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Vocal Music in Arts Unite Us Classrooms

Youth in Arts Mentor Artist and vocal musician Stevie Greenwell taught multiple classes for Arts Unite Us this Spring.  She says of her experience: “As I reflect back on my time with both Vallecito and Grant Grover, I can’t help but smile. Working with these students has been a balance of thoughtful preparation, on-the-spot creative solutions, writing personalized and interactive songs, instrument creation, and true presence… It taught me how to slow down my pace, speak thoughtfully, and honor and acknowledge all the small components of engagement. Each time a student made eye contact, responded with their choice, shared their voice, played their instrument; it mattered. Every time a student stood in front of the class or lead a rhythm; it mattered. Every time a student responded and reacted to the sound of their name in a song; it mattered. And all these parts came together to create a lively and joyful classroom each week.” 

In order to make her lessons accessible for each of her students, Stevie found herself creating songs specifically for those classrooms. She adds, “My Favorite song that came out of these sessions, I wrote on my way to Vallecito one morning. I was asking myself questions around how I could meet students where they are and inspire the next step. I was thinking about how much hearing their own names mattered and how much the lyrics of a song can reinforce thought. It is a simple song with sweet words that now often gets stuck in my head and always makes me smile and reminds me of how strong these students are. The lyrics are:

(Name subbed for each student) “Andrew is wonderful, Andrew is kind, Andrew is strong and has a great mind, but most of all Andrew, we like you just the way you are, yes most of all Andrew we like you just the way you are.” 

During her time at Grant Grover with junior college students, they worked on various skills that are needed to make music together in addition to singing. Stevie explains, “My favorite activities that came out of these sessions was having students learn conducting gestures and take turns conducting the class. They would guide the class on when to start playing their instruments, lead dynamics and volume levels, show tempo changes, and then strongly cut off sections of the class or the whole class together.” At the end of the residency, Grant Grover students shared a heartfelt thank-you to Stevie for all they had learned together. 

 

Stevie says of her experience: :The biggest gift I continue to receive is how I feel when I leave the classroom. No matter how I entered, what was happening in the classroom for the students, or any other outside factors, I could feel the room transform. I left filled with such joy, inspiration, and delight. It is a testament and reminder of the magic that happens when we come together, connect, and create.” 

Youth in Arts at the Marin County Fair

 

Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group, ‘Til Dawn, sang to an enthusiastic crowd on the opening day of the Marin County Fair this summer. The group is the longest running year-round teen ensemble in the Bay Area. It was the last public performance for the group’s outgoing seniors (Kathryn Hasson, Angel Gregorian, Maud Utstein and Will Noyce) as well as ‘Til Dawn member Lara Burgert, who is moving. The ensemble is directed by singer-songwriter Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella band, The House Jacks.

Four collaborative works created during Youth in Arts’ residencies this spring took home top ribbons. The mixed media work, inspired by artist Jasper Johns, was created during a 10-week Arts Unite Us program with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

Student projects from San Ramon Elementary School and Willow Creek Academy won blue ribbons in their age division. Novato High School and Sinaloa Middle School classes each won second place in their age divisions. The San Ramon piece also won the Anne Davis award for best of class (collage) in the 9-12 year-old group.

“Each class created richly layered works that were different from each other,” Bowman said. “It was a privilege to work with such dedicated artists.”

Bowman also won the Charles M. Schulz award for a pig cartoon and a blue ribbon for a second cartoon.

The prize-winning student art will be on display at Youth In Arts as part of “Outside the Lines: Collaborative Art in Special Day Classrooms.” The exhibit opens July 31.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

Persian Dance with 2nd Graders at Cornell Elementary

Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Shahrzad Khorsandi worked with 2nd grade students at Cornell Elementary School in Albany for the 3rd year in a row through Youth in Arts’ Artists in Schools program, introducing students to Persian culture through the music and dance of regions across Iran.

We began with a discussion on the geography of the Middle East and Iran, introducing students to each area with a sample of different folk dances from the various regions of the country.  The first class ended with everyone learning how to do the two-handed Persian snap (always a favorite and a challenge both for the students and teachers), which we could use throughout the residency to cheer for our peers.

