Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Will Stecher

June 19, 2018

Music Educator

This is the LAST of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Will for sharing your story!

Will Stecher is a music teacher working with students in grades PreK through grade 4; including beginning band in RSU19 – Newport and Corinna Schools. Will is I finishing up his 4th year in his current position and his 7th year of teaching overall. He is responsible for around 460 students between the two schools, teaching general music and 4th grade band.

What do you like best about being a music educator?
The moments when the kids begin to see and feel why we do this thing called art, when they know the song so well that they aren’t even thinking about who is watching them or whether it’s a cool thing to do. The moments when they realize that making music in any form is fun and they want to do it more. The moment when a kid who has been working hard on a song finally breaks through and plays it just right. When kids come into a performance feeling good and regardless of the how that performance went, they are feeling good about what they have done.
What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?
Literacy of your discipline is extremely important, being able to talk about what you are doing when you perform, or discuss the techniques of playing an instrument or what style you are creating within is a key to arts education. Great instruction is also a key, so that kids have a good foundation in the discipline no matter where they go in their schooling or in life. Passion from the instructors the kids have in the arts is a third key. We wouldn’t be in this line of work if we didn’t love our material and transmuting our love so that kids can make it something they love or like to be a part of, is extremely important too.
How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?Assessment has allowed me to see where students are doing well and where they need assistance. It helps students to see these things too, so that ideally, they can become stewards of their own improvement. As artists, we live a life of assessment. always looking at the way things are becoming or happening right in front of us. Ideally, we are passing that on to our students.
What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?
The people I have met and connected/reconnected with in my involvement with MALI have been the biggest benefit. It can make such a difference in the life of a teacher to know that all you have to do is reach out and someone will answer and help in a way that is pertinent and useful. MALI has done that for me.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of the students who continue on in the arts due to the experiences they have in my classroom. Some of these are students who decided long ago they were going to be musical and those kids are great. Just as sweet though, are the kids who haven’t made that decision yet and still participate fully and completely and begin to decide that they want to sing in the middle school chorus or audition for show chorus or keep on playing that instrument because they want to, not because someone is making them.
What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?
Paperwork and time. Paperwork essentially creates a second job for the teacher when the time could very well be spent on improving and creating meaningful instruction. And I always wish that I had time for those kids just starting out with band instruments to really secure fundamentals before they move on.
What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?
I have frequently been told by supervising teachers, administrators and others that I seem to get along with students at all levels, that I know how to relate to them. I feel that this is something that I have not come to just by chance, though circumstances of my life have certainly contributed to it. I think it has come about through experiencing all types of people and learning about all sorts of things, even those that don’t seem to have a connection to our profession.
Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?
Remember to make time for the things that remind you why you teach. Join a band, sing with a group, draw or paint or create or whatever you do. Don’t lose touch with your art because it can help ground you even when you seem to be floating off.
If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?
Professionally, I think the $500,000 would have to go at least partially toward teaching materials and making sure that I and the other teachers in my area had everything wanted or needed to teach the kids I have to the best of my ability. Orff instruments, band instruments, the whole nine yards. SmartMusic for the band kids. A piano lab at the high school. Funding to improve the coming auditorium space in our district
On a personal level, that is a big number and I don’t rightly know what I would do.
Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets? At 94, I don’t imagine I’ll have too many regrets. I think that even though I could have chosen so many other paths in my life, the one I have continually chosen is the one that I was meant to be on.

Davis Sisters

June 18, 2018

Community performance

Sophie and Josie Davis are planning their concert “Farm to Fiddle” on Friday, July 6 at 7 p.m. in Waldoboro. Their wonderful friends Nathan Lesser, Jaime Feldman, Colin Wheatley, and JY Lee will join them in a performance that celebrates beautiful music and local farms in the Midcoast area. The concert at the Broad Bay Church in Waldoboro.
This is part of Sophie and Josie’s ongoing effort to draw connections between the arts and the natural world. “We strive to use music to connect people to the environment and landscape and to establish a sense of place and an appreciation for the agricultural tradition that defines so many aspects of our community. The concert will feature projected images capturing life on local farms while we play Tchaikovsky’s rousing Souvenir de Florence (and some folk music too!)”.

