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Teaching Artists Residencies During Covid

February 20, 2021

Possible and yes, happening!

In December 2020 Martha Piscuskas, director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission (MAC), moderated a discussion with teaching artists and a middle schooler called School Arts Residencies During COVID? Yes We Can! Included in the discussion were teaching artists: Bridget Matros, Alicia Phelps, Tim Christensen, and Dana Lagawiec with student Theo Forcier, Mt. Ararat Middle School. They discussed keys to success for remote school artist residencies and what they’re doing during the pandemic to further connections and learning opportunities for Maine learners.

The webinar was recorded and archived on YouTube and can be viewed below. The video opens with Martha sharing a land acknowledgment. Bridget Matros (starts at 4:30) is the Kids & Family Outreach Manager at Waterfall Arts and she is in the middle of a residency in Brunswick provided by the well established Arts Are Elementary program. She shares the set up in how she is teaching multiple learners in more than one space at one time. Alicia Phelps (starts at 12:00) teaches piano and voice and is Director of Community Partnerships and Special Programs at the community music center in Yarmouth, 317 Main. She is a recipient of a MAC grant. Tim is a ceramic artist (starts at 22:00) and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MAC’s Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) in Phase 6, 2016-17. Dana (starts at 31:15) does creative theater and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MALI Phase 7, 2017-18. The session finishes with circus artist MALI Phase 6, 2016-17 MALI Teaching Artist Brigid Rankowski monitoring questions. During the summer of 2020 MALI transformed into Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL). Tim, Dana, Bridget, and Brigid are on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster.

RESOURCES FROM THE WEBINAR

MAC has the following education specific grants available with a deadline of April 1, 2021. Learn more by clicking on the grant title. Arts LearningCreative AgingDance Education. If you have any questions please contact Martha at Martha.Piscuskas@maine.gov.

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Former President Visits Portland

February 19, 2021

Barack Obama converses with Telling Room students

On January 26 former President Barack Obama participated in a zoom conversation with 26 students from Portland’s Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, an after-school creative writing and leadership program for international and multicultural students. For security reasons the virtual conversation was kept quiet but fortunately the conversation was videotaped and you can see the edited version below that was released this week to the media.

President Obama talked with the students about his recently published memoir, “A Promised Land.” Each student received a copy and were clearly thrilled for the opportunity to ask the President some questions and hear from him about writing and other topics. He talked a little about his play list and admits that he can’t listen while writing because he starts singing and moving. His final advice to the group was to “reach out to those who are doing what they want to be doing and ask them to teach you”.

The relationships with the Obama family has been going on for some time. Co-founder of the Telling Room, Sara Corbett is friends with Michelle Obama and helped with the President’s memoir. You can read the entire article in The Portland Press Herald, published on February 18th.

Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, an after-school creative writing and leadership program for international and multicultural students. 

Telling Room Mission

At the Telling Room, we empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world. Focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, we seek to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for our students. We believe that the power of creative expression can change our communities and prepare our youth for future success.

One the years The Telling Room has been a recipient of Arts Learning Grants provided by the Maine Arts Commission. Their story has been shared on this blog in the past. Learn more about available funding for arts education on the Maine Arts Commission website.

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Works in Progress

February 18, 2021

Thornton Academy Dance

Emma Campbell, dance teacher at Thornton Academy has shared the amazing virtual performances created by her students. One choreographer student said: “I wanted to create a dance that would help lift everyone’s spirits”. I’d say, her goal was achieved! Emma says: “My students are desperately craving performances.” As I viewed the video I could feel the students emotions, their commitment to dance and their skills are evident. I invite you to support these students by viewing the video that includes a variety of dances. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

My favorite dance is called Never Grow Up. From the dancers: “Our piece is about going through different stages to where we are now. To achieve this for the project, we each embodied the mindset of a different phase in our life to show the growth we have each gone through.”

It’s simple to ‘buy’ your FREE ticket – CLICK HERE – it will take you to the streaming site. You will be asked to add your email address (so you can get the streaming link) and phone number but don’t worry, NO credit card. If you’re wondering what the Thornton dance studio classroom looks like, you’ll see a peek of that also. This is only available until February 21 so don’t hesitate!

