Working to bring the arts to every student


By Dr. Sherrie Norwitz, Instrumental String Music Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle

Art and aesthetics are crucial to the foundation of society. Arts education provides children the opportunity to be exposed to–and develop their own–appreciation of beauty in their world. Art is a way to transmit the values of the society. Through the arts, children learn about their community, helping to provide them with a context for their lives within their communities, and become active participants in helping to create their communities. Arts experiences open doors to children, allowing them to say, “I am touched by this. I am a part of this beauty. I created this. I shared my creation. This has meaning to me.”

Sequential education in the arts is a crucial component in a child’s education. Learning about and through the arts gives students ownership of skills and knowledge to become active participants in society through creative expression and communication.

It is important to me for students to experience the integration of the arts across the curriculum and the varying natural connections that are inherent between the arts and their core curriculum subjects. This arts integration approach supports the learning of core curriculum subjects, reaches a wide-range of learners, provides authentic real world experiences that directly involve students in the act of creating, provides opportunities for collaboration, and supports the development of 21st Century Skills through the Common Core and Career Ready Standards.

Through our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences, our school community is finding its way in creating a comprehensive arts integration program. With the support of our principal, Ms. Henry, we feel that we have a very strong foundation for our program’s growth and development.

This year we began by extending the arts-integrated approach to learning beyond the artist-in-residence program which we had previously brought to our students. Working with Young Audiences, we created a Resident Teaching Artist position for the year to allow for the continued presence of a teaching artist within our school. Our Resident Teaching Artist, Young Audiences artist Kwame Opare, performed with his ensemble, DishiBem G.R.O.W. during school-wide assemblies, and provided workshops to fifth- through eighth-grade students. Kwame also provided our teachers professional development in arts integration to help answer their questions, provide guidance, calm apprehensions, and worked with teachers during collaborative teaching days to bring arts integration directly to the students in their classrooms.

Partnering with Young Audiences to provide such a variety of programs throughout the year ensured that we incorporated arts integration best practices and included all of our grade levels–preschool to grade 8–in these art experiences. Being an International Baccalaureate School (IB) also helped support our way forward in the interdisciplinary learning of arts integration.

Arts integration and arts-enhanced learning is happening in many ways in different classes. Among our activities, students have drawn Grecian vases as part of their Ancient Civilizations unit, they have dramatized stories through dance, applied music notation to learning fractions, used music to help understand number columns, made connections between literature and music while dancing “The Nutcracker,” and created a paper Freedom Quilt.

We have developed a rhythm of arts integration at Thomas Jefferson. We are working to create an environment where everywhere you look, the arts are happening, where the arts are for everyone at the school and where connections with the arts can be made throughout a student’s day. Having a sense of continuity of arts experiences helps create a feeling of expectation of such experiences for both students and teachers. There is a developing sense school-wide that the arts and arts integration “is what we do.” We look to have the arts not as “special” but as a continuing presence in our daily school life, where learning can take place through the arts. There is something for everyone–for students in all grades covering a variety of subjects, and for teachers to feel supported with our teaching artists and our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences.

Artistic energy invigorates the school environment, developing our professional skills as teachers and invigorating learning for students.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle School is an IB World School, an Arts Every Day School, and a Maryland Green School. Learn more online here. 

Teaching Grit through the Arts

By Katie Keddell, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Office and Volunteer Manager

Max Bent (1)

This story was originally posted as a part of the Americans for the Arts Teaching Artist Blog Salon in March 2014. See all of the salon posts here.

On Saturday, February 1, I had the wonderful opportunity to watch Young Audiences/Arts for Learning teaching artist, Max Bent, work. We were not in a classroom and we were not in an official Young Audiences program at a school or community organization. Instead, we were joining our neighbors, Single Carrot Theatre, in welcoming the neighborhood to our new home at 2600 North Howard Street in Baltimore. Max was offering a musical demonstration to anyone who walked in to say hello and hear more about Young Audiences. After an hour of recording sounds visitors played on a small steel drum and various other eclectic instruments, Max created a symphony of sounds by layering impromptu measures of four beats on top of each other. As he taught, I was struck by one phrase he kept repeating: “We have to re-harness the things that happen by accident.” I instantly connected this idea to my research as a graduate student.

As we talk about the young people in our state and across the country, one major trend is the desire to teach our students what one popular researcher calls, “Grit.” As defined by TED Talk speaker Angela Lee Duckworth:

“Grit is sticking with your future—day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years—and working really hard to make that future a reality.”

