NHS cast of Into the Woods

Celebrating Arts in Education

 National Arts in Education

The state’s advocacy organization for the arts and arts education—ArtsNC—asked board members to share stories about the reason they became arts advocates. Since we are celebrating National Arts in Education Week, it’s interesting to go back and read about a group of students that were so central to all my later advocacy efforts.

I remember walking into my daughter’s middle school one afternoon about 10 years ago where I was a volunteer and served as an occasional accompanist. For several years the arts teachers had produced a play in the Spring as an extracurricular activity, even creating original works with local composers. This day, the music teacher met me, slightly agitated, and said very quickly, “We’ve decided to do Oliver! this year and … you’ll play piano, won’t you?” [His primary instrument was guitar.] “We’ve hired a great director and the kids are really excited.” “Ah… well … OK … sure.” And we were off.

Middle school cast members of Oliver!

Orphans, Pickpockets, Thespians

A cast of 40 middle schoolers learning lines, choreography, music, and how to be pickpockets too. Parents and students searching out the perfect costumes. Recruiting a talented alum to play percussion and a local business to provide real sound and lights. Adapting the score for piano, drums, guitar, fiddle, and recorder. Scheduling rehearsals, researching program notes, designing posters, shooting photographs for publicity. Watching students work together, creating characters, blocking scenes, practicing vocal exercises, painting sets, learning harmony, helping design the choreography. It was thrilling. Here was a perfect project-based learning activity. Combining all sorts of disciplines. Engaging a wide variety of students and community. It was a play, it was a musical, but it was really just that in the service of something bigger.

Sowerberrys

Sowerberrys

I followed those students to high school where, for many, the Spring musical became the highlight of the year, from November to March. It’s an annual event, a collaboration of the entire arts education department and open to the entire student body. The faculty is the production team—the theatre instructor directs, dance instructors design and teach choreography, the visual arts instructor and students provide set design and publicity, band and choral instructors conduct and/or play in the pit, and teach the music to actors and musicians.

Set Decorators—Beauty and the Beast

Building the Beast’s Library

Those middle school pickpockets grew up to work on Once Upon a Mattress, Disney’s Beauty & the Beast, Into the Woods, Guys & Dolls, the 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee and Seussical. They traveled to elementary schools and introduced young students to live theatre. They played to standing room-only audiences. They turned the entire house into a glorious forest for Into the Woods.They were nominated for regional awards. They learned time management, how to create characters, collaboration, how to save their voices, how to share the spotlight, how to change keys six times in one piece, how to perform in the face of private fears and with the threat of a few very real tragedies. Dedicated, talented, creative teachers worked hundreds of unpaid hours to teach lessons with an incredible slight of hand that makes the teaching almost invisible.

Into the Woods

Northwood High School’s Into the Woods

From the time they entered middle school, these students had a yearly theatre project experience, involving a large number of students and teachers and parents. They got to work with experienced teaching artists and production professionals. There was a lot of community support and recognition for their efforts and the value of the project.

Students carried this enthusiasm and community and expectation all through high school. Looking back, quite a few went on to study dance, music, theatre, or visual arts. Some are still students.Others are educators, performers, journalists, social workers, arts administrators, lawyers, members of the military. What was the value and what was the impact?

There is lots of discussion about whether the value of arts education is arts for arts sake or for the kind of tangential benefits it can provide—increasing test scores, improving math or literacy or social skills or empathy or things like school attendance or civic engagement.  When I think of all these students, how can you ever say? It’s all these things. Some benefits for one. Different benefits for others. For some the arts will become a profession. For others an avocation. For others a vehicle for community or worship or recreation or education or rehabilitation. That’s why it’s so important to make sure all our students have access to such transformative experiences.

Celebrate and Support Arts in Education in your community.

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Invest in the Arts on #GivingTuesday

GT_icon_arts-150x150 For #GivingTuesday, I’d like share some arts and arts education organizations I work with and/or support. I recommend these to you. They do good, important work. Their efforts improve our communities, assist our teachers and schools, and provide our students new opportunities. They need your investment—your time, your talents, your money. JMArts

Grease Cast

Cast & Crew of the 2014 SRO production of Grease.

JMArts supports arts education at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City. Founded in 2011, their enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers have funded field trips, arts performances, headed up fundraising for their new grand piano, helped produce the annual musical, and sent dozens of kids to summer arts camps. Visit their Facebook page to learn more about their fantastic work. Send a kid to camp! If you want to be part of the effort, contact JMArts President Rose Pate.


NHSAEF

“Ensuring excellence in arts education by identifying, creating, and supporting programs that enrich learning, foster student achievement and increase community involvement.”