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Arts Advocacy

February 17, 2021

Resources

ARE Campaign – Arts Are Education – The National Core Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) is the sponsoring organization of the ARE campaign.  Founded in 2011, NCCAS is an alliance of leading national arts and arts education organizations, dedicated to the work of creating and supporting national arts standards. The leadership organizations include:

  • American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE)
  • Arts Education Partnership
  • Educational Theatre Association (EdTA)
  • National Association for Music Education
  • National Art Education Association (NAEA)
  • National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)
  • State Education Agency for Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE)
  • Media Arts Committee of the NCCAS
  • Young Audiences Arts for Learning
Arts ARE Education is a new national campaign in support of arts education for all students
Looking Ahead to the 2021-2022 School Year

All PreK-12 students have the right to a high-quality school-based arts education in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts taught by certified professional arts educators in partnership with community arts providers. As a well-rounded subject area under federal education law, the Every Students Succeeds Act, music and the arts support the social and emotional well-being of students, foster a welcoming and safe school environment, and encourage inclusivity through multiple pathways for every child’s creative voice. 

ARTS ED NOW – This video below was created by Arts Ed New Jersey but its message is universal. It is 2 minutes and 30 seconds long that you may find useful in your advocacy.

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Arts Education Advocacy Day

February 16, 2021

Don’t miss it!

REGISTER HERE TO PARTICIPATE

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Congrats David Greenham

February 15, 2021

Maine Arts Commission appoints David Greenham as Interim Executive Director


AUGUSTA, MAINE–At its meeting on January 26, the Maine Arts Commission voted to appoint David Greenham of Gardiner as the interim Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission for a term of at least two years. 

Greenham, 60, replaces Julie Richard, who served as Executive Director for eight years before accepting a new position in Arizona in December. 

“I’m honored and surprised at this turn of events,” said Greenham, who had served two years as the Commission’s chair. “I know the Maine Arts Commission well and am excited to work with the wonderful staff at the Commission and with the field of so many creative individuals and organizations.” 

David Greenham

Greenham has spent the past decade working for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and for the past two years as the Associate Director. He led the HHRC’s award-winning educational programs, and also created numerous exhibits and events. Since 2009 Greenham has also been a lecturer in Drama at the University of Maine at Augusta. Prior to his work for the HHRC, Greenham led The Theater At Monmouth for 14 years and has been active in the arts community of Maine since coming to the state in 1985.

“For the past two years, David has led with a commitment to process, transparency and inclusion,” said Cynthia Orcutt, the Vice Chair of the Maine Arts Commission.  “His love for the arts, for artists, creatives and makers throughout the state of Maine drives his passion. The Board is thrilled David will now focus his efforts on directing the work of Commission staff and partners as they strengthen and support arts, artisans and culture.” 

Greenham assumes the leadership role as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit arts organizations and individual artists particularly hard. Arts venues were among the first to shutter last March and will likely be among the last to open in the aftermath of the public health crisis. During the leadership transition, Julie Horn, the Arts Commission’s Director of Visual Arts, was appointed to serve as the Assistant Director of the agency. 

“We are elated that David will play a major role in our agency’s development over the next two years,” Horn said. “His commitment to the arts in Maine is unquestionable, and as Chair he always inspired us to find imaginative ways to meet the needs of the arts and culture community.”

The Maine Arts Commission staff will first focus on COVID relief and helping the field recover for this long and challenging pandemic. While the loss of life and the loss of livelihood have been the central detriment, Greenham said he still finds hope in the way that so many artists and organizations have found creative ways to share their work. “I know we’ll use these experiences to emerge with new strength and determination to celebrate,” Greenham said. “The arts will lead the emotional recovery from COVID.”

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A Different Way to Say I Love You

February 14, 2021

Maine Voices

This was included in the Maine Sunday Telegram, February 14. It is a powerful story written by Kay Wheeler, a retired music teacher and musician living in Raymond. As Maine arts teachers take a break this week I hope you’re relaxing and taking time to reflect on the amazing work you’re doing during this challenging time. If you need a reminder of why your job is critical perhaps this story will help.