Throughout the eight-week residency, each of the 4 classes learned a dance specific to a region of Iran. In the process, we learned about rhythm and patterns of movement, linking our sessions to and shape-making and understanding lines through our bodies. We then turned these shapes and lines into spatial patterns on the dance floor. Each class also worked in small groups to create their own movement patterns that they would do in a section of the choreography. This process gave the kids the opportunity to do problem solving and work on social skills, and allowed for the development of their own creative expression.

The residency ended in a culminating student performance with costumes/accessories. The parents were invited and all four classes got a chance to see each other perform, with almost 200 family members and supporters of all ages participating as audience members. During the culminating student performance, Shahrzad shares: “We worked for weeks on traditional dance moves from across Persia. Today you will see mix of some of those traditional moves and also some contemporary moves that the students created all on their own. This mix of old and new is part of the show today. In traditional Persian dance all the females would be in long skirts, in today’s show everybody dresses in any way they want and everyone is celebrated. They learned to dance in groups and to collaborate.”

Shahrzad describes working with kids as a job that is rewarding and fulfilling. She remembers one particularly special moment at the end of this residency when a student who had been crying and frustrated the day before the performance because he thought the performance was going to be a “failure”, ran to her after the show and hugged her, smiling, saying, “We did a great job!” Later, as Shahrzad was reading the colorful Thank-you notes/drawings from the kids, she saw the drawing from that same student and cried. Below is the drawing.

Drawing from 2nd-grader at Cornell Elementary

Drawing from 2nd-grader at Cornell Elementary

 

‘Til Dawn Seniors Embrace the Future

Kathryn Hasson

Will Noyce

Angel Gregorian

College, rock bands and travel are on the minds of four ‘Til Dawn seniors who are leaving the group this summer.

The four graduating seniors are Kathryn Hasson, Maud Utstein, Will Noyce and Angel Gregorian. Also departing is sophomore Lara Burgert, who is moving with her family to the East Coast – coincidentally to the same town where one of the newest ‘Til Dawn members just came from. ‘Til Dawn is part of Youth in Arts’ I AM mentorship program and the longest-running, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area. It’s directed by Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella group, The House Jacks.

“It’s been a really good experience with people I have come to love so much,” Hasson said. “It’s taught me obviously so much about music but also so much about collaboration as an artist. Art is about connection, and that is what Youth in Arts is doing.”

Hasson served as the Youth in Arts’ student board member this year and attended Marin Academy. She departs this summer for Vassar College in New York and plans to join an a cappella choir there.

Noyce, a senior at San Domenico School, is headed to Santa Monica College to study film production and work for a production company. Gregorian, who attends the Marin School of the Arts, is attending Loyola University New Orleans.

One of the things she appreciated about ‘Til Dawn, she said, was a chance to deeply discuss complex events and consider multiple perspectives.

“It was always ok to be curious and talk about world issues,” she said.

Utstein, who graduated from Tamalpais High School, is attending a rock band camp this summer and then attending The College of Wooster in Ohio.

She and other ‘Til Dawn members stressed how important access to the arts is for all learners.

Lara Burgert

“For a lot of kids, it can be the thing that helps them get through the hard parts of life,’’ Utstein said.

Noyce, who was part of ‘TIl Dawn for four years, agreed.

“What ‘Til Dawn fosters is the idea that you can have your own path,” Noyce said. “Often times, artists don’t do as well in the school system. I think ‘Till Dawn shows there are other paths.”

 

Teaching Counter Narratives Through the Arts

Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Eddie Madril taught counter narratives to a group of Marin County teachers by sharing his experience as a member of the Native American community.

Madril is part of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of southern Arizona and northern Sonora Mexico and represents his culture as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright and filmmaker. During his presentation, teachers experienced history differently and learned how to make a corn husk figure (not a doll). Madrid talked about how important it is to understand multiple perspectives, including how tribes historically cared for and respected the land where they lived and did not consider it something that could be bought and sold. He also explained that if there is only one student in a class who is Native, for example, that student should not be singled out or made to represent all Native American people. Teachers ended the day with a hoop dance.