Watch the full Ted Talk here

Passing a paper test with a singular focus cannot teach this tenacity, but overcoming a challenge does. In 10 minutes, I saw Max demonstrate how he teaches grit through the arts-integrated programs he brings to Maryland schools. Our guests saw the value of sticking with the exercise themselves and heard the physical evidence created by their instruments. Each individual walked away with a small but powerful example of success through staying with something despite no prior knowledge of the steel drum or the technology Max was using to record and layer sounds

Before Max joined Young Audiences, he did not see a connection between his art and the school curriculum. Max applied to participate in the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), a training program for artists developed by Young Audiences in partnership with Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS) and the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), to deepen his knowledge of how the arts can naturally connect to the curriculum and engage students in learning. After successfully completing the program, Max now has a collection of lessons that connect beatboxing and music to a multitude of subjects, such as probability, fractions, graphing, and phonics.

That’s what excites me most about Young Audiences: the belief in arts integration. For me, it’s not only about teaching the future generation aesthetic appreciation, it’s also about finding the ways that divergent thinking and practical application speak to the future of what our children learn and believe they can achieve. It’s about giving all students a chance to explore their talents, giving them a safe environment to take risks, to make mistakes, to achieve, and to persevere. It’s about teaching grit.

Part 2: Gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on arts education


Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. We extended the invitation to all candidates to respond to two questions that would be shared on our blog. We posted responses to the first question earlier this week and today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the second and last question:

Young Audiences/Arts for Learning is a nonprofit that transforms the lives and education of youth by connecting professional artists with schools and communities. Last year, Young Audiences created more than 9,000 opportunities for nearly 170,000 students and educators in 23 out of the 24 school districts, to learn in, about, and through the arts. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities made five recommendations to reinvest in arts education (included in the full report, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools”). Two of them are expanding the in-school use of teaching artists and developing the field of arts integration, the practice of using the arts as a tool to teach other academic subjects. Do you agree? If so, how would you, as governor, move these recommendations forward?

We’ve listed the candidates’ responses alphabetically below. Thank you to Anthony Brown, David CraigDoug GanslerRalph Jaffe, and Heather Mizeur.

Anthony Brown

Over the last seven years, Maryland has augmented arts learning in schools through the Maryland State Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Program, which supports performances, workshops, and residencies, as well as professional development for teaching artists. More than 500 schools and many teaching artists benefit each year from this program. The Brown-Ulman Administration will not only continue our support of this important program, but work to increase funding levels.

Every student learns differently. Arts integration is an exciting concept, which can enrich learning for more students. We will encourage our educators and local school boards to explore innovative course design that integrates the arts in ways that optimize education for all students.

The Governor’s P-20 Leadership Council established a Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools in 2013, which is currently in the process of developing an action plan that ensures a quality arts education for all Maryland students.

We strongly support a high-quality arts education for every child in Maryland. We look forward to reviewing the report of the P-20 Leadership Council’s Task Force in September of this year and working together to implement recommendations that will help all Maryland children access the arts and reach their greatest potential.

Learn more about Anthony Brown here.

David Craig

As governor I would appoint members of the State Board who have a background of support in the field of art education and who would ensure that better policies move forward to expand education capacity. Some students love athletics, some love art, some both; we must provide equal acquisition on both aspects. When I taught I saw that children who were engaged in art transferred their enthusiasm to math, language arts, science, and social studies and did well across the board. I will ensure that this gets done.

Learn more about David Craig here.

Doug Gansler

I wholeheartedly agree. As someone who felt stifled by traditional learning approaches growing up, I wish I had benefited from the rich and creative approaches to teaching [Young Audiences] promotes. Expanding the use of teaching artists would give more students the opportunities to discover a mode of learning that ignites them, and more teachers the fulfillment that comes from offering classroom instruction in a form that resonates with their own creativity. Developing arts integration would enable more students to experience the arts as part of their everyday learning, and would also serve to better reinforce the subjects they learn; research shows that multimodal repetition and reinforcement help improve learning.

As governor, I will move these recommendations forward through setting goals early to deepen the reach of these approaches in our schools. Right now your work reaches nearly 200,000, but many thousands have yet to enjoy an arts-infused education, and many teachers have yet to discover how powerful the arts can be as a teaching tool. I will convene leading educators, including [Young Audiences] artists, at the start of my term to explore how we can best ensure that arts education is woven into our state’s overall education strategy. And I will work with teaching artists as I develop the Governor’s Teacher Corps, a program I have proposed to help close the achievement gap through improving teacher quality. The Governor’s Teacher Corps will pair selected new teacher recruits in our high-need elementary schools with exceptional teacher mentors for a period of three years. Participants will receive coaching, training, and professional development instructional resources and will be incentivized with loan assistance, provided the recruits attend Maryland universities. I will design the Corps to nurture aspiring teachers of all types, including aspiring teaching artists.

