An Arts Education Primer

 

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Saxophonist Marcus Miller and bassist Adrian Moring

When NJPAC’s Arts Education Department gauges how large an impact the arts have on students, many times the answers are found within its own walls.

David Zaks, a pianist entering his senior year at William Paterson University, recalls Saturday as “the best day of the week” because he would spend hours at NJPAC under the tutelage of jazz masters who showed him how to exchange ideas and forge friendships and collaborations with his peers. Shamsuddin Abdul-Hamid, a student at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, remembers himself as an active, talkative kid who wasn’t suited for science class but thrived in theater studies – “a confidence booster for me,” he says.

The two were among the alumni of NJPAC’s arts programs attending a June 6 breakfast held by Arts Education for more than 50 educators, school administrators and community representatives. The event had a singular purpose – acquaint schools with the benefits of integrating the arts into their curriculums – promoted in three areas: SchoolTime performances, Arts Training programs and In-School Residencies.

A panel of Essex County educators was convened by the department to describe ways in which not only their arts faculty, but other classroom teachers, were benefiting from partnerships with NJPAC. Mark Quiles, Principal of the Seth Boyden Demonstration School in the Maplewood-South Orange district, said one day he surreptitiously watched students of NJPAC’s Dancing Classrooms program as they rehearsed dance steps with each other at the bus stop and during recess. The only program of its kind in New Jersey, Dancing Classrooms teaches a set of ballroom dances to children, at the same time strengthening their social skills and self-assurance.

“It’s not just a program in a box,” Quiles concluded. “It can be tailored to the needs of your building and the needs of your children.”

Charlie Braman, Coordinator of Special Projects at Rise Academy in Newark, called NJPAC’s Musical Theater Residency “invaluable” because it allowed the school to stage its first full production – the musical Into the Woods – from auditions to curtain calls.

A recent screening of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln was part of a new initiative developed for high school students by NJPAC and Participant Media, creator of socially conscious films that spur community action. Classroom materials and other educational components will accompany future screenings of A Place at the Table (about hunger in America), Last Call at the Oasis (global water crisis) and Chavez (a bio-pic of the immigrant labor leader). The series, titled Movies That Matter, “continues to inspire children in every possible way,” remarked Laurie A. Carter, NJPAC’s Vice President of Arts Education.

James Sheeley, Director of Visual and Performing Arts for Newark Public Schools, estimated 20,000 Newark students attended Arts Education events during the past school year, including 1,000 for the showing of Lincoln. If it weren’t for these programs, he said, many students “would never get inside NJPAC.”

Attendees got a chance to relive their elementary school days by participating in a pop-up classroom activity led by Wolf Trap Master Artist Wincey Terry. She adapted the children’s tale Today Is Carnival into an up-on-your-feet storytelling session that wove together elements of play-acting, rhythm, dance, vocabulary and cognitive learning.

The guests were entertained by a trio from the Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program. Joining Zaks on piano were saxophonist Marcus Miller and bassist Adrian Moring. 

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