000 in scholarships to students for achievements in the arts since it’s founding in 2007.5 And a community business donation made possible the organization’s largest teacher grant to date, replacing 30-year-old lighting instruments in the Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium.

Your public support for the arts and arts education is a powerful incentive for the investments of parents, community members, civic organizations, and local business. We strive to be good stewards of that support, to provide the highest caliber of educational opportunities for our students, and in turn provide results you can point to with pride in your efforts to promote Chatham County.


  1. NC Dept. of Cultural Resources. (2009). North Carolina’s $41 billion creative industry employs nearly 300,000. Retrieved online at
  2.  Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S. A., & Hampden-Thompson, G. (2012) The arts and achievement in at- risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies. Washington, DC: The National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved online at
  3.  Chatham County Schools. (2011). About arts education Web page.
  4. Parsad, B., & Spiegelman, M. (2012). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools: 1999–2000 and 2009–10 (NCES 2012-014). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from
  5. Northwood High School Arts Education Foundation.

Seniors Take Center Stage

Just before the winter holiday I got to see some excellent “performances” by students who probably don’t think of themselves as performers. I had the privilege of serving as one of the judges for Northwood’s Graduation Project.  It was a very successful night on many fronts.  First and foremost, the student presentations I saw were thoughtful, interesting, insightful, and extremely well-planned. Students have clearly taken on this relatively new graduation requirement with serious, disciplined attitudes. They have chosen unique topics and created thoughtful products. In the process, each of the judges in our session learned something new. Across the board, for every student that I have spoken with about this controversial requirement, all have dreaded it and all have said after the fact that it was a valuable experience. And compared to the pilot project 2 years ago, both the displays and the public presentations were more polished and well-crafted. Our group  learned about post traumatic stress syndrome, a Habitat for Humanity project, therapeutic massage, and creating braille children’s books!

One of the other benefits I had not anticipated was the unique opportunity it provided for the school to highlight students’ work to the community. Graduation coordinator Leslie Burwell and Principal Chris Blice welcomed more than 50 community members who came to serve as judges. The school’s culinary class provided a delicious meal. Faculty members served as moderators in each classroom. Student work from the winter art show decorated the lobby. The superintendent also came to serve as one of the judges. For people who had never been to Northwood before, it was a great introduction.

Bravo folks!


Recently,  NHSAEF, ChathamArts, & NHS Arts Ed hosted a local Creative Conversation for National Arts & Humanities Month, and our friends from EbzB, Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, presented a great interactive program on Arts Integration. Students, teachers, administrators, and community members participated in a short example as Serena & David led us through the process their students use to create oral history programs during EbzB school residencies. These theatre arts residencies can be used to enhance social studies, language arts, history or civics classes—even math and sciences coursework.

Everyone came away with a better understanding of the challenges and rewards for this kind of well-planned collaboration. And clearly the skills that can be developed (e.g., critical thinking, deductive and inductive reasoning, planning, forecasting, hypothesizing, critiquing, brainstorming, associative, thinking, attribute listing, elaborating, sequencing, evaluating, etc.) have benefits for students in multiple disciplines. [see more photos here.]

Then last weekend I had the opportunity to see a really exciting example of “real world” arts integration.  I was part of a UNC alumni travel group that visited New Bern, NC where the town is celebrating their 300th Anniversary. A highlight of the trip was a special “backstage” tour of the brand new North Carolina History Center at Tryon Palace, just two weeks prior to their Grand Opening, scheduled for October 21-24. Director Kay Williams graciously spent the day showing us this new jewel in the Department of Cultural Resources that has been more than ten years in the making. The facility includes the Pepsi Family Center for a high tech, hands-on experience, where students travel back in time to 1835 and teams work collaboratively to sail a ship, create a quilt, or write stories for the town paper.  The Regional History Museum follows the development of North Carolina from the perspective of its environmental history.  Graphics, interactive kiosks, and exhibits illuminate North Carolina’s culture of diverse peoples— European settlers, Native Americans, free and enslaved African Americans.  The complex also includes a “200 seat state-of-the-arts performing arts hall, exhibit and orientation theatres, a museum store, a waterfront café, and program and administrative space.”

