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.


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

In the Thick of It Thicket

Last week I was listening to a Downstage Center Podcast from the American Theatre Wing.  Susan Hilferty, Broadway costume designer for Wicked, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Spring Awakening was interviewed and talked a lot about the process she goes through. Two points I especially find interesting at the moment: 1) How much the music  influences her costume design choices (“the story is just a bunch of ideas, the music is key”) and 2) How most of the creative work is, of course, all going on concurrently and it’s not until very late in the process that things come together and you actually see what you’ve got.  For most of us, when you hear West Side Story or Wicked or Sweeny Todd, we have some immediate impressions. But for many members of the creative teams involved, most of the work takes place before they get that cohesive image they are creating. “I’m always having to  imagine all those pieces on the stage. But there’s no moment when all those pieces are together before the technical rehearsals start.”

Rehearsals for Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat

That’s certainly true for our annual local high school production.  Even though it’s a Broadway classic, Northwood’s Guys & Dolls might as well be an original creation for most of the students working on the show. New music they’ve never heard to learn, a new set to create, new light and sound design, new lines to learn, new accents to master, new students learning the whole process, new opportunities for collaboration, problem-solving, cooperating.  It is fascinating to watch the director take all these disparate strands of student activity and get them on a trajectory to (almost always) peak at the same time. [Of course there have been some past performances with wet paint on stage, but that just becomes part of the lore.] It’s really an almost year-long process for  the production team and a very intense project for those dedicated students that come back year after year.  Audiences only get to see the tip of the iceberg.  But audiences are the last variable that will make or break a show. The difference that half a house and standing room only can make in the quality of a show is mystifying and terrifying.

The company is spending twelve hour days at school now. Opening night is a week away.  This kind of project is going on at schools across the country during the spring. During the month of March alone, MTI, the licensing agency,  is listing 101 productions of Guys & Dolls.  It’s not Broadway. It’s an incredible, learning project that students never forget.  A senior told me this weekend that this was her 6th show. Like the senior three years ago talking about his last show, she’s beginning to realize she is now at that same place.

“Now I understand what he was talking about.”

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.

NorthwoodArts Report Online

I’ve completed the NHS Arts Ed. Department’s annual report and posted it online at last!  The back page includes a tentative calendar of events for the coming year, so of course it will need updating, but otherwise I think it’s complete.

NorthwoodArts: Annual Report 2008–2009

NorthwoodArts: Annual Report 2008–2009

There’s information about Northwood instrumental music, choral music, dance (NHS has the oldest public school dance program in NC), theatre arts, and visual arts.  You can also see marching band awards, members of the new chapter of Tri-M Music Honor Society, links to dance performances online, faculty activities, as well as a listing of our generous patrons and sponsors.

I’m trying out an online service called Issuu to post the document. I really like the interface and would love to know what viewers think.


Summer Updates

A few updates from the end of the school year at Northwood, some summer arts opportunities,  and a new report I want to recommend to you over the summer…

First, congratulations to senior Andrew Southerland, Northwood’s recipient of the John Phillip Sousa Award. Created in 1955, the award honors the top student in a high-school band and recognizes superior musicianship and outstanding dedication. It was developed with the cooperation of Helen Sousa Albert and Priscilla Sousa, daughters of the famous composer and bandmaster. Southerland played Euphonium in both the NHS Marching Band and the NHS Concert Band.  He was a featured soloist in last year’s marching band program, Psychoses, as well as a student conductor at the Concert for Memorial Day. Southerland will continue his music studies this fall at Western Carolina University. Both the Northwood band director, Eugene Cottrell, and the principal, Chris Blice, received this award upon graduating from their respective high schools.

Induction ceremonies for new Northwood chapter members of the National Art Honor Society took place this year at the Spring Art Show on May 30. Congratulations to new NAHS members Aubrye Carr, Josy Christian, Kapreshia Covington, Bailey Friedman, Ashley Gardner, Chelsea Gardner, Silvan Goddin, Charlotte Harrison, Emily Kerscher, Michelle Oliver, Claire Pauley, and Jan Reinberg,

Check out the new Photo Albums at the NHSAEF website. We’ve posted pictures from the recent Drama Camp for Chatham middle school students. Students worked for a week with Dr. Carlin and members of the Acting Ensemble to prepare skits and a short play for family and friends on Friday June 19.

This year I began serving as co-chair (along with Kathie Russell ) of ChathamArts’ Arts in Education Committee. This group is responsible for promoting and organizing the residency programs in Chatham County Schools each year. We’re looking forward to 9 residencies in the coming year! This summer ChathamArts kicks off their first series of summer camps and classes. They are working with Briar Chapel to offer several art camps for your child, giving him/her an opportunity to experience music, painting and drama. It’s not too late to register, so check out their camp info here:

Take a few minutes to read Increasing Arts Demand Through Better Arts Learning. This June 2009 Wallace Foundation “Knowledge in Brief” summarizes new research on how some cities are working to reverse a decades-long decline in arts education in ways that could also lift demand for the arts overall.

As many of you know Northwood is currently undergoing a major renovation effort. When completed this fall, the Arts Education Department will be consolidated in a new, expanded arts wing. NHSAEF is an all-volunteer organization working to promote and enhance NHS arts education. Join us and share you time, talents, and ideas as we work to assist faculty, provide opportunities for students, and promote involvement and collaboration with the community!