Samantha Smith Challenge

June 16, 2018

300 students attend event

Thomas College was the location for the annual Samantha Smith Challenge where 300 middle school students gathered to share the artwork and civic engagement projects they’ve been doing. Artist Rob Shetterly’s latest subject of his portraits – Americans Who Tell the Truth Series was Kelsey Juliana. Kelsey is a 22 year old who has a landmark public trust case, Juliana v. US. She spoke with the students attending about civic engagement: “We have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not.” Kelsey’s portrait was unveiled and added to the Americans Who Tell the Truth exhibit.

Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT), an organization that promotes civic engagement through its “Models of Courageous Citizenship”, a series of 240 portrait by Robert Shetterly, and the Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) hosted the fourth annual Samantha Smith Challenge, an art, education, and civic engagement conference for Maine middle school students, at Thomas College on Monday, June 4.


Portland Ballet

June 14, 2018

Portland Ballet

Portland Ballet received an Arts Learning grant from the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) for the 2017-18 school year. I had a chance to visit the program during the winter and was so impressed with the commitment the teenagers were making to the dance program. The following information provided by the Portland Ballet staff will give you a glimpse of the program and it’s history.

Founded in 1980, Portland School of Ballet (PSB) has been the premier dance education center of southern Maine for over three decades. Professional and inclusive, the School is dedicated to bringing dance to people of all ages and skill levels, while at the same time maintaining it’s focus on training young men and women for professional careers. In a unique partnership with schools across southern Maine, our CORPS Program allows for qualified high school students to pursue pre-professional dance training as a compliment to their academic studies. PSB’s Syllabus Program (for dancers ages 7-19) is a six level program in which classical ballet taught according to a developmental curriculum. Along with our Young Dancer Program, which is focused on dancers ages 3-7, Adaptive Dance for students with special needs, and adult classes for life long learners, Portland School of Ballet’s highly trained faculty and experienced management enrich the lives of all levels of students in the Portland Area and beyond.
In 1994, Portland Ballet established an innovative partnership with Portland High School, resulting in a pre-professional performing arts high school curriculum this is unique in the state and has spread across the region. Qualified students continue to be granted early release, when necessary, to Portland Ballet for three hours of daily intensive study in ballet, variations, jazz, modern, dance history, pedagogy and stage craft.  Participants may earn transcript credit in Physical Education and Fine Arts.  Today, a variety of schools may arrange academic schedules to embrace CORPS, whose students have gome on to BFA programs like Butler University and The Hartt School, to prestigious summer prgormas like New York City’s School of the American Ballet and Boston Ballet, and professional positions at American Repertory Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem.
The benefits of being an active member in the CORPS program are numerous and these dancers develop skills in areas they are able to use in every walk of life, not just those applicable in the ballet studio or on the stage. Students are able to fine tune skills they are already developing such as time management, communication styles and adaptability as they navigate the usual work load of a high school student on top of the of the demands that come along with this program. In addition to this, I think one of the biggest benefits dancers take away from the lessons learned in the studio is that of a deep knowledge for how use of respect and discipline create an amazing space in which they are able to not only understand themselves better but can appreciate what others are capable of as well. In ballet, respect for the art form, for the teacher, for others in class and for one self is probably the most important thing that is taught from generation to generation in the classroom. With that understanding of respect a discipline follows that enables the growth of ballet technique and this is the basis for artistry to thrive. The benefit of this process is the ability to express oneself.  When we are able to do this a confidence is instilled that stays with us through all walks of life.  Being a part of the CORPS program and having the opportunity to focus completely on developing oneself as an artist leads to these young adults gaining a better sense of who are they are and who they are able to become.
As educators of these young adults we hope they are able to use the skills learned at the barre and on the stage to help them achieve their goals of becoming professional dancers. But this does not cover the whole scope of our ambitions for them. Becoming a professional dancer has many obstacles, many of which are beyond one’s control, and having gone through the process ourselves we realize that only a percentage of our students may be able obtain a job as a dancer. This does not give us pause. We understand that the abilities learned in the ballet classroom apply to so many aspects of life and passing  these lessons down to our students is extremely fulfilling. Our hopes for these young dancers is that when they step beyond our walls the respect, discipline, self awareness and confidence go with them to help shape their lives. We look forward to seeing how what they have learned in the studio has helped propel them in the direction of their own dreams, whether they become a professional dancer, a patron of the arts or any other wonderful part of our community.
If you have questions about the CORPS program please contact Nell Shipman, Artistic Director at or Milena Hartog, Assistant to the Artistic Director at

