As followup to yesterday’s blog post about MusicianCorps at Southwest, here are links to two new videos. The first features Ms. Dian Fundisha-Bey, lead teacher at Southwest Interagency Academy, Seattle Public Schools. The second features Amos Miller, MusicianCorps Seattle Fellow, speaking about his work with youth at Southwest.Read More
A story from the MusicianCorps Seattle pilot year.
One lesser-told story of MusicianCorps Seattle involves Southwest Interagency Academy. Southwest is an alternative learning school in the Seattle Public Schools system, and serves students in transition, many of whom have been suspended or expelled for issues ranging from truancy to records violation.
Southwest Interagency Academy resides within Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (the building which also houses Arts Corps, and other community arts organizations), and was one site of MusicianCorps Fellow Amos Miller during the 2009-2010 pilot year. Part of Miller’s service mission was to help bridge organizations and resources in the building. This proved a needed mission for Southwest, as these young students were staffed by only one full-time teacher, Ms. Dian Fundisha-Bey.
At Southwest Interagency Academy, Amos led “Music Production” twice a week with 5 to 35 students. In class, Amos taught beat-making and used hip-hop and technology as an entryway to explore students’ cultures and creativity, and to encourage confidence, expression and discipline in his students. During the pilot year, Ms. Fundisha-Bey noticed an increase in attendance in the school day and more communication among students.
“A lot of our children would not have had this opportunity to be exposed to the music aspect—to go into the studio, learn how to make beats on the computers—if Amos was not around,” said Ms. Fundisha-Bey. “They love him, they look forward to his class. Our attendance has gone up on the days that Amos works with us, and they want to be here for Amos’s class. (…) There was a young boy who wouldn’t even speak to us, and he joined Amos’s class, and he was doing a rap.”
I mostly saw Amos’s impact outside of the classroom. Everyday—during lunch break at Southwest—I heard refrains of “Is Amos here? Is Amos here?,” as students popped their heads into the Arts Corps office and looked for their teacher and mentor. When Amos was here, he would hang out with his students: work on beat-making, or listen to new music. Other times he’d help a student with multiplication tables, or find resources for a difficult situation at home, or help build upon students’ job skills, or just listen.
Even though I saw many of the Southwest students every day, I sat in on their class only once. When I did, I asked about their year, MusicianCorps and working with Amos. Here are some responses:
“Since I’ve been here I’ve seen stuff improve. We used to play around, but we start[ed] focusing. We inspire each other in a lot of different ways like leadership, teamwork. We back each other up. We do this as a team. We are in this together.”
“I have learned to take in with open doors. Try new things, I want to learn new things. Change in life, habits, problems, levels of excitement.”
“I got to meet a person that changed the way I look at music. Something that was cool … he always pushed us to give our best stuff. Making beats and writing music was a lot of fun. It worked for me.”
“[Music] was the only reason I stayed here. I’m going to miss Amos. He is like my big brother.”
From what I observed, MusicianCorps at Southwest led to meaningful student growth in dedication, creativity, openness, and confidence because of the safe, fun, consistent and creative-driven space that Amos Miller and Ms. Fundisha-Bey built for students. Alberto Mejia, Program Director at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, described Amos’s talent in facilitating the best out of students through the arts.
“Amos is an extremely gifted person in terms of reading young peoples’ energies,” Mejia said. “Amos … has worked with at-risk, low-income youth. He really facilitates the best out of them. So a young person blocked by the things that are external to their environment or the things that have become internal because what is going on in the external—Amos helps to navigate through that and find a lot of beauty through art. Art is a neutral point, where it can open people up to take that next step. All those amazing unique coalescing things would be completely impossible without someone like Amos in our communities. The benefit is amazing now, and I think we’ve only begun to understand the potential of it. It’s been an amazing pilot year.”
I also think growth during the MusicianCorps year at Southwest Interagency Academy was possible because Amos and his students created a safe space—one that emphasized teamwork and openness—for the greater possibilities that music education and music production creates. Amos said:
“It brought out a heart. It made us reach inside and find something real, and we did that together. Sometimes it worked and sometimes cats were being silly … It gives opportunity for people to speak from that place. You can’t talk like that in the street, but to have a place where people can do that, I think it was a positive thing.”