“It’s critical for teachers to be able to hear counter-narratives to expand their teaching to reach all learners,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “It’s through these culturally responsive teaching practices that our students can learn about the world that we live in with a more balanced perspective.”

Madril has taught American Indian music at San Francisco State University and was a three-year recipient of the California Arts Council Artist-In-Residence grant. As a dancer and educator, he has performed throughout the western United States, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and World Arts West’s arts education program People Like Me. He works with students to encourage the appreciation of and respect for American Indian dance, music, culture, history, art and sign language.

To review the hands-outs and suggested readings, go here.

Youth in Arts worked with the Marin County Office of Education to provide professional development courses like these. We are proud to announce a generous grant from the California Arts Council to provide for Eddie Madrill’s Assembly Performance and Workshops for Title 1 schools whose teachers attended the counter narrative training. Thanks also to Marin Community Foundation for supporting our work.

‘Til Dawn’s Annual Concert

‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-wining a cappella group, dazzled their audience with a wide range of songs at its annual concert at the Carol Franc Buck Hall of the Arts at San Domenico School in San Anselmo. The group is the longest, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area.

Each of the members, mostly from Marin County high schools, performed at least one solo. The repertoire included Big Band music, Motown hits, modern pop tunes and more. ‘Til Dawn is part of Youth in Arts’ Intensive Arts Mentorship program (I AM).

“One of the amazing things about a cappella music is it’s universally relatable to human beings because we all have voices; because it’s all coming from a human voice, any number of genres that people might not otherwise listen to are accessible,” said ‘Til Dawn Director Austin Willacy.

Willacy has been the director for 22 years and also records and performs with his own a cappella band, The House Jacks, and as a solo artist.

“Programs like these are vital for creating a space for young artists to thrive,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “These talented young singers practiced for months and their hard work paid off. The audience was thrilled.”

If you missed the concert, you’re in luck. ‘Til Dawn performs at the Marin County Fair in San Rafael on July 3 from 3:30 to 4 p.m.

And check out some videos here:

‘Til Dawn Annual Concert 2019.

Thank you to San Domenico School for the generous gift of the hall for the concert and to the Marin Community Foundation.

Capoeira Angola and Persian Dance at Olive Elementary School

Capoeira Angola with Daniel Mattar

Youth in Arts kicked off an exciting semester of school-wide events at Olive Elementary School with two amazing days of dance and culture through our assembly and workshop program. Capoeira Mentor Artist Daniel Mattar and his International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF) troupe spent a day with Olive Elementary School’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in early March, and Shahrzad Khorsandi and the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble led a fun and informative day of programming in April. In sharing the art of Capoeira with the students at Olive, Daniel and two additional Capoeira artists began by playing music on their hand-made Berimbaus made of gourds and one string, and a Pandeiros (tambourine) while engaging students in call and response songs in Portuguese. After their demonstration, they brought several kids up on stage to practice Capoeira while practicing their call and response songs.

Following the performance and demonstration, each 3rd-5th grade class participated in an interactive workshop led by Daniel and ICAF. We began with mastering the key movements and control necessary to take part in capoeira safely. Some of the movements that we learned were: Ginga, Aú, Balança, Macaco, and Negativa. We then put our new knowledge to use with team exercises and some games of capoeira with a partner!

Persian Dance with Shahrzad Khorsandi

During the second assembly with the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble, director Shahrzad Khorsandi and three members of the ensemble performed a special series of dances for the Persian New Year that had been choreographed and designed by Shahrzad over the last several years. Norouz (“New Day”), the Persian New Year, represents new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal. Shahrzad Dance Company’s Norouz program for 2019, Symbols of Love, brought into focus the true meaning behind this celebrated event and gave students the opportunity to learn about the music, traditions, and cultural relevance of the Iranian holiday today. Throughout the performance, dancers portrayed dynamic characteristics associated with the symbols of: Sabzeh (“Sprout”) which is symbolic for rebirth, Seeb (“Apple”) which is a symbol of health, Samanu (“Wheat Pudding”) which is a symbol of sweetness, Sekkeh (“Coins”) which is a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and Norouz (“New Day”).

