What does “home” mean to you?
Is it a physical place? Being with family and friends?
Founded by Micah Hendler in 2012, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus (JYC) is a choral and dialogue program for Palestinian and Israeli youth comprising 30 singers between the ages of 14 and 19. Its mission is to create a space for young people to be able to discuss their differences while creating music together. Deeply inspired by the context-specific message of “Home,” by Phillip Phillips, Greg Holden and Drew Pearson, the JYC first recorded it in 2014. That video is here: https://youtu.be/xMkq
While sheltering in place, singers and instrumentalists joined the choir from their homes all over the world for “Home” from home, a reimagining of “Home” with its global family, including alumni and beloved collaborators. One of them was Youth in Arts’ `Til Dawn Director, Austin Willacy. You can find that video here.
“We initially thought about making a video of ‘Home’ from home just with the chorus as a cute thing to keep us singing together in this time,” JYC Artistic Director Micah Hendler said. “But once we opened it up to our global community and heard the artists … who answered the call and lent their voices to sing ‘just know you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna make this place your home,’ we knew we were on to something extraordinary.”
It is an inspiring piece, and one you’ll want to hear more than once.
“This is a moment where the world is reevaluating what home can mean and what kind of responsibilities we have to one another, locally and globally,” Willacy said.
Willacy first met the chorus last summer as a music educator and featured artist at Jerusalem Singing Camp, a two-week summer program in Jerusalem.
“There is a strong overlap between Micah’s vision for the JYC and mine for `Til Dawn,” said Willacy. “We’re both doing what we can to create resilient communities infused with love that provide a safe place for young singers to discover themselves, and tap into an unshakable sense of self, regardless of what’s happening around them.”
Austin joined the JYC from his home studio in the East Bay. In addition to leading `Til Dawn, he is a renowned performer who travels worldwide as a solo artist and with the pioneering a cappella group, The House Jacks.
Other professionals who participated in the “Home” video include recording artist David Broza; singer, songwriter and activist Achinoam Nini (NOA); composer and vocal activist Melanie DeMore; Joanna Jones and Ari Afsar from the cast of “Hamilton;” Craig Jessop, former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; YouTube stars Malinda, Sam Tsui and Casey Breves; Udi Bar-David, founder of ARTolerance; actor, director and vocal activist Mira Awad; Frank Fredericks, founder of World Faith; Ysaye Barnwell, composer and former singer with Sweet Honey in the Rock; composer Moira Smiley; and Micah’s family members.
“I try to use my voice as a weapon of mass connection,” Melanie said during the video.”We are all one in this world. That’s just the way it is.”
Want to learn more about #YIACre8tes? Read about these free online arts activities and Executive Director Kristen Jacobson on Partnership Resources Group’s website.
The San Rafael-based consulting firm provides fundraising services to organizations in Northern California. During the coronavirus quarantine, it has been highlighting nonprofits doing good work by featuring them on its heroes page.
This week, Youth in Arts was named as one of those heroes.
Kristen explained that as a mom of two boys, she knew immediately that Youth in Arts needed to step up to the challenge facing parents who found themselves suddenly homeschooling while trying to work.
“I understand how important arts education is to my children and to this community,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “STEM really needs the A for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).”
Youth in Arts has been providing free arts activities live streamed weekdays at 11:08 a.m. on Facebook and Instagram. Activities have included a shape chain dance, making paper playgrounds, painting with flowers and building towers with cardboard scraps.
Vanessa Coleman, a teacher at Rancho Elementary School in Novato and the mother of two boys, appreciates the Youth in Arts lessons.
“We have been using Youth in Arts as fun brain breaks and just some different types of instruction,” she said. “The live stream is videoed so they an be accessed live, or later at a time convenient for us. They are short and sweet – just perfect.”
Kristen said Youth in Arts is reaching as many schools as it can through distance learning. The arts education nonprofit currently has partnerships with about eight school districts, using teaching artists to provide programs designed to reach all learners and build creativity, confidence and compassion.
Kristen said the silver lining of live stream videos is that Youth in Arts is connecting with more families in a new way.
“Whether they join us live or later, we are getting 800 to 1,100 views on our videos every day,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “We need things like this now more than ever.”
To read the full interview with Partnership Resources Group, click here.
How should a dancer teach online? How does clown perform without a live audience? How can a metal artist heat up materials without her studio?