When I asked Ms. Fundisha-Bey about what she would have changed during the pilot year, she repeatedly pointed to just one thing: more time with MusicianCorps Fellow Amos Miller.
“We need to have [Amos] more,” Ms. Fundisha-Bey said. “We need to have him three or four times a week, instead of just two times a week. All of the children want his class, but they all can’t have it because he can only take a small amount. The challenges we have in the class are that we need him more. He is great.”Read More
What does MusicianCorps Seattle look like?
The pilot program launched in 2009 by Arts Corps — along with national partner, Music National Service (MNS) and groups and musicians in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco/Oakland and New Orleans — stepped forward to make the call for an Artists Corps a reality. In Seattle, Arts Corps sent four outstanding musicians — all experienced and passionate teaching artists — into low-income schools and community settings. These MusicianCorps Fellows committed to a year of service to do transformative work with youth, schools and communities through music instruction and civic engagement.
One year later, 250 students have been served by on-going, direct music education, and 2,500 youth and adults have been reached by civic engagement and service events. Beyond numbers, the first MusicianCorps Seattle year was a resonant one, full of rewarding and challenging class time, civic engagement and service events, remarkable journeys, community performances, and needed lessons upon which to build and model what a full Artists Corps could become.
One detailed story of the pilot year can be seen through a timeline of the program, which follows.
Fall 2008: Candidate Obama calls for an Artist Corps
During his Presidential campaign, Candidate Obama calls for the creation of a national “Artist Corps” to bring artists as public servants into low-income and underserved communities to engage youth in arts and arts learning.
March 2009: Artist Corps formalized in Serve America Act
“Musical Peace Corps” is formalized in the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which includes the following amendment:
“A musician and artist corps program that trains and deploys skilled musicians and artists to promote greater community unity through work in low income communities, education, healthcare and therapeutic settings, and other work in the public domain with citizens of all ages.”
Spring 2009: Music National Service partners with Arts Corps
Music National Service partners with Arts Corps—the largest nonprofit arts educator in the Seattle area—to lead the MusicianCorps Seattle program, drawing upon the strengths of Arts Corps’ existing program and partnerships, and the vibrant arts and cultural legacy of the city.
Summer 2009: MusicianCorps Seattle Placement Sites Selected
Four MusicianCorps Seattle placement sites are selected based on diversity of settings (city, school district, neighborhood and community-based organization), a definable need, and the opportunity for a full time fellow placement to do transformative work with youth and communities through music instruction and civic engagement.
August 2009: National Gathering for the inaugural MusicianCorps Fellows
Music National Service holds a two-week National Training Camp in the San Francisco bringing together the 20 MusicianCorps Fellows from the four pilot cities: Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco/Bay Area.
Fall 2009: MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows begin full-time direct music service
MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows + placement sites are: Eduardo Mendonca (Seattle Center and Seattle Parks & Recreation), Carla Moreno (Low Income Housing Institute), Amos Miller (Youngstown Cultural Arts Center), and Aaron Walker-Loud (Central Area Schools Cluster).
September 25, 2009: Day of Service at Griffin Home
MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows visit Griffin Home – Friends of Youth for a day of service. They performed music and provided engaging music instruction to twenty adolescent boys ranging in age from 12-18.
October 16, 2009: The Fellows perform at the Imagination Conversation
MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows open the Imagination Conversation—a series of moderated public panels on imaginative thinking and passionate engagement in public life—with an engaging performance.
October 23, 2009: MusicianCorps performs at AmeriCorps launch
MusicianCorps Fellows perform an interactive performance at the AmeriCorps Launch Event to the 1,000 new AmeriCorps Members who took an Oath of Service at Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center. This performance will lead to many of the Fellows’ subsequent service activities.
October 25, 2009: Why Music
MusicianCorps Fellows direct and perform in “Why Music,” a benefit for MusicianCorps Seattle held at the Moore Thaetre to an audience of 350. In the spirit of service, 85 performers donated their time to this performance.
Watch Seattle Channel’s coverage of “Why Music”: “Why Music” on Seattle Channel
December 11, 2009: Day of Service at Bart Harvey Senior Center
MusicianCorps Fellows accompany Carla Moreno’s students for a day of service at Bart Harvey Senior Center.