Following the performance, participating classrooms returned for a hands-on workshop with Shahrzad. During the workshop, Sharhzad began by showing a map of the middle east in order to find Iran and talk about the geography of Iran/Persia and how this geography has affected the music and dances of each region. We then started with movements from Luristan in West Iran, followed by movements from Azerbaijan in Northwest Iran. During a brief break we learned the Beshkan, a one-handed Persian snap that creates a sound similar to snapping your fingers but much louder! After the break, we engaged in dance from the Bandar region near the Persian Gulf in Southern Iran and a Persian urban/social dance from Tehran, the capital, using contemporary Persian pop music. The students took turns coming out in the middle of the circle, 2 or 3 at a time, and practiced what  they had learned throughout the day.

 

Youth in Arts is grateful for the collaboration of Principal Olynik, Olive Elementary’s exemplary 3rd-5th grade teachers, and the PTA for making these programs possible!

Arts Unite Us at Terra Linda High School

Shahrzad Khorsandi, a seasoned teacher and performer in Persian Dance, stepped out of her comfort zone into a new area this semester! She worked with two special day classes at Terra Linda High School through our Arts Unite Us program, teaching Persian dance and music. Though a bit nervous on the first day, she soon fit right in. With the help of the wonderful teachers at Terra Linda she engaged students, encouraging them to take part in playing percussive instruments and dancing and cheering each other on during the performances.

Shahrzad says of her experience, “Throughout the residency, we researched Persian culture, learning about various Persian instruments by watching videos of professional musicians playing the instruments”. Shahrzad was even able to bring in several instruments for the kids to see, touch, and play with. She adds, “We looked at the map of Iran and talked about the various regions of the country, and learned a sampling of various dance styles from each region. In the following weeks each of the two classes focused on one particular region, learning the choreography. While learning the movement patterns, we were exposed to concepts like making floor patterns with circles and line, and directional cues like facing our partner, or facing back or forward, etc.”

The residency culminated in a student performance. Parents were invited and both classes got to see each other perform. Shahrzad shares, “We had a great time and everyone did a wonderful job. It was interesting to see that some kids who seemed shy at first really hammed it up when faced with an audience. After the performance the audience was asked to join the performers in an improvisational social dance with Persian music. All in all, it was a hit!”

Thank you to VSA Kennedy Center, Marin County Office of Education, and the Marin Community Foundation for making these programs possible for our youth and community!

Creative Movement at Marindale

Youth in Art’s Mentor Artist, Risa Dye lead creative movement with the students at the Early Childhood Intervention Center at Marindale School in a ten week residency as part of the Arts Unite Us Program.

In this residency, we started with the basic structure of the brain dance created by Anne Green Gilbert through songs and movement. As Risa got more familiar with the children, she adapted her program to fit their needs and applied her creative and theatrical touches.  Risa loosely explored dance concepts such as speed, levels and size through playful movement guiding songs. As the ten weeks progressed, the students became more and more familiar with her structure and expectations. They gained more ownership over the movement and everyone became more able to play within the structure of the songs.

 



Shawna Alapa’i Shares Her Hawai’ian Culture with Students at Dance Palace

Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i and Halau Hula Na Pua O Ka La’akea performed for students from the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District at the Dance Palace Community & Cultural Center in Point Reyes. Spanning traditional Kahiko (ancient) hula to modern (‘auana) hula, students experienced Hawai’ian story-telling through melody, hand-crafted instruments, dress, and dance traditions.

 

 

The assembly concluded with a fun hands-on workshop where students learned parts of a Haka, a traditional warrior’s dance originating with the Maori people and adopted into Hawai’ian culture. Kumu Hula Shawna incorporated aspects of the Haka into a hula danced to the music from Moana as a way to engage students and connect culturally based on common knowledges.

 

 

A special thank you to the Dance Palace Community & Cultural Center and the California Arts Council for their support of this program!

 

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