Fundamentally, I will be a governor who is open to new ways of approaching education. That shift in attitude alone will create a new space for visions like yours to flourish in our schools. And I will make clear to the leadership I appoint that arts education is important for helping our kids thrive. This is especially so in high-poverty areas, where arts education can serve as a vital, affirming form of enrichment for students who are subjected to daily struggles. Too often people assume arts education should be the first to go when school budgets are cut, but for many students, the arts are a lifeline, without which they may not be able to succeed in other areas of their education. Denying arts education, especially in lower-income areas, only widens the inequalities in education that are already too great in this state, inequalities that I want to work to close as governor.

Learn more about Doug Gansler here.

Ralph Jaffe

I agree with all of those goals. I think they are very worthy and I support that 100%. You need to contact the artists to see if they would like to help your program. I would call artists for you for free and place volunteers to call people for you. I don’t want to replace anybody who has a job and once they leave we will replace them with a volunteer. I would never be against anything that is educational. If your coordinator leaves I would replace them with a volunteer, but I would never want them to lose their job. I support the five recommendations entirely.

Learn more about Ralph Jaffe here.

Heather Mizeur

Our curriculum is going through tremendous change with the implementation of Common Core. While I understand a lot of the fear that exists with such a transition, there are a lot of things to like about the new standards. There is more emphasis on practical skills like careful observation and evidence-based problem solving—and I think arts integration could play a huge role in shaping more exciting and creative teaching methods in math, reading, writing, and science.

While there is an important separation between lawmakers and curriculum development, there is an important role for the governor to step in when certain skills are not being addressed in our schools: financial, civic, and sustainability literacy all come to mind. More emphasis on the arts falls into that category, and as governor, I will work with the Maryland State Department of Education and the local school boards to make art a key component of teaching methods. We can transition our focus from STEM to STEAM, where arts is added to science, technology, engineering, and math. We have already seen this done successfully in Anne Arundel, where several elementary schools have piloted arts integration. There is no reason why it cannot be brought up to scale throughout the state.

We need to have a bigger conversation about improving the prestige of educators. We know that the single most effective way to improve our academic outcomes is to improve the effectiveness of our educators. If we are truly going to prioritize art education in our schools, then we also have to prioritize art educators. My “Thornton 2.0” commission to study school funding will also study how to help educators be their best in the classroom. I fully expect that this commission will make recommendations to increase the number of teaching artists in our schools, and I will move swiftly to implement those recommendations.

Learn more about Heather Mizeur here.

Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!

Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week!

To see all Maryland YA Week newsclick here.

Gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on arts education


Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. As we mentioned earlier this week, we extended the invitation to all candidates to answer two questions that would be shared on our blog. Today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the first question:

Maryland needs creative citizens who can imagine new possibilities for our society, think critically, solve complex problems, and collaborate effectively with others to turn these new possibilities into a reality. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning believes that the arts are an essential vehicle for building these 21st Century Skills. We are concerned both by the cuts in arts education and that our standardized testing model does not recognize the full set of capacities needed to ensure that Maryland has a thriving workforce and a civil society. As governor, how would you address our concerns?

We’ve listed the candidates’ responses alphabetically below. Thank you to Anthony Brown, David CraigDoug GanslerRalph Jaffe, and Heather Mizeur.

Anthony Brown

Every Maryland student, regardless of where they live or the resources of their family, deserves a world-class education that includes the arts. We often talk about STEM education, but the conversation needs to be about the broader STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Mathematics) education. Arts integration in classrooms has been shown to reduce achievement gaps among economically disadvantaged youth. Access to arts programs has been linked to greater achievement on standardized tests for older students as well. But, perhaps most importantly, the arts promote healthy expression and important skills like creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and critical thinking, which are not nurtured in the traditional classroom setting.

Recently, the Brown-Ulman campaign announced our Running Start Program to deliver universal, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K to all Maryland 4-year-olds by 2018. We look forward to working with the arts community to ensure that Pre-K programming includes arts education.

We will work with our local school boards to preserve and expand arts education funding, which enhances the educational experience of all students.

Learn more about Anthony Brown here.

David Craig

As a teacher and school administrator at the middle school level for 34 years, I have a strong support for both performing and visual arts. This has expanded for me as I watch our grandchildren participating in choirs, bands, and plays with the eldest actually designing and preparing costumes for musicals. As governor I would fund these types of projects and encourage school systems to develop Magnet and Signature programs to attract students and raise their education level–something which standardized testing undermines.

Learn more about David Craig here.