January 18, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle at MLK Day Celebration!
MusicianCorps Fellows perform to an audience of 500 during the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at Seattle Center. The performance includes a song written and performed by students from Carla Moreno’s class from the Low Income Housing Institute.
Watch video from the MLK Day performance: MusicianCorps at MLK Day Celebration.
January 20, 2010: Brazilian Rhythms Workshop at Seattle Center School
The Fellows visit Seattle Center School, and accompany Eduardo Mendonca on a Brazilian Rhythms Workshop. The Fellows also introduce playing techniques, and end the workshop with a school-wide performance.
January 22, 2010: Youngstown Records exhibition at the Frye Art Museum opens
I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me, an exhibition curated by Youngstown Records (led by MusicianCorps Fellow Amos Miller) opens at the Frye Art Museum.
January 29, 2010: Service learning performance at the Guiding Lights Conference
MusicianCorps Fellows present an opening exercise for the Guiding Lights Conference, which features the nation’s best inspirational leaders to teach about mentoring and community building. This year conference focused on “Closing the Opportunity Gap.”
February 2010: Youngstown Records goes to the White House!
Youth from Youngstown Records—a youth-run record label led by MusicianCorps Fellow Amos Miller—go to the White House for “In Performance at the White House: Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.” The concert was hosted by United States President Obama and the First Lady, celebrated Black History Month, and featured Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson and other legendary artists performing songs from the Civil Rights era. Snowed in for a few extra days, Youngstown Records led “The Perfect Storm,” a talent show with youth from around the nation.
February 19, 2010: Workshop on Music Service Learning for Seattle Public Schools
The Fellows lead a two-hour workshop on music and service learning to 25 teachers and leaders at the Seattle Public Schools Service Learning Symposium.
February 25, 2010: Early Childhood Education begins
Responding to the needs of new transitional families, MusicianCorps Fellow Carla Moreno begins a new class, “Early Childhood Education.” This program exposes children to music at an early age and provides a meaningful opportunity for parent/child bonding.
February 26, 2010: Day of Service Learning with Washington Reading Corps
The Fellows present a three-hour workshop on “Musical Tools of Service Learning” to 55 Washington Reading Corps members. The Workshop provides the Reading Corps members with new musical techniques to engage literacy.
March 13, 2010: Eduardo Mendonca performs for Art for Peace Exhibition Opening
MusicianCorps Fellow Eduardo Mendonca provides music accompaniment for the opening of “Art for Peace,” an exhibition at Columbia City Gallery (in Seattle, WA) featuring art by Arts Corps students.
March 26, 2010: Studio Session with Kennedy Center Fellow
MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows compose “Hold on Tight” with Monishia Schoeman, a Kennedy Center Fellow and hip-hop activist visiting Arts Corps from South Africa.
March 31, 2010: Low Income Housing Institute students provide day of service
Carla Moreno and her students from the Low Income Housing Institute revisit Bart Harvey Senior Center for an afternoon of service, music and folk dancing. They were accompanied by folk artist Mary Sherhart.
April 2010: MusicianCorps Fellow Eduardo Mendonca launches “MusicianCorps Mentors Festal to Parks.” This spring quarter program—funded by a grant from 4Culture—brings teaching artists from Festal (the year-long Seattle Center festival honoring the diverse cultures of the Pacific Northwest) into community centers to lead free, 8-week music courses celebrating cultural diversity. The classes are “Beginning Taiko Drumming” with Gary Tsujimoto and Nancy Ozaki from One World Taiko at Bitter Lake Community Center; “Band Workshop” with Daniel Pak from Kore Ionz at Rainer Community Center; “Soulful Expression” with Miz Floes at Jefferson Community Center; and “Afro-Peruvian Percussion Workshop with Monica Rojas from De Cajon at Northgate Community Center. These classes serve 35 students with ongoing classtime during Spring 2010.
April 5, 2010: MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud profiled on KOMO News
Brian Calvert of KOMO News radio profiles the work of MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud at Washington Middle School.