More than 50 teaching artists from around the Bay Area joined a Zoom call recently to explore how to continue working with their students, now that schools and businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Youth in Arts held a similar call the same day with its own teaching artists.
The Bay Area wide event was supported by Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and Oakland Unified Arts Partners. It was facilitated by Mika Lemoine, a mentor artist who teaches hip hop and street dance with Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, and Rachel-Anne Palacios, a multicultural artist and activist who works in the Oakland schools.
Participants began by coming up with a word to describe how they were feeling. The answers were telling: Hopeful. Weary. Isolated. Groovy. Challenged. Excited. Unwashed.
With work inside schools halted, teaching artists discussed ways to engage with their students online. Several expressed their concern about how to reach kids who don’t have access to a computer, and how hard it is to be creative when you feel anxious.
“I realize how much social connection feeds me and motivates me,” said one dance teacher. “Not being able to fully move is hindering my well being.”
Teaching artists also talked about the strain of trying to figure out how to survive financially. Can they file for unemployment? Which is the best online platform to use to reach the widest audience? When will they be able to earn a living working in classrooms again?
Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson held a similar Zoom call with Youth in Arts’ teaching artists and staff. Kristen shared that Youth in Arts is talking to funders, donors and school partners to find ways to continue programming and support teaching artists.
With thousands of Bay Area kids at home due to the coronavirus closures, how can you keep them busy?
By joining Youth in Arts on social media for art projects you can make with supplies from home.
For at least the next two weeks, Youth in Arts is offering free, 8-minute livestream tutorials at 11:08 a.m. PDT (2:08 p.m. EDT) Monday through Friday. At #YIACre8tes, daily tutorials include drawing your toys, movement exploration, building paper playgrounds and making sculptures.
“All of our programs emphasize creativity, confidence and compassion, and we need that now more than ever,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re excited to support our students, partners and their families during this crisis that is taking them out of their daily routine.”
The livestream sessions on Instagram and Facebook will feature Youth in Arts’ staff and emphasize art projects that students are able to do with what they have on hand at home. With families trying to create learning schedules at home, these lessons offer a guaranteed creative break during the day.
“Since we can’t work with students in classrooms, this is a new and innovative way to reach them,” Kristen said. “It’s proven that art reduces stress and helps people connect.”
Although Youth in Arts’ staff had planned to live stream every day, this week’s sudden shelter in place order required us to pivot – and quickly. We moved swiftly to pre-record a week’s worth of tutorials that could be released a day at a time. Next week, staff members will be live streaming again from their homes.
“Like everyone, we’re trying our best to adapt to a rapidly changing situation,” Kristen said.
Although Youth in Arts is based in San Rafael, these lessons are free and accessible to students in the Bay Area and beyond. Students and their families are encouraged to share their own ideas at #YIACre8tes or @YouthInArts.
“Since we can’t collaborate in person, let’s make our community virtual,” said Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “Creativity is the glue that holds us together. It’s something we all still have, and it’s free.”
Stay tuned for more in-depth lessons!
It was a wonderful celebration of souls and sound when nearly 50 current and former`Til Dawn members took to the stage for the SING OUT! concert, raising over $5,000 for the group’s scholarship program, through ticket, raffle, food and beverage sales. The goal was to reach $2,020 at the event to celebrate the New Year, and the event far exceeded expectations!
The award-winning teen a cappella group performed at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael on Dec. 29. More than 150 people attended the event to celebrate the current ensemble as well as `Still Dawn, comprised of former members.
Headliners Stevie Greenwell and Erin Honeywell started off the evening. The two sisters are both `Til Dawn alumni, and Stevie taught last spring in Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program.
Stevie Greenwell performs with the Thrive Choir and the Jazz Mafia Choral Syndicate. She is the founder and director of the Thrive Community Choir and the artistic director of the Diablo Women’s Chorale, and on the faculties of Stanford Jazz Camp and Own the Mic.
Erin Honeywell is an award-winning Bay Area vocalist and songwriter. She plans to release a full album collaboration with her soul band OTIS, as well as more of her original music. She also teaches private voice and chorus at San Domenico school and co-founded Own the Mic, a camp for middle and high school students.
“The SING OUT! offers such a wonderfully unique experience,” shares Development Associate, Morgan Schauffler who organized the event. “You get to marvel at the talent of our current ‘Til Dawn-ers, and hear them harmonize with former group members, many of whom have gone on to become professional musicians. This year’s headliners brought such beautiful honesty and soul to the concert. What a great night!”