NHSAEF Scholars Listing

NHSAEF Scholarship Recipients

Northwood High School in Pittsboro, NC was named a 2013 Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts School of Excellence for their distinguished, comprehensive arts education program. Sister organization of JMArts, the Northwood High School Arts Education Foundation was founded in 2007 to support and promote  NorthwoodArts.  Teacher grants provide resources for the ongoing work of the department, the Carlin Camp fund supports students’ summer arts activities, and annual college scholarships recognize achievements in visual and performing arts. Since its inception, NHSAEF has presented more than $35,000 in scholarship funds. Visit NHSAEF online to learn more and to make a gift. Make a contribution and name a scholarship in someone’s honor or memory. Contact Leslie Burwell to become a much-needed volunteer.


NHSBFAA Northwood also has a new organization this year making contributions easier than ever. Visit the NHS Boosters, Friends and Alumni site. BFAAYou can arrange a single or monthly donation to support a wide array of programs. You can contribute directly to individual sports, each arts discipline as well as NHSAEF, career & technical education programs, clubs or their general fund.


Chatham Arts Council

“Nurturing Creative Thinkers”

After celebrating 30 years promoting & producing arts events in our community, the Chatham Arts Council spent the past year examining their work, their focus, their impact, and their mission. In November 2014, they introduced a new identity—new logo, new website and new focus. Settling on two focus areas, the Chatham AChatham Arts Council logorts Council will 1) Invest in artists and 2) Educate kids through the arts.  Visit their website to learn more.  View or submit your own profile for the Chatham Artists Directory. Find all the latest Chatham County arts events on the Arts Calendar—including ClydeFEST, the annual arts festival for children! Learn about the planning process for arts-in-education residencies beginning during the 2015-2016 academic year. Become a member. Join the mailing list. Volunteer. Contribute.


ArtsNC
“Uniting people and communities to strengthen and celebrate a creative North Carolina.”

Arts North Carolina, is our statewide advocacy organization for the arts and arts education. Governed by a statewide Board of Directors, ArtsNC unifies and connects North Carolina’s arts communities. ArtsNC provides advocacy training, develops a ARTS-PLATE-C_WEBlegislative agenda focusing on grants funding for the NC Arts Council and statewide arts education policy. It sponsors Arts Day, an annual two-day event with conference speakers and a legislative day for members to meet and discuss the importance of arts initiatives in their communities with their legislators. In addition to hundreds of individuals, member organizations include more than 200 arts councils, museums, educational institutions, professional organizations, theatre companies, galleries, dance companies, festivals, music ensembles, and foundations from across North Carolina. Visit ArtsNC online. Become a member. Join their mailing list. Purchase a ARTS license plate—it creates revenue to support the work of ArtsNC, it brands NC as “the creative state” and you as a strong arts supporter, and it funds the NC wildflower and visitor center accessibility programs!

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.
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  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.
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    Byways, Highways & Skyways

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    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.

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    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.

Celebrating Arts in Ed in My Neighborhood

Along with many, I’ve been celebrating the first National Arts in Education Week. As with any new project, there are a lot of details and more ideas than can be accomplished in a short amount of time. But here are some of the things that have gotten checked off my list.

  1. On Monday, we published NorthwoodArts 2009–2010: Celebrating a Gala Year. This is our annual report highlighting activities and accomplishments of the NHS arts education students and faculty. This accompanies a short video slide show of highlights we completed earlier in the summer.  We presented copies to the Chatham County Superintendent and School Board on Monday evening and posted the online version on our website.
  2. NHSAEF participated in Northwood’s annual Open House. Our local mayor issued a proclamation in conjunction with the national celebration and named it also Pittsboro Arts in Education Week. We shared the proclamation, the annual report, a calendar of upcoming events, met new students & parents, signed up new members and added folks to our listserv.
  3. [I spent Wednesday night as an arts student myself along with Duke students and community members, trying to master Creole for a Haitian anthem the Duke Chapel Choir has scheduled for Sunday.]
  4. On Thursday got some pix of the great banners NHS art students created for the school. Got copies of the annual report in the mail to our representatives in the State Legislature. Participated in a webinar by Americans for the Arts on their upcoming Creative Conversations in October before our ChathamArts Board Meeting.  NHSAEF will be a part of in this exciting initiative. Along with ChathamArts and the NHS arts department, we’re hosting a Creative Conversation at Northwood High School. Our friends from EbzB Productions, Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen will lead an interactive discussion for teachers, students, artists, and community members on Arts Integration—What it is, how it works, and how it benefits students and teachers in all disciplines. In addition to being consummate  professional theatre performers, they have been trained by The Lincoln Center Institute and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to teach AIE Workshops. It’s going to be an exciting beginning to National Arts & Humanities Month.
  5. I’ve tweeted and re-tweeted, posted to Facebook, sent emails, worn my Arts Create Jobs button courtesy of Arts NC.
  6. I’m off the ballgame to see our Marching Chargers perform Amusements. Their first competition is next weekend at Pinecrest Band Fest.
  7. Marching Charger BandOh, and I’ll be collecting your recyclables (laptops, old cell phones, digital cameras, ink jet cartridges, hand held games, etc) at the game for our Arts Ed Fundraiser