April 9, 2010: Music learning fieldtrip for Leschi Elementary school students
MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud leads Leschi Elementary fifth graders on a field trip to Washington Middle School exploring middle school music opportunities. MusicianCorps Fellows (and team), and the team from Seattle Music Partners chaperoned and interviewed the students.
April 15, 2010: Professional development at the POP conference
MusicianCorps Fellows attended the opening session of the POP conference (held at Experience Music Project), which included a keynote roundtable with Chic frontman and Madonna producer Nile Rodgers, singer-songwriter and roots music producer Joe Henry, and rising cybersoul artist Janelle Monáe. The Fellows also met with EMP staff including Experience Music Project Education Director Margie Maynard, Manager of Instructional Program, Carrie Akre, and Michael Richter, and discussed meaningful partnerships for arts education.
April 23, 2010: Day of Service at World Rhythm Festival
The Fellows volunteered during the opening day of World Rhythm Festival at Seattle Center by answering questions, directing attendees, passing out programs, and providing other event support.
May 6, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle on KUOW
Journalist Marcie Sillman profiles MusicianCorps Seattle on KUOW.
May 6, 2010: Festa
Arts Corps throws Festa del Arte, its annual fundraiser at The Triple Door and features performances by MusicianCorps students and Fellows.
May 11, 2010: The Stranger profiles MusicianCorps Seattle
Jen Graves, The Stranger’s Arts Editor, writes “Make Art Anyway,” an article about the MusicianCorps Seattle Pilot Year.
May 21 – 22, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle in Downtown Parks
Two days of free community concerts reaching 750 take place. On Friday, the MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows perform in Westlake Park, along with students from Miz Floes Festal/Parks “Soulful Expressions” class. On Saturday, students and teaching artists from the Festal/Parks classes—Beginning Taiko Drumming, Brazilian Percussion, Band Workshop, and Afro-Peruvian Percussion Workshop—performed. MusicianCorps Seattle Fellow Eduardo Mendonca orchestrated these events.
May 22, 2010: Washington Middle School Drumline places third at Bulldog Drumline Expo
Under the guidance of MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud, the Washington Middle School Drumline wins third place at the Bulldog Drumline Expo.
May 27, 2010: Eduardo Mendonca at Olympic View Elementary
MusicianCorps Fellow Eduardo Mendonca engages elementary school students and parents with a participatory performance at Olympic View Elementary School’s Multicultural Night.
May 28, 2010: Return Day of Service at Griffin Home
The MusicianCorps Fellows return to Griffin Home for a day of service, where they teach music principles and play music with the youth.
May 30, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle at the Narrative Stage at the Northwest Folklife Festival
The MusicianCorps Seattle Team (including Elizabeth Whitford, Arts Corps Executive Director; Tina LaPadula, Arts Corps Education Driector and MusicianCorps Seattle Team Lead and MusicianCorps Fellows Carla Moreno and Eduardo Mendonca) speak about the pilot year at the Narrative Stage at the Northwest Folklife Festival to an audience of 40.
May 31, 2010: Arts Corps Showcase
Arts Corps Showcase at the Northwest Folklife Festival takes place. Performances feature MusicianCorps students from Youngstown Records and Washington Middle School drumline, and reach over 150.
June 2, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle Community Celebration
Fellows, students, partners, Arts Corps staff and community members celebrate the groundbreaking pilot year of MusicianCorps at the MusicianCorps Community Celebration at Seattle Center. The event, includes performances by MusicianCorps Seattle students and Fellows and a report on highlights from the year from Elizabeth Whitford, Arts Corps Executive Director and Tina LaPadula, Arts Corps Education Director and MusicianCorps Seattle Team Lead.
June 8, 2010: LIHI Students Studio Session
Carla Moreno’s class from the Low Income Housing Institute records “Oasis of Love” at Litho, a studio in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, WA.
June 8, 2010: Seattle Music Partners Spring Concert
Seattle Music Partners, a site partner of MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud, holds their year-end concert featuring students who benefited from free instrumental music lessons.