Doug Gansler

I share [Young Audiences’] passion for the arts as a means for imagining new possibilities for our society, thinking critically, and connecting to the world around us. I have seen this firsthand, thanks to my wife, Laura, an author who has used the medium of writing to illustrate the lives of women imagining new possibilities for women during times–and in communities–where women were not equals. One of her books, “The Mysterious Private Thompson,” tells the true story of Sara Emma Edmonds who hid her gender to fight in the Civil War. Another, “Class Action,” recounts the true story of Lois Jenson, one of the first women hired at a Minnesota iron mine, the sexual harassment she experienced in the workplace, and the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States that resulted from it. That book inspired “North Country,” which used the medium of film to dramatize this important subject. As my wife’s books and the response to them demonstrate, art can provide meaning, insight, and understanding that moves us to reconsider our perspective and improve our world–often when our government and its leaders are unable to do so.

For our state–and our democracy–to flourish, we need to support our artists, and this includes funding for the arts and arts education. Unfortunately, over the last seven years, state funding for the arts has been largely uncertain, cut from $15.2 million in FY2008 down to $13.3 million by FY2010, only increasing last year for the first time in several years; and the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts has been left unfunded for periods of time as well.

State funding for the arts and arts education will be secure during my administration as governor. I will work to make sure that arts education is supported and recognized as a vital component of education to be defended and protected, and that state leaders view it as a type of education that can translate into jobs. When evaluating the many achievement gaps in our state’s schools, we should also be looking at arts gaps, and should recognize that arts integration has the capacity to transform learning and close these gaps. I will work to ensure equal access to arts education–and the creativity and innovation it fosters–as governor. As President Obama has said, “The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”

Lastly, as we continue our state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards, I will look for ways to help teachers find opportunities to use the arts to improve their instruction. It is true that our standardized testing model does not recognize how skills in the arts can empower our young people to be talented leaders in the workforce and in society as a whole, so I will seek more ways to integrate arts education into our overall education program. I am thrilled by the work organizations like yours do to advance this effort.

Learn more about Doug Gansler here.

Ralph Jaffe

My education program, “The Pre-K Plan” is a plan for education for grades one through college. I am a teacher and I am in favor of education. It starts with a mother and father. When I used to teach in 1964 I had a parent come see me for parent teacher conferences. This parent said: “I don’t understand my son is doing well in your class but my other son is not doing well in the 10th grade.” We have lost the family as an institution. We have to have a mother and father or surrogate mother or father who is willing to give care. You have to spend time with your children every day and we have to ask about their day every day. Until we fix the family our education is going to be a mess. It is not the money that makes the education system work; it is the effort, time, and commitment to working with your children.

One of the first things I am going to do [as governor] is call a conference of every church leader and every leader of the Jewish community and I am going to tell them they have to go back to their synagogues and churches and tell their members they have to take an interest in their children. Even businesses have to participate in the tracking of a child and be involved in mentoring and communicating with children. There must be a tracking system for everyone who is in the public education system. That doesn’t cost money, it is about leadership.

Learn more about Ralph Jaffe here.

Heather Mizeur

Any 21st Century innovation economy will need a private sector that knows how to capture the imagination of consumers. My 10-point jobs plan is centered in empowering middle-class families to earn more, be taxed less, and in turn, spend more money in our economy. Maryland needs a creative workforce to not only encourage our consumers to invest in the private sector, but also bring our communities closer together.

That is why I include the arts in my plan for growing our 21st Century innovation economy. Investing in science and technology fields is absolutely crucial—they will create enormous benefits in quality of life advances. But the arts are just as crucial, with regard to both culture and innovation. I have always believed that emotional intelligence is just as important for innovation as scientific intelligence. Look at Apple as just one example. Its products are not necessarily more useful than those of competitors, but the artistic design is extremely user-friendly and it completely captures the imagination of its consumers.

This all has to begin in our schools—a culturally aware and creative workforce has to be developed in our education system. Unfortunately, art has become the stepchild of school subjects. In my time on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, I have stood up against cuts to the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), which provides many important grants for arts education in both schools and extracurricular settings. As governor, I will work to expand funding for the MSAC, with a focus on providing more grant funding for school systems that need it most. We also need to look at arts as a more important element of the school day and I plan on making that message very clear to local school systems as governor.

This shift in vision for our education system also has to take form in our accountability measures. I am deeply concerned about the growing high-stakes testing culture that is spreading throughout our schools. Learning is not about consuming the right answers—it is about producing the profound questions and chasing those questions passionately. Teaching to the test does not spark creativity and a love for learning. As governor, I will put in place a four-year moratorium on using standardized tests scores for educator evaluations, and explore alternative assessments to PARCC that do more to encourage innovation and creativity in the classroom.

Learn more about Heather Mizeur here.

Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!

Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week. On Thursday, we will post each candidate’s response to the second of our two questions.

Click here to learn more about Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week proclamation.

To see all Maryland YA Week newsclick here.