This project is the result of the collaboration of a tremendous number of highly skilled, professionals and dedicated volunteers. Architects, exhibit and media designers, engineers and producers, environmental specialists called in to develop this former Superfund property —now a candidate for Silver level LEED certification. Also researchers, historians, education staff, curators, conservators, landscape architects, archeologists, horticulturalists, gardeners, historic interpreters, graphic designers, musicians, costumers, web designers, librarians, writers, fundraisers, and dozens more in business, state government, education, the arts, history and science.

Don’t miss this! As the opening weekend materials say—It’s about Time!


Moving Right Along…

For our next act, we’ve got an exciting program planned for October, National Arts and Humanities Month. It’s a collaborative effort and we hope to attract broad spectrum of the community …

Pittsboro, NC—NHS Arts Education Foundation, ChathamArts, and the NHS Arts Education department are partnering with Americans for the Arts to host an Emerging Leader Creative Conversation in Pittsboro on Tuesday, October 5, 2010. Creative Conversations bring together local emerging arts leaders and community members to discuss issues regarding the arts in their communities. Creative Conversations are part of National Arts and Humanities Month programs coordinated by Americans for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public. To attend, register online at

The local Creative Conversation features an interactive discussion with special guests EbzB Productions’ Serena Ebhardt & David zum Brunnen. Teachers, parents, students and artists are invited to learn about Arts Integration—What it is, how it works, and how it benefits students and teachers in multiple disciplines. Recognized in the North Carolina Arts Council Touring Artist Directory and in the South Carolina Arts Commission AIE Roster of Approved Artists, EbzB artists have been trained by The Lincoln Center Institute and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to teach Arts in Education Workshops.

Creative Conversations are free and open to the public. Last year, more than 1,500 emerging arts leaders participated in 43 locally hosted Creative Conversations held throughout the country. An interactive Google map is available online at detailing where Creative Conversations are taking place. Visit the website after October to read summary reports of the events and learn what next steps to take in your community.

National Arts and Humanities Month is coordinated by Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. The month-long celebration has become the largest annual celebration of the arts and humanities in the nation. With 50 years of service, Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. More information about Americans for the Arts, Creative Conversations, and National Arts and Humanities Month is available

EbzB Productions, Inc. develops original, touring, theatrical productions to promote integrity, self-discovery and positive transformation of individuals, artists, audiences, and communities. They believe that the performing arts encourages positive transformation through discoveries unveiled immediately and upon reflection. EbzB artists are dedicated to the promotion of dramatic art as a valuable educational tool. They are trained by The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts “Artists as Educators:  Planning Effective Workshops”, and The Lincoln Center Institute’s International Educator Program. EbzB Is also endorsed by the North Carolina Arts Council’s Touring Artists Directory. In addition to performances, EbzB Productions, Inc. is available for student workshops, residencies, and professional development seminars.  EbzB Productions – Your World Is Our Stage!

ChathamArts, the Chatham County Arts Council, is a not for profit organization that supports and presents the arts and artists in our community. They encourage community participation in the arts to enrich the quality of life of the county’s residents. ChathamArts fosters arts awareness and education, and encourages the use of arts as a tool for economic development.

The Northwood High School Arts Education Foundation (NHSAEF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all-volunteer organization, is a community initiative dedicated to ensuring excellence in arts education by identfying, creating, and supporting programs that enrich learning, foster student achievement, and increase community involvement. Visit NHSAEF at


NHS Guys & Dolls poster

I love the things that just appear on my digital doorstep.  Since my husband introduced me to google alerts, every day I get information both useful and quirky. At the moment, in addition to alerts for “arts education” + “gina harrison” [always good to know what the several of us are up to], I’m getting all the news online about “Guys & Dolls.” The Frank Loesser 1950 classic will be  Northwood’s Spring Musical March 25-27.  So today I learned via the Huffington Post that Lady Gaga was a dynamic Miss Adelaide in her middle school G&D production.