My career was music, playing and teaching violin. I taught at Ashley Hall School for girls (Barbara Bush went there) and the Charleston Academy of Music. I retired to Maine two years ago and now have time to write my memories.

I recently read in my Portland Press Herald that Tony Bennett has had Alzheimer’s for several years but still performs at home. The man in my life said, “How can that be?” And, I said, “Let me tell you about an experience I had approximately 15 years ago.”

While I was still teaching violin at the Charleston Academy of Music, Judith, the mother of one of my students, told me about a violin workshop in the same city where her former college roommate lived. Her former roomie played the violin and so did the woman’s young daughter. She invited my student and Judith and me to come down to Georgia, stay with her family and we would all go to the workshop together. Judith was willing to drive, and it sounded like a wonderful weekend. So we drove to Georgia on Friday.

Judith’s roomie had become a doctor and married a doctor. We arrived at their home later in the day. It was beautiful! The living room had a Steinway grand piano with a violin sitting on top of it.

We all visited for a while and then went to bed early to be well rested for the workshop. The next day, the workshop was very successful. We had a lovely dinner with our hostess and her husband and daughter. The plan was to stay that night and then leave for home the next morning.

After dinner, our hostess invited us to have cocktails with her father and mother, who lived in the little house next door. When her parents arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Her father, almost 90, was a retired doctor. He was very handsome and well dressed. Same to be said for his lovely wife. They cam in, we were introduced and we all sat down for hors d’oeuvres and a drink.

After some pleasant conversation, our hostess asked her father if he would like to play piano for us. “Certainly,” he said. He got up and sat down at the piano, He lifted his hands and dropped them with power and positivity and played a Chopin polonaise without one hesitation or error. I was amazed and thrilled. He continued to play classical piano pieces by great composers. Then he began to play the “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet. I’ve played that pieces so many times – it is one of my favorites. I asked the hostess if I could play the violin that was on the piano. She said, “Ms. Kay, that is why it is on the piano.”

I walked over to her father and asked if I might play along with him. He was delighted. Well, one singled to another and another and another. We played classical serious music for around 30 minutes. Then we played show tunes by ear. Then he looked at me and nodded and he switched to hymns. After another 30 minutes of hymns, we finished with “The Old Rugged Cross.” He stood up, signaled to me to take his hand and we bowed together. It was so enjoyable.

Then he walked over to his daughter while calling her name. He thanked her for a lovely evening, hugged her and told her he loved her. Then he said, “Come on, Mother, time for us oldies to retire to our abode.” He smiled, said, “Thank you” again to me, and they left.

As I turned to sit down and finish my drink, his daughter came over to me. She had tears in heroes, and some running down her cheeks. She took my hand and held it as she said, “Thank you so much for the concert. My father has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t known who I am for at least fiver years. But when he plays the piano, he always remembers me and hugs me and tells me he loves me.”

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Love What You Do!

February 14, 2021

Thank you educators around the world

You are loved by your students, their parents and your communities for all the amazing work you do to educate and support learners of all ages in your role as educator!

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Resources Galore

February 13, 2021

So many resources, so little time

DANCE AND MUSIC – THIS WEEK

  • Virtual dance concert from Thornton Academy. The link below will take you to the streaming site, you have to ‘buy’ a ticket but they are FREE and does not require a credit card, it will just ask for your email to send you a unique streaming link. It also gives a peek into the Thornton Academy dance class set up and combines pieces filmed in person and at home.  http://our.show/thornton-academy/59055
  • Virtual (Winter) Maine Fiddle Camp – Feb 19-20 The cast and crew at Fiddle Camp have organized another weekend of workshops, concerts, special surprise guests and more Virtual MFC replicates the offerings of “real” Maine Fiddle Camp in a pandemic-friendly virtual format. Recognize music teacher Steve Muise in the video below? 