The Artist is Present

By Kevin Adekoya, Young Audiences Development Assistant


This month, 51 artists and teachers completed their final Reflection Day of the 2013-2014 Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar. During the past five months, artist and teacher pairs have worked together to create new arts-integrated assembly and residency programs that will engage students in learning through the arts. To celebrate this accomplishment, one Young Audiences staff member shared his thoughts on TAI and what is possible when artists and classroom teachers work together to improve education.

Witnessing collaborations between artists and teachers during the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar is like getting a behind-the-scenes look at how artists think and operate. There is a circus of artistic expression in all its forms—music, dance, theatre, and visual art—all with the power to inspire and beguile. During the past five months, carefully-crafted performances and interactive arts activities co-created by participating teachers and teaching artists have become new assembly and artist-in-residence programs for students in Maryland. Each program shows the deep personal commitment of each participant to educating students throughout the state.

It was just a few short months ago when these artists and teachers from across the region met at City Neighbors High School for the TAI Presentation Workshop.  Each artist and classroom teacher partner was present to share their plans for an arts or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program. Different classrooms throughout the building were devoted to different art forms so participants could present their lesson plans to their peers for feedback. Within each room you saw groups of people listening intently as each artist and educator explained their plans and how their approach would help students connect to the curriculum in a new way.

In each room hands shot into the air to provide praise, ask questions, and suggest new ideas—all in the name of creating innovative arts-in-education programs that will inspire and excite students. Feedback, given freely between artists and educators, formed a bond that was tangible. Everyone’s focus was on finding ways to address the curriculum through the stimulating lens of the arts.

One of my favorite moments was being able to participate in a sample lesson from the residency “Culture Kingdom Time.” Jessica Smith, founder and lead teaching artist of Culture Kingdom Kids, is the Culture Queen who, through interactive song, dance, and movement, highlights historic African American role models for fifth graders. For example, Barbara Hillary, who became the first African American woman to reach both the North and South Pole at the age of 79. Or York, who, with Lewis and Clark, journeyed to unchartered western territories of the U.S. from 1804 to 1806. These stories and others connected with what students were learning in History class and focused on themes of overcoming obstacles–something all students can relate to on a personal level. Throughout her lesson, Jessica’s goal was to show children that they too could be future pioneers by remaining curious and pushing beyond their comfort zones.

Young Audiences brings together skilled professional artists and classroom teachers to create programs that combine the knowledge and expertise of both parties. By integrating the arts into the curriculum, teachers are able to engage students with curricular content and artists are able to tap into a student’s true potential.  What a great experience it was to take part in!

Learn about the next TAI Seminar and how to apply here

Click here to be added to the TAI listserve and stay up-to-date on future TAI seminars and workshops.

Creating confident students–and future leaders–through the arts

By Micaela Gramelis, Young Audiences Grants and Annual Gala Manager and former teacher


Sitting in my class each day, Nadia did well. She worked hard; she smiled. She was kind, but deferred to her third-grade classmates for academic guidance during group activities. After the first half of the school year I would not have described her as a leader. Boy, was I wrong.

Nadia’s gift spent months undercover in our classroom. It was not until the class held a talent show at our pre-spring break celebration that a brave, confident Nadia emerged. As Nadia’s group began their rehearsed dance for the audience, her dance partners—both confident learners who often directed activity in the classroom—lost track of the dance sequence. All eyes turned to Nadia, whose poise and confidence in her movements indicated to her classmates that she was the one they should look to; she was the one they should follow.

During the two years I spent teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools, my students were aware of what was out there. They knew of museums, universities, and instruments, even if they did not utilize these things in their day-to-day lives. These artistic tools and institutions–so cool at first–quickly lost their appeal when my students thought that they were inaccessible. Consistently kept at a distance, they became the enemy and symbols of what one lacked.

Nadia was fortunate to discover her connection to dance outside of the classroom, despite not having access to dance classes at her school. Nadia’s visual arts classes often consisted of coloring with crayons and pasting one color of construction paper on top of another when she was lucky—but a student’s access to the arts should not be up to luck. Artistic opportunities in school are about much more than cultivating fine motor skills and identifying artistic talent; they are about closing the gap between what students know exists, and what they have been conditioned to believe is out of their reach from years of deprivation.

Nadia and her classmates did have the opportunity to play recorders in their music class, and the pride with which they carried their recorders down the hallway let me know that these instruments were prized possessions. When my students held their own recorders, with their names attached, the arts became tangible; they began to move forward, one step, toward what they deserved. When they performed in our talent show, and were cheered on by siblings, parents, and classmates, my students nudged forward toward what they deserved. When they wrote plays, and their written words were enthusiastically acted out by their peers, read aloud and valued by others, they began to experience how the arts can create a community and boost the self-esteem of each class member. Our students deserve this community. They deserve the opportunity to try new things. They deserve positive attention for their accomplishments, and for their voices to be valued. This is all possible through the arts.