“A Dream is a Wish …”

Today, Northwood High School, a part of the Chatham County, NC School System, dedicated a $4.5 million renovation/expansion. The year-long project includes new classrooms for Theatre Arts, Instrumental Music, Choral Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Wrestling, and Exceptional Children. Also included are a new lobby for the gym and an extensive upgrade to both the house and the stage of the Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium. The ceremony included Superintendent Robert Logan, Chair of the School Board Kathie Russell, Chair of the County Commissioners George Lucier, Architect Grimsley Hobbs, Principal Chris Blice, and representatives of the NHS Student Body. Attending were  commissioners, school board members, representatives from Resolute Construction, CCS administration, city government, law enforcement, ChathamArts, faculty, students and community members.

To the Chatham County Commissioners, School Board, and Administration | On the Occasion of the Northwood High School Arts Wing Dedication | The 16th of October, 2009:

I am a strong proponent of a concept called Schools as Centers of Community. Across the country, school systems have begun to maximize the use of school campuses for myriad educational, recreational, and entertainment activities. These may  include child care, elder care, clinics, libraries, night school, conference/professional development facilities and YMCA operations.

There are two really great reasons why this makes sense. First, for many communities like ours, school facilities are their biggest investment and one of their greatest potential resources. So utilizing these physical plants for more than 35 hours a week provides a greater return on the investment.

And secondly, we know that one of the most effective ways to improve schools is to increase family and community involvement. Eric Booth, a member of the faculty at the  Juilliard School and nationally recognized consultant for the arts, calls the arts a “catalyst for engagement.” No other activity is as effective for bringing families and community into a school as the arts.

So today I am thrilled because of course, we must provide the very best facilities we can for the important work of students and educators. But I am equally excited because your efforts and dedication and vision offer an amazing opportunity for our entire community, now and in a future we have yet to see—but can dream and hope and work for.

I salute you all!

Bravo!

Chatham Conversations

Even before I heard Barbara Shepherd of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education speak last March at North Carolina’s  NC: The State of the Arts Conference, I’ve been eager for our community to undertake their Community Audit for Arts Education. [I know, you’ve heard me saying this for two years!] It’s a great assessment tool to examine strengths and needs. Most importantly, it incorporates information not only from a school system, but from all those that have a stake in, or provide, arts education activities—arts organizations, community arts leaders, local artists, families, afterschool programs, summer camps, child care providers, recreation departments, civic and business community members, etc. One of the comments Ms. Shepherd made in Raleigh was that, even in bad economic climates, it can be possible for people to come together for discussions. Civic and business members may not have money to contribute, but they can contribute time.

NAHM_2007_logoEvery October Americans for the Arts celebrates National Arts and Humanities Month. One of the activities they promote is called Creative Conversations. Here’s how their website describes them:  “Creative Conversations are local gatherings of emerging leaders in communities across the country and are part of a grassroots movement to elevate the profile of arts in America during National Arts & Humanities Month every October. Started in 2004, some of these local convenings have grown into cohesive, organized emerging leader networks. This local tool empowers emerging leaders to take a leadership role in their own community by both designing programming and galvanizing their peers to connect professionally.”

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect opportunity for us in Chatham County?  Our school system covers such a large geographic area that many involved in arts education rarely see each other and may never have met. When resources are limited, collaboration can be a valuable strategy to make real progress, plan for the future, and provide the best arts education opportunities for our students.

Take a look at the Community Audit along with feedback from other communities that have used this tool.

What do you think?  Are you interested? Who would you invite?

Let’s have a conversation!

[To join another conversation of sorts, check out next week’s Americans for the  Arts ArtsBlog which will be devoted to Arts Education with two dozen national arts education experts contributing.]


Looking Back on the Way Ahead

As an addendum to the NorthwoodArts Annual Report, here’s a short retrospective slide show of highlights from 2008–2009. Marching band season, the fall drama Up the Down Staircase, dance & choral concerts, parades, art exhibitis, Into the Woods, Tri-M music honor society, graduation, drama camp.

Another year at Northwood has begun. Students, teachers, parents, and alumni helped move into our new Arts Wing this week. The first football game is Friday nite and there will be a preview of this year’s marching band competition program, Escape. School starts August 25.  NHS Open House is Tuesday, Sept 15 and our first NHS Arts Ed Foundation general meeting immediately following at 7:30.