WEBSITE RESOURCES

  • Digital Maine Library – Helpful tools for every subject
  • Massive List of Museums, Zoos, and Theme Parks offering Virtual Tours
  • Virtual story time for Kids: Authors and venues go online amid coronavirus
  • Maine Download Library
  • Storytime with Brittany! from The Strand Theater in Rockland
  • Solve a mystery with Jazzy Ash! Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons, audible book for kids with original jazz music from the creator, Ashli St. Armant
  • Broadway Babysitters Playhouse – a variety of activities (nominal fee)
  • Okie Dokie Brothers, 3-40 minute films filled with music and adventure
  • Learn the basics of partner acrobatics with teaching artist Marisol Soledad, then throw on some costumes and put on a show with your new skills! Sponsored by Shakespeare in Clark Park.
  • PBS TeachersVirtual Professional Learning
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library – Digital archive dedicated to life on Earth. Comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. Collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.
  • Musictheory.net – Free online content
  • edpuzzle – Make any video your lesson
  • pedagogy://virtual – A teacher support program that connects a teacher to a virtual pedagogy mentor who helps the teacher find ways to boost student engagement in their virtual classroom.
  • The Atlantic Black Box Project – This project is about “understanding history through story and building community through conversation. Maine stories on the site.
  • From a Maine music teacher: Thankful for YouTube, Google Classroom, Smartmusic, Sight Reading Factory, Sibelius, Band in the Box, Laptops, Facebook Groups, and Zoom.

BOOKS AND ARTICLES  

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In Today’s News

February 12, 2021

Update on Elective or Extracurricular Choral Ensemble/Group Singing Instruction

The Department of Education is pleased to share the most recent guidance from the medical and community health experts who have aided our schools in remaining safe and open. Based on additional studies and information as it relates to COVID-19, updates have been made for choral and singing instruction in Maine schools.  

Universal Considerations for Choral Ensemble/Group Singing Instruction 

Required:

  • Masks should be worn at all times for all who are in the rehearsal room. Because singing is a higher risk activity, well-fitting, three-layer, surgical-style masks are recommended.

Considerations: 

  • Maintain minimum indoor physical distance of 6×6 between each singer, instructors, and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, audiences or accompanists. All performers should be facing in the same direction to the extent possible. Avoid singing in a circle or semicircular formation. 
  • Indoor rehearsals should be limited to 30 minutes followed by a break before the room is used again to allow the central HVAC system to exchange the air in the space. A minimum of one air exchange (which 20 minutes will generally achieve) prior to the next use of the room is required, with three air exchanges preferable. 
  • Ensembles meet in either the music classrooms, theater, or larger area depending on their class size. Schools should consult DHHS Guidance to ensure that practice and performance spaces have ventilation systems that are well maintained and operate as designed. 
  • Larger groups that preclude appropriate distancing should meet in a larger area (e.g., theater, cafeteria, gym, etc.) or use any outdoor space that meets mandated student distancing requirements. 
  • Indoor choral performance should only occur in spaces where proper ventilation systems are compliant with DHHS guidance. 
  • One-way traffic patterns should be established for entering and exiting the room, pick-up, and storage of materials. 
  • Transition to small group experience whenever possible, especially when facilities and space considerations are limited. 
  • Focus on solo and small ensemble playing/singing when the ability to maximize physical distancing is limited. 
  • Pivot instructional strategies to reduce the number of studentsmusicians performing at any given time (e.g., small ensembles perform while others listen and assess.) 
  • Utilize alternate performance venues including outdoor spaces, large activity centers, etc., to the extent possible. 
  • Produce performances of individual ensembles rather than full program concerts, to the extent possible. 
  • Use live streaming in combination with, or in place of, in-person audiences, to the extent possible. 
  • Maintain observance of all standing Executive Orders from the Governor’s office related to indoor and outdoor public gatherings. 
  • Consider having students sing softly/at a lower volume than usual. 
  • Consider having teachers use portable amplifiers so they can keep their voices at a low, conversational volume. 
  • Students should not share classroom materials such as pencils, sheet music, music stands, etc. 
  • Doors should be opened at the beginning and end of class to ensure students are not touching door handles. 
  • Use physical barriers (e.g., face shields, free-standing acoustic shields) between rows and/or between individual musicians, if available; clean and disinfect each barrier using approved products after each use. 

NOTE:  These guidelines are largely consistent with those outlined in documentation from the National Association for Music Education/National Federation of State High School Associations. 

Previous and current versions of the guidance and considerations document are available on DOE’s  PK-12 and Adult Education Public Health Guidance webpage.  

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