To ensure that each Maryland student has the opportunity to experience the power of the arts, Young Audiences has increased its presence in Baltimore City schools from 89 schools to 119 schools during the last four years. In 2009, we served 22,033 students; in 2013, we served 38,317. Since its launch in the winter of 2009, our Access for All Initiative has subsidized programs for students in low-income Baltimore City schools to ensure that all students have equitable access to the best artists and educational arts experiences that our state has to offer.

Inequity in access to the arts is just one manner in which many of our students from low-income backgrounds are underserved. Increased access to the arts will not solve every challenge of poverty, but it can produce empowered leaders—equipped with resiliency, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills—who are prepared to tackle future challenges. It will produce youth who have learned to value their voice because they have had the opportunity to share it with others. It will produce students who know what they deserve, and have the tools they need to put up a fight for it.

If you are interested in applying for a Spring 2014 Access for All grant to bring a Young Audiences program to your school, the application is available online here. To learn more about Access for All and our work to increase equity in arts programming, click here.

Tube Beat or Not To Be? Discovering Sound through Rhythm and Movement

By Max Bent, Musician and beatboxer


Young Audiences artists and teacher partners have written case studies documenting their work in schools and their exploration of one essential question. Each study provides a snapshot of how the artist or teacher works with students to integrate the arts into the curriculum and provide opportunities for students to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.

Project or Program Summary

I first experienced beat tubes (capped PVC tubes that produce distinct pitch) while playing in the ensemble of fellow Young Audiences artist Kevin Martin. Inspired by their simplicity and immediate impact on students, I worked with a team of fifth- and sixth-grade teachers to design an arts-integrated beat tube residency. Our team began with the essential question “What is sound?” Through interacting with and playing the beat tubes, students experienced the propagation of sound while applying principles of music and dance during a culminating group performance.

Beat tubes are capped PVC tubes that produce distinct pitch.

Purpose and Rational

Beat tubes offer a wealth of possibilities for further exploration of arts-integrated teaching. As an instrument, beat tubes are linked in heritage to Tamboo Bamboo in Trinidad as well as numerous folk music traditions surrounding the pounding of grain into flour. This case study is submitted in the hopes of inspiring other educators to experiment with beat tubes.

Analysis and Outcomes

What are your overall conclusions regarding the documentation gathered for this case study?
Students learned that the phenomenon of sound can be understood as patterns of vibration through a medium–usually air. These patterns of vibration are called “sound waves.” “Pitch” and “volume” are aspects of sound waves that can be manipulated by musicians to express ideas and feelings.

What conclusions have you drawn from the responses to the assessment tools you have developed?
Students gained new insights into the phenomenon of sound. Students also improved their ability to work together cooperatively and to communicate in a collaborative setting.

Back to the initial inquiry question, can it be answered?
Yes. After the residency, students were able to identify and discuss specific scientific terms related to sound (i.e. frequency, amplitude, wavelength) and use this knowledge to enrich their compositions.

Playing the beat tubes connected body and mind in the practice of music. Students learned to play rhythmic patterns on steady beats but the challenge was both physical (kinesthetic) and mental.

Summary and Conclusions

What was learned?

During the residency Max worked with students to define and apply the scientific principles of sound by creating musical rhythms and harmonies with beat tubes.

By playing the beat tubes, students were able to objectify the often confusing and mysterious nature of sound. Students were able to approach the inquiry question scientifically.

Students learned:

  • Sound is a phenomenon that our brains perceive and process in a specific, predictable way.
  • The physical characteristics of sound are frequency and amplitude.
  • The frequency of a sound wave is defined in musical terms as pitch.
  • Different pitches form melodies and harmonies, both of which can be defined mathematically through interval relationships.

What can be done differently in the future?
I introduced the residency with beatboxing (vocal percussion) activities during the course of three days. In the future, one day of beatboxing would suffice. This would allow more time for working with the beat tubes and further discussion and analysis of the scientific principles of sound.

I would have liked to give students more time to compose independently. Also, students can potentially be involved in the construction of the beat tubes in the future.

How will this inform the work moving forward?
This project inspired me to expand the possibilities of working with beat tubes. Specifically I learned that vocalizations and movement are essential to successful instruction. Therefore I will explore the elements of dance as well as other related musical traditions (i.e. drum lines, West African drumming) to improve the project. Overall, I was amazed at the possibilities of working with beat tubes.

Curriculum Connections

21st Century Skills

Learn more about Max’s  assembly, residency, and professional development programs. 