The SING OUT! is more than just a scholarship fundraiser – It truly is a family event. Past and present members came from across the country to attend, and most had family members in tow.
Thank you to our food and beverage sponsors: Trader Joe’s San Rafael and Iron Springs Pub & Brewery , as well as our raffle prize donors: Bananas At Large, Salon Ciera, Johnny’s Doughnuts, and State Room Brewery.
Finally, thank you to our wonderful volunteer photographer Garrett Low!
Welcome to the`Til Dawn 2019-20 company.
The new singers attend schools throughout Marin, from Larkspur to Novato and bring a variety of expertise and interests.
“I sing when I wake up and I sing until I go to sleep,” said new member Leah Nemerovski. “I don’t find passion in anything else.”
Current ‘Til Dawn members are already practicing and putting their musical experience to use. Nemerovski plays the trombone, piano, drums, ukelele and enjoys musical theater. She became interested in ‘Til Dawn when she saw them perform at her middle school. She was surprised how easily she connected with other members of the group.
Nemerovski, and Alisa Costello, both 14, attend San Marin High School in Novato. One of the things they enjoy is the closeness of the group.
“It’s like a family,” Costello said.
For the newest members, music runs in the family. Costello’s uncle was an opera singer who performed at Carnegie Hall; Nemerovski is learning how to play the drums from her dad. Will Ferris’s mom is a singer, and Jacquie Kizer has two uncles who are musicians. Emma Orrick’s father is a music producer.
Kizer, 15, goes to Redwood High School. Kizer moved to Marin from New York last year and previously sung in a similar group. Being in the group, she said, provides a safe space and an environment in which to have fun.
“It’s honestly been amazing,” she said.
Orrick, 14, is also at Redwood. and plays the piano and does theater. She was surprised by how quickly the group learns the songs.
“It’s always my highlight of the week,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a chore.”
Ferris, 15, is a sophomore at Drake High School. He didn’t think he’d get into the group, he said, because he couldn’t figure out what to sing. He chose his winning song –”Fly Me To The Moon” – on the day of the audition.
Ferris said he enjoys performing all of the songs, although some are difficult because they are beyond his tenor range. The songs that are performed are chosen by the ensemble.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s really healthy for the group.”
`Til Dawn is an advanced vocal music program that celebrates the value of the arts, encourages positive messages about meaningful social issues and inspires children of all ages. The 15-member ensemble 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. While Willacy is on sabbatical this fall, the group has been taught by singer Lilan Kane. a ‘Til Dawn alumnus, and others.
Youth in Arts is thrilled to announce the hiring of Kristen Jacobson as its new executive director. Jacobson, who has a wealth of experience and a background in the performing arts, is expected to start in early November.
Jacobson is an arts leader, educator, and program designer dedicated to the accessibility of arts education for diverse populations. She comes to Youth in Arts from Alonzo King LINES Ballet, where as managing director of education, she has led initiatives to expand LINES’ programs that promote individuality, creativity and communication through dance and movement learning. Under her leadership, LINES education programs experienced significant expansion, growth, success and impact.
She also serves on the board of the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area as well as San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan advisory committee.
“We are excited to have Kristen join us,” said Youth in Arts Board President Naomi Tamura. “Her leadership style, and dynamic personality is well-suited to build off of the great strides Youth in Arts has made in arts education and advocacy. We are eager to have her lead us to even higher levels in developing young artists of all abilities.”
Prior to her time at LINES and in the Bay Area, Kristen served as the youth & community programs manager for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, where she was responsible for developing and implementing Hubbard Street’s Youth Dance Program from its inception. She was also instrumental in developing the Adaptive Dance Program, leading the Parkinson’s Project, managing school partnerships and residency program, teaching artist development, family programming as well as community partnerships with the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Botanic Garden, Museum of Contemporary Art and cultural institutions across Chicago.
With a long history as an arts educator, Kristen’s experience prior to Hubbard Street includes work for Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Free Street Theater, Chicago Human Rhythm Project and LABCO Dance Company in Pittsburgh. She also worked as a dancer and choreographer for a number of companies and organizations in Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Musical Theater and Dance from Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts and a master’s degree in arts in Youth and Community Development from Columbia College Chicago.
Photo credit L to R: Stephen Texeira, Quinn Wharton, LINES Ballet
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.
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.
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.
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