Dianne Fenlason

June 10, 2018

End of year programs

Dianne Fenlason, Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) and grades 6-8 music educator at Spruce Mountain Middle School and at Spruce Mountain High School. Dianne has taught since 1995. Her students recently provided several performances. Included below are two; one is the Rock of Ages 2018 with the band Crash and Burn. They provide a historical look and sound of modern music. The second video is the Vocal Ensemble 2018. Congratulations to both groups for outstanding performances! Thanks to Dianne for sharing the work of her students!

If you’ve got end of year videos, videos of student work or links of student achievements, please share so I can post them for others to learn about. Thanks!




Longfellow School

June 8, 2018


The Maine Arts Commission Arts Learning grant provided funding to support the Longfellow Elementary School (Portland) production of Seussical. It will be performed at the Deering High School Auditorium on Friday, June 8, 6:00 p.m. and Saturday June 9, 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door with the suggested price $5.00 and kids are free! Students have been preparing for months – sure to be a wonderful production!


Ashley Bryan Screenings

June 7, 2018

Documentary on Children’s Book Author Ashley Bryan

June – August 2018 Screenings in Belfast, Great Cranberry and Portland

Portland, ME— The new award-winning film I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan, winner at 14 film festivals, will be screening in three Maine locations: Belfast, Great Cranberry Island and Portland from June through August 2018. See schedule below.

I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan (2016), directed by Richard Kane, is a powerful documentary film featuring one of America’s greatest living African American poets, illustrator and artist, named a Library Lion by the New York Public Library, a recipient of three Coretta Scott King Awards, and a 2017 Newbery Honor for his book “Freedom Over Me” reviewed in the NY Times.

Ashley lives on Little Cranberry Island in view of Mount Desert Island where the local school bears his name. Now available on Vimeo on DemandVideo TRAILER

Born in Harlem in 1923 and drafted in his teens into an all-Black battalion in World War II, Ashley preserved his humanity through drawing and painting. Soon to be 95, he is an award-winning poet/illustrator of 50+ published children’s books, maker of magical puppets from discarded materials and stunning sea glass windows inspired by his African heritage. Ashley urges us to seek unity over division, peace over war and love over intolerance and bigotry.


 “… a vibrant, inspiring, personal portrait of an artist who possesses the desire to help people find their inner child”  — BOOKLIST

“The film is … a wonderful tool to learn about diversity, cultural competency, inclusion and social justice.” — AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION” 

“elegantly constructed … intriguing and palpably warm … vibrant, joyous, evocative, witty, and thoroughly engaging.”  DennisPerkins, MAINE TODAY

Website with more information.

SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2018, 2pmBelfast, ME Senior College Festival of Art, U Maine Hutchinson Center Auditorium, FREE. Director Richard Kane will be in attendance for a Q&A.

SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2018 at 3pm – GreatCranberryHistorical Society, GreatCranberryIsland, ME. IN PERSON Ashley Bryan!! Q&A with director Richard Kane. Contributions welcome for the further distribution of the film. Mail boat from SW Harbor, CranberryCove Ferry.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2018 at 6pm – Portland, ME, University of Southern Maine Wishcamper Center, Room 133, the Lee Room. IN PERSON Ashley Bryan!! Q&A with director Richard Kane. Contributions $5-$20 for the further distribution of the film. Seating is limited. This screening follows the August 3rdPortland Museum of Art opening exhibit of Ashley Bryan’s art.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2018 at 3:00pmGreatCranberryIsland, ME  GreatCranberryHistorical SocietyIN PERSON Ashley Bryan!! Q&A with director Richard Kane. Contributions welcome for the further distribution of the film.  Mail boat from SW Harbor, CranberryCove Ferry.

These events are sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists.

For Further Information Contact:

Richard Kane


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