Read other case studies written by Young Audiences teaching artists and teacher partners

Bomani and students use poetry to address bullying

Bomani@Empowerment Academy_Dec2013

Young Audiences Hip Hop poet Bomani recently visited Empowerment Academy Elementary/Middle for an assembly and workshop to teach students the elements of writing Hip Hop music and its parallels to poetry- and essay-writing while also addressing the subject of anti-bullying. Following the assembly, Open Mic, students worked with Bomani to use the techniques demonstrated in his performance to write their own Hip Hop poem about how to handle bullying inside and outside of school. One teacher shared: “Students were pleasantly surprised at their ability to write poetry, and became more adamant about stopping bullying.”

The assembly and workshop were made possible through the Young Audiences Access for All Initiative which makes Young Audiences artists and programs available to high-need Baltimore City Public Schools at up to 80 percent off of the cost. This opportunity helps principals with limited resources provide hands-on learning in the arts that supplements and enriches the curriculum.

The following day, three students volunteered to share their finished poem with the student body over the school intercom. Read the full poem below!

No Bullies!

When there is bullying, don’t just be a bystander,
Better not mess with a Marylander!

Find an adult who is trustworthy,
So the bully will not continue to hurt me!

There is verbal, physical, cyber, and exclusion,
Don’t do any of these. Use inclusion!

Bullies cause a lot of confusion,
Everyone must help to find a solution!

This is just one example of how Young Audiences artists connect fine arts, the curriculum, and important 21st Century skills to impact how students see themselves and relate to others.

Learn more about Bomani’s assembly and residency programs here!

Hip Hop and History: Telling Stories of the Past and of Ourselves

By Staci Taustine, Fifth Grade Teacher, F.L. Templeton Preparatory Academy

Jamaal_Oct 2013_blog

During the course of my fifth-grade class’ six-day Hip Hop residency with Young Audiences artist Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier, walls were broken down, confidence was built up, and the entire context of my classroom changed for the better.

As an educator I work hard to provide my students with diverse learning opportunities that give each child a chance to shine. However, I did not anticipate how effective Mr. Root’s strategies would be for the many different types of learners in my class. I went into this experience hoping that Mr. Root might be able to give a fresh perspective that would help my students summarize and internalize autobiographical texts. By the end of the residency, I knew that my students gained abilities far beyond that, having learned more deeply about how they express themselves and their story along the way.

Our time with Mr. Root began with an interactive assembly where he introduced the history of Hip Hop and taught students about the five components of this complex art form. Mr. Root motivated students by giving them the opportunity to participate in making beats and validated their contributions by recording and using their input right there on the spot. The students cheered and looked on as he mimicked some of their favorite Rap musicians.

The real magic happened when Mr. Root returned to our classroom and engaged with the students in a more intimate setting for a series of workshops. In a classroom of 20 students he quickly learned everyone’s name and became part of our classroom community. The kids shared with him that we were reading “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” and he began to teach them how to summarize the content through the use of rhyming couplets. This strategy challenged students to return to the text over and over (an academic demand that is typically frustrating to them) to fish out the most important information. They reflected on the value of certain facts and determined which details could combine to most effectively summarize the text.

Together the class wrote a rap that brought the story of Frederick Douglass to life. It was truly amazing to see students who are usually self-conscious about participating come to the front of the room to offer input on better ways to write a line or to question if the number of syllables in a line would be best for the flow of the rap. The class later performed their work for the whole fifth grade during our culminating assembly at the end of the residency.

This was their final product:

Listen to the audio here!

Frederick Douglass was born a slave
Maryland-born he knew to be brave

1817 when he was born
When his ancestors left him he was torn

Owned and leased by several masters
Forced to work he had to work faster

Thought they were happy when slaves sang songs
But they sang about pain… Slavery was wrong!

After discussing the components of autobiographical writing in reference to our work with Frederick Douglass, we turned our focus to the need to know oneself in order to write an authentic autobiography. Students shared that sometimes people act certain ways to get attention but this behavior doesn’t necessarily accurately represent who they are as a person. Students brainstormed a number of ways that people wear “masks” on a daily basis to cover up how they are really feeling or to alter the way that the world perceives them.

Mr. Root led the students in an essay-writing exercise about how the “masks” each of them wear impact their relationships with others. Each student considered what they wanted to show the world through their actions and their autobiographical writing. To accompany their essay, students also created actual masks with construction paper, which were proudly displayed at the school-wide literacy fair in October.

In the end, my students learned how to be vulnerable with one another, brave enough to share their feelings, and empowered to use their voices to express everything they learned. Whether through singing their Frederick Douglass rap, expressing their ideas visually with their masks, or by simply having the confidence to think creatively, each and every one of my students came away with a unique perspective on who they are as individuals.