June 11, 2010: MusicianCorps Seattle 2009-2010 Pilot Year comes to a close
MusicianCorps Seattle ends its first pilot year. The program reached the community through:
* 4 MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows working in full time service to communities
* Ongoing music learning and service in 5 public schools and 5 community centers, as well as in one housing residence and on cultural arts center
* 234 students served by on-going, direct music education
* 20 one-time civic engagement and service events
* 2,500 youth and adults reached by civic engagement and service events
June 15-17, 2010: National Gathering
Music National Service holds end-of-pilot-year National Gathering for MusicianCorps Fellows in San Francisico, CA. The National Gathering brings together MusicianCorps Fellows, city leads, team leads and AmeriCorps VISTA members from the four cities (Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle) to review outcomes & lessons learned, and to make music. MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows present “to get there, together,” a presentation about their year as Fellows, and lessons learned.
When I first joined MusicianCorps Seattle at Arts Corps — part way through the 2009-2010 pilot year — I championed, rather than actually pictured, what a functioning Artists Corps looked like.
My pre-MusicianCorps concept of the Artists Corps was tied to the idea that everyone deserves access to the arts. I had spent much of my career supporting the arts and public policy. I am a musician who has performed with Seattle and New York-based blues, rock and classical groups, and who volunteered violin lessons to students who could otherwise not afford private lessons. I am a public policy wonk, who championed increased access to legal services while working for a legal advocacy organization.
I am also a student of the arts politics field. During the 2008 Presidential Elections, I followed the arts policy platforms of the candidates. Once President Obama was elected I studied his arts policy ideas and arts appointments through the Office of Public Engagement and National Endowment for the Arts. I followed conversations around the “Artists Corps” idea and thought about the legacy and impact of artists in the public sphere. (One of my favorite articles about the Artists Corps, “A New New Deal 2009″ by Arlene Goldbard, traces the legacy and promise of public service roles for artists.) But despite my investigation, I still could not envision what an Artists Corps would fully look like.
Since working with MusicianCorps Seattle at Arts Corps, I have been tasked with capacity building: implementing evaluation of students, Fellows and site partners; documenting the work through interviews, flip camera videos, pictures and other media; and supporting this work in the classroom, through community and civic engagement events, at performances, and through other initiatives. Now, after working through the first year of the pilot program, I better know what MusicianCorps looks like. I also expressly know why we need an Artists Corps.
I witnessed students — recently transitioned from homelessness — playing instruments for the first time, and writing songs about hope, love and community.
I witnessed MusicianCorps supplementing existing public school music programs, with individualized lessons, and with work to increase the accessibility of music to low-income students and students of color, students often less served by public school music programs.
I witnessed students in transitional schools expressing that their MusicianCorps class was the only reason they came to school.
I witnessed innovation, such as finding new ways to fund teaching artists to teach free classes to youth in community centers or teaching AmeriCorps teams to incorporate musical tools in their practice.
I witnessed the need to better support those stretched artists and community groups who have been implementing arts learning and engagement work for years.
I witnessed Arts Corps surpassing its goals for the MusicianCorps Seattle pilot year, goals to expand access to music education for youth, to develop musical skills and creative habits in participants, and to foster civic engagement.
I witnessed the need for this work.
Over the next few weeks, I intend to chronicle much of what I have witnessed: stories and highlights from the pilot year. I intend to better paint the picture of a program I once could not fully see, and better advocate for a program and a model that — I believe — will drastically improve student achievement and the public sphere. I also intend to celebrate the incredible team that made MusicianCorps Seattle happen.
In August 2009, Arts Corps — along with the national partner, Music National Service (MNS) and groups and musicians in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco/Oakland and New Orleans — stepped forward to make Congress and President Obama’s call for the national Artist and Musician Corps a reality. Although MusicianCorps is an idea endorsed by national legislation (the Serve America Act signed in March 2009), no public funding has been allocated for the full model. Arts Corps was responsible for raising $160,000 to fund the MusicianCorps Seattle program pilot year, and worked with a network of individuals, foundations, corporations, and community partners to launch and run an amazing program.
After witnessing the work and impact of MusicianCorps Seattle, I more fully believe that everyone deserves access to the arts. Over the next weeks, I will tell stories from the pilot year, and reveal my discovery of how a well-supported artists-in-service program is necessary for transformative work with youth, schools, communities, and the social fabric.Read More