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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.” 

`Til Dawn Alum Changing Lives

Stevie Greenwell with students from GLOW: Girls Leading Our World. The girls empowerment and resiliency camp she co-directed

`Til Dawn Alum Stevie Greenwell shares about the impact that Austin Willacy has had on her and how she is passing on her love for the arts with special needs students in Zambia.  Go Stevie!

I remember being so nervous when I auditioned for ‘Til Dawn. I was in awe of the group and was unbelievably excited to become part of it. Little did I know how much ‘Til Dawn would change me and that 11 years later it would still have such a large impact on my life. When I joined the group, I was a quietly strong and slightly shy girl. ‘Til Dawn helped me find my voice on stage and in life. I became a more confident person and started to find more direction for my future. ‘Til Dawn took me from a person who liked to sing to someone confidently choosing to study music education in college and making music part of my career.

I was beginning to believe in the power of education and expression and Youth in Arts embodied both of those ideals. I secretly dreamed about working for Youth in Arts one day and started often thought about starting my own non-profit one day. I think I was just starting to understand the connection we can have with others and how much good can come out of that connection and community. All I knew is I had to do something. It was also around this time that I first started thinking about volunteering and the Peace Corps. Be it with Peace Corps or Non-profits, I knew my fulfillment was going to come through helping others and singing. At the time it all seemed like far fetched dreams and then before I knew it, I was calling Austin to tell him I was moving to Zambia and soon teaching a group of high school boys how to write songs in front of my hut.

I loved being a part of the Youth in Arts family and seeing all the amazing projects they have accomplished. It was my first look into how a non-profit worked on a daily basis. I felt so lucky to be in the group and thank Youth in Arts and Austin for that chance. Austin has been such an amazing support in my life. He has gone from director to mentor and advisor to close friend. He continually makes me think about the impact I can have on the world and motivates me to actively contribute what I can through his actions and choices.

The ‘Til Dawn family I became a part of is still going strong. There have been countless coffee dates, long distant phone calls, concerts, shows, weddings, and even babies! I am still collaborating with members of the group to teach music and continue to sing together. The actual impact Youth in Arts has had on me is unmeasurable. Most of all I think back on my time singing with ‘Til Dawn with a huge smile on my face. I strive to keep the art, music, and community going in every direction of my life.

I spent two and half years in Zambia working with teachers, schools, and communities to improve education in rural areas. I fell in love with Zambia and found myself apart a part of new family and community half way across the globe. When I returned to the states the answer still seemed clear, you must help the ones you love. Over the past year, two other returned volunteers and I have been working on a project called Paint the Movement to help some absolutely amazing kids in Zambia.

We are going to Chileshe Chelepa Special Needs for a week long learning event with the core values I felt at Youth in Arts, education and art, as our focus. It is a combination of creative physical therapy, teacher training, art education and a student mural project. 30 teachers trained means over 600 students impacted and a mural project that will have continents collaborating. I am overjoyed to be able to bring art and the power of expression to these children.

Check out our video and more information on our site.

We are a small group with the chance to have a powerful impact and want as many people to be a part of it as possible.We are currently at 78% of our fundraising target and just need a final push to make it to our goal. All of our supporters have come from word of mouth. Please help us spread the word and become a member of the Paint the Movement Family. I dare you to not fall in love with the children in this video.