Going forward, I am excited to continue incorporating the components of Hip Hop to benefit my students’ learning and I am so pleased with this incredible learning experience. Thank you, Mr. Root!

Learn more about Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier’s assembly and residency programs here!

How can the Blues be used to learn fractions?

By Curtis Blues, One-man Blues band

Young Audiences artists and teacher partners have written case studies documenting their work in schools and their exploration of one essential question. Each study provides a snapshot of how the artist or teacher works with students to integrate the arts into the curriculum and provide opportunities for students to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.

Project or Program Summary

My co-teacher and I met with Arts Integration Specialist Maria Barbosa to create a lesson plan that connected fractions to Blues music. We aimed to create a lesson that was aligned with the state math and fine arts curriculum as well as the Common Core Standards. Specifically, we wanted to address how music arises from a person’s cultural context. I immediately thought that the first Blues instrument, the single-stringed diddly bow, might serve as a great physical model for a number line fractions lesson.

The diddly bow was created by Delta blues musicians in the South before they could afford six-string guitars. It was usually put on the side of a barn door and played with a bottle, but my classroom model is a single string on a board, using the resonance of metal jar tops to project the sound. It is a piece of musical history that shows students the ingenuity of the men and women who invented Blues music.

Maria went to work to figure out how to put versions of this instrument in the students’ hands. She came up with a brilliant cardboard and rubber band version of the diddly bow that each student could play. Maria felt that the strength of the lesson was in having the students not only see and hear my instrument, but to play their own.

I started the class off with the art form, playing a Blues song on the diddly bow while the students clapped the work-song Blues rhythm with their hands. The students were fascinated with the instrument and understood how the Blues arose from the context of African Americans working on farms without access to instruments other than homemade ones like the diddly bow.

My co-teacher reviewed the material about fractions and number lines, and then it was time for the students to make their own instruments and apply their knowledge.

After attaching the rubber band to their cardboard, students marked the fractions along the number line below the string. This was their first experience of comprehending the relationship of fractions on a number line physically. Students were eager to get this right because they knew that only after filling in their number line correctly, would the real fun begin!

Purpose and Rational

My fine arts goal for the lesson was to show the students how Blues music was invented in the context of real people’s lives. This is how art emerges within cultures all around the world. I believed the diddly bow instrument would be an appropriate metaphor for the number line fractions lesson, but was not sure how to get the students involved beyond a demonstration.

The challenge was to create a lesson to help students who were having trouble remembering the relationships between different fractions, as well as being able to accurately place them on a number line. This difficult cognitive jump was a perfect candidate for an arts-integrated lesson to help students really own these distinctions by looking at them in an original way.

Analysis & Outcomes

What are your overall conclusions regarding the documentation gathered for this case study?
I think the strongest part of this project was the description by my co-teacher of how students used the diddly bow model as a conceptual tool for their tests. I would like to be able to follow up with test scores in the future.

What conclusions have you drawn from the responses to the assessment tools you have developed?
It was obvious through our final assessment of the students that they had mastered the material through this project. Students who could not tell us which was bigger, one-quarter or one-third, at the beginning of the class could answer the question correctly at the end of it. They also answered questions on the music objectives correctly at the end of the lesson, demonstrating a deeper understanding of how humans invent music within their culture and daily lives.

Back to the initial inquiry question, can it be answered?
The initial inquiry was whether or not teachers can use building a simple, single-stringed Blues instrument in their classrooms to help students better understand the relationships of fractions on a number line. The answer is a definite “Yes.”

Summary & Conclusions

What was learned?
There were many different examples of what was learned for each of the participants. The students learned how to build a simple instrument and then they learned the proper placement of fractions on a number line. Students overcame their natural cognitive challenges of conceptualizing abstract fractions in a concrete way. They learned the proper answer to questions like “Which is bigger: 1/4 or 1/3?

My co-teacher learned how to use an arts-integrated approach to help students master material. I learned how to manage a classroom during such a project from my teacher partner.

Combining my co-teacher’s classroom management skills with Maria’s innovative ideas made this lesson possible. Now because of their help, I can bring this powerful lesson to other classrooms. I have learned the skills I need to guide the students to get the most out of the lesson. My teacher partner can use this tool in her classes when I am not there, to help future students grasp abstract principles with something concrete and experiential.

How will this inform the work moving forward?
I am better prepared to deal with the specific logistics of classroom management during a craft building project. My co-teacher now has more tools for achieving the testing goals for the class. The students gained a conceptual tool for mastering abstract concepts that they can continue to use in their tests.

Curriculum Connections

American History
Common Core Standards
21st Century Skills

Learn more about Curtis and his assembly, residency, and professional development programs.

Read other case studies written by Young Audiences teaching artists and teacher partners