Theatre In Our SchoolsOn the E-Newsletter front, Edutopia is featuring some of their recent articles on Parent Participation. This topic is timely for arts education types since March is right around the corner. March is Music in Our Schools Month, Theatre in Our Schools Month, and Youth Art Month.  Visit these websites. There are lots of ideas for celebrating. Help spread the word. Volunteer. Go see a student production, exhibit, or presentation. Music In Our Schools Logo

You might also like Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch newsletter … Or the ArtsEd Digest from the Arts Education Partnership …

Looking Ahead: Virtual Feasts

I go to Weaver Street Market near my office for lunch often and my first stop is always at the dessert counter. I like to stand there and contemplate all the scrumptious and beautifully decorated pies, cakes, tarts, chocolate mousse cups, cup cakes, lemon bars, cheesecakes…well, you get the idea. Then a really nice employee always asks if they can help and I move on to the salad bar. But for those few seconds I savor the idea that I can have anything in the counter, and that sort of means I can have everything—until I make a decision.

That’s also true on the arts scene in January. I’m fortunate to live in an area with vast numbers of concerts, plays, touring shows, exhibits, recitals, lectures, movies, readings  and presentations.  I’ll only get to see a couple. I’m privileged to participate in a few. But I relish all these opportunities and I’ll share some and maybe you’ll find something to your taste as well.

Down in Sanford at the Temple Theatre, Mike Wiley’s adaptation of Tim Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name is playing January 29-February 7. I’ve been wanting to see one of Mike Wiley’s shows since I heard a piece about him on WUNC Radio last year.

Also on January 29, check out Looking for Ms. Locklear, a film by NC internet sensations, Rhett & Link (who will be on hand for this screening). Part of ChathamArts Sustainable Cinema Series, the show will be at the Barn at Fearrington Village .

If you’re in the mood (sorry), come back down to Pittsboro on February 9 when the Glenn Miller Orchestra comes to town for a very special concert. The NHS Jazz Ensemble will open the show being held at Northwood’s Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium. Tickets are only $10 for reserved seats and $5 general admission and are expected to sell out. [Any proceeds will assist the Jazz Band as they travel to Orlando later in the month for the Disney Jazz Celebration.]

I have a date to go see Harry Connick, Jr. at the DPAC on Feb. 16.  And that’s close enough to Valentine’s for me. [I told you I was fortunate.]

Theatre in the Park is mounting the show with my favorite title this year—Don’t Cry for Me Margaret Mitchell, Feb. 12-14 & 18-21. Written by a mother/son duo, this wacky adventure is apparently not too far off the mark from actual events as David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming spend a week sequestered in Selznick’s office doing a complete rewrite of the script for Gone With The Wind and subsisting on peanuts and bananas.

At UNC,  Playmakers Repertory Company will be holding auditions on Feb 13 & 14  for this summer’s Youth Conservatory production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The Tony-award winning musical will run July 22-25. Perhaps they’ll be serving up cucumber sandwiches in the lobby March 3-21 during the run of Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Importance of Being Ernest. Both should be a treat.

Meanwhile in Durham, Derrick Ivey and the Durham Savoyards are celebrating their 47th Season with this year’s production of The Mikado. Check out their website and read Derrick’s director’s blog.

Back in my neighborhood, the annual Northwood Spring Musical will be a production of Frank Loesser’s 1950 classic, Guys & Dolls. This will be the 60th anniversary of its Broadway premier and the 100th anniversary of Frank Loesser’s (and Abe Burrow’s) birth. This is a gala year at Northwood celebrating the $4.5 million renovation to the arts wing and the auditorium. Visit the NHSAEF website to learn more as we get closer to opening night. The show runs March 25-27. [My daughter says I already spend too much time working on music or promotional pieces for this show. But here’s a really neat article and interview with William Ivey Long about creating the costume’s for the 1992 Broadway revival and it has lots of pictures!]

Duke Chapel is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and on April 18, the Duke Chapel Choir will present their Spring Concert featuring the Duruflé Requiem. On my top ten list of favorite choral works, so I’m excited to get to do this again.

Chatham County will have their first-ever All-County Chorus on Thursday, April 22 at Northwood’s Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium. Dr. Dan Huff, from UNC’s Music Department & School of Education will be the guest clinician.

Of course, the big news in town is Wicked, coming to the DPAC April 21-May 16.

So that gives you pretty big spread—Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro. From $5–+$100. January to May. Enjoy!  What shows are you looking forward to?