A story from the MusicianCorps pilot year.
Before the pilot year began, the MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows worked with Tina LaPadula to write missions statements. Tina LaPadula is Arts Corps’ Education Director and the MusicianCorps Team Lead, and led the MusicianCorps team through the pilot year.
In guiding the Fellows to write their mission statements, Tina sought to practically match the goals of each site to the goals and skills of the Fellows.
“That’s a creative challenge in this work,” LaPadula said. “Without the right intention and time paid to those intentions, the best ideas and the best dreams and hopes of a program or a school or community will not be met.”
LaPadula continued: “This year – taking ten years of Arts Corps learning of how to place the right person in the right spot and facilitate that relationship well – we took it further [with MusicianCorps] in that now we have teaching artists for a longer time in this community. How can we make a program that takes advantage of this person and their best skills and the need at this site? We’ve been more intentional so that expectations can be realistic and be met, so that everyone’s hopes and dreams can be aligned, and be both practical and idealistic.”
MusicianCorps Fellow Aaron Walker-Loud provides one example of the power of service missions matched to service sites. During the pilot year, Aaron worked with a cluster of schools and groups in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood: Washington Middle School, Leschi and Bailey Gatzert Elementary Schools, Garfield High School, and Seattle Music Partners. Aaron grew up in the neighborhood where he worked during the pilot year, and attended many of the schools in his MusicianCorps placement. Given his background, and after meeting with his site partners, Aaron created his MusicianCorps mission statement, as follows:
“Engage more low income youth and youth of color in district music programs, through a supportive pipeline of drumline classes after school, and in the school day workshops and ensembles at Washington Middle school and feeder Elementary schools. … Strengthen the collaboration among music specialists, musicians and service programs in Seattle’s Central District school cluster.”
Aaron’s mission directly influenced his MusicianCorps work, both within and outside of the classroom. One idea Aaron had was to take elementary students – many of whom had not yet played any instruments – on a fieldtrip to music programs at Washington Middle School, where many of them will attend.
The fieldtrip was a powerful exercise in collaborations, connections, and imagining possibilities. [Read more about the fieldtrip here]. Chaperoned by the MusicianCorps Team (Tina, Aaron and the other Fellows, and myself) and the team from Seattle Music Partners, students from Leschi Elementary Schools toured Washington Middle School’s music classes and interviewed the band and orchestra teachers and students. As chaperones, we each shared our own experiences with middle school and the arts. We also interviewed the students about their music background, and how the field trip influenced their wishes for middle school. Here are some responses:
“I think it helpful because on the first day (of middle school) I thought I would be scared, but I wasn’t. I can handle it and not be scared on the first day of school.”
“I don’t play an instrument but I plan to play an instrument, the drums. [The fieldtrip] helped me to see what it would be like, see kids their attitudes, how you can make friends.”
“It was helpful to see how the class works and to get the answers out of actual middle school students … for the future, to have the chance to get to feel the transitions from elementary music to middle school music. It was helpful to get a feel for middle school and to actually see what it feels like.”