Posts Tagged ‘Another Student’s Story’


Another Student’s Story

January 11, 2016

Bossov student – Abi DeSchiffar

AbiDeSchiffart2It is hard to find something to say about the arts that has not already been said. I could reiterate how students involved in the arts typically have better test scores and how being involved in the arts forces children to use different sections of their brains, the same sections used for mathematics and problem solving. The statistics that prove the value of the arts have already been said over and over again. The only thing I have left to tell is my own story and how being involved in the arts has changed my life.

I grew up surrounded by music. My mother played the piano, both at home and at church, and my father played the guitar. When my sisters and I were little, my father used to play the guitar and sing to us every night before bed. As a result, I grew up associating music with family and love. When I was eight years old, I was introduced to the piano, and I almost immediately fell in love. Here was something with which I could create a sound beautiful to anyone listening. For me, learning to read music was like learning how to decipher a new code, and the result was a beautiful melody. Of course, my playing sounded far from beautiful when I first began, but over the next nine years I would learn to put my heart into what I was playing, and make the keys seem like an extension of my fingertips. The piano was the first instrument that I learned how to play, and as such, it will always have a special place in my heart.

Following the piano, the next instrument that I learned how to play was the trumpet. When I first picked it up in the fifth grade, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. The trumpet fascinated me. Here was this bold, proud instrument that was very unlike the graceful, yet equally powerful piano. I played in a band all through middle school and into high school. The trumpet has opened many doors for me and allowed me to meet many interesting people. If only for that, I am very grateful that I decided to pick it up for the first time all those years ago. In subsequent years, I would learn a little bit of other instruments, such as the clarinet and flute very briefly, but the trumpet and piano remain the two instruments that I play today. The piano is something private that I play primarily for myself, while the trumpet has led to me being a part many different bands and learning how to play with other people.

When I was in the third grade, only nine years old, I was introduced to a program known as Destination Imagination. DI is a creative problem-solving competition that one participates in on teams of seven or less. It wasn’t until DI that I truly learned how to act, improvise, and problem solve on the spot. DI changed how quickly I thought and how resourceful I could be when faced with a challenge. In addition to changing my thought processes, it also taught me a great deal about teamwork. During a DI challenge, you do not have time to argue or come up with separate solutions; you just have to build off of each other. DI opened a whole new aspect of the arts to me, acting. I found out that I loved to perform and to act with other people. I will be forever grateful to have the skills that participating in DI taught me all those years ago.

Though all of the arts I mentioned above are very important to me, it is the art of ballet that truly holds my heart. It is ballet that taught me about dedication, work ethic, passion, striving for perfection, and how it feels to absolutely love what you do. I first walked into a ballet classroom when I was just under four years old. Since that moment ballet has been a huge part of my life, although I did not officially start ballet training until I was around eight years old. As I got older, I began to dance five to six days a week, driving three hours a day in order to do so. I even left home my sophomore year of high school to attend Bossov Ballet, at Maine Central Institute (MCI) in Pittsfield. Through studying ballet I have learned more about culture, artistry, and respect, both for others and myself, than in any other aspect of my life. It is impossible to count the millions of plies I have done in my life, or pirouettes, but each movement still contains a different aspect in it that I can improve. Ballet has constantly challenged me, ever since I took that first class. That was a part of what attracted me to ballet in the first place. As a child, academics always came easily to me. Ballet, on the other hand presented a challenge that I had not previously faced. It provided me an escape on the rougher days and a place in which I could find a home with the routine of a classical ballet class. During class, there is not room to focus on anything besides the movements, music, and instruction. It provided me a break from all of the stress and worries of the world outside that small, beautiful studio. As a ballet dancer, being in an empty studio leaves me with feeling of peace and acceptance. I believe that I will always feel this way, even when I am no longer able to dance.

As I mentioned earlier, I arrived at MCI three years ago for my sophomore year. It did not take me long to realize that one area in which MCI truly excels is in the arts. From it’s outstanding music program to the equally proficient visual arts program, Maine Central Institute succeeds in presenting it’s students with the benefits that the arts have for them. Personally, I have been involved with many of the different arts programs at MCI, with varying levels of commitment. In playing the trumpet in the school concert band and pep band, I am constantly impressed by the skill of some of the musicians on campus, as well as the leadership of Mr. Dean Neal. While I am in the concert band, there are many other musical groups on campus in which I do not take part. These students meet both during and after school to practice and rehearse. They put in countless hours of time into this program and into their instruments.

The vocalist groups on campus are just as, if not more, impressive. The two vocal jazz groups won first and third place respectively at their state competition, which is almost unheard of. In addition to Mr. Neal, at MCI there is another music instructor, Mr. Wright, a talented musician himself, who teaches his students how to love playing the piano. He welcomed me when I first arrived here three years ago, inviting me to play in the piano recital, even though I could not fit piano into my schedule, and allowing me to use his room to practice. While I am not a part of the visual arts program, I have seen the evidence of their work around campus and in the many productions they help build props and sets for. I did, however, have the privilege to be a small part of the drama program here at MCI. Through participating in the one-act drama team, I was able to witness students come out of their shells and learn how to perform. I saw them become the characters they were portraying and how their confidence grew. For me, that was the best part of the whole experience. It was in watching some of them find something that they loved to do, and to their surprise, found out that they were good at it.

The program at MCI that I am most invested in, and that has affected me the most, is Bossov Ballet. Being a part of Bossov for the past three years has not only changed my dancing, but also who I am as a person. The amount of respect that I have for our instructor, Natalya Getman, is impossible to put in words. She has taught us not only how to respect the art, but also how to respect ourselves and those around us. She dedicates countless hours to the program and to us, her students. It is Natalya who makes Bossov Ballet the incredible program that it is and who maintains the high level of training in technique, performance, and artistry. Through daily classes and rehearsals, we work to perfect the art that we all chose to pursue.

The arts provide communities that are accepting of all different types of personalities and that provide a place for these individuals to feel comfortable expressing themselves. When I first arrived at MCI, the arts community really welcomed me. It is among the dancers of Bossov that I have found my best friends and those with whom I have developed my closest relationships with at MCI. Through the other arts programs that I have been involved in during the past two years, I have met the majority of the people I relate to and enjoy the company of at school. Arts programs provide places for anyone with the dedication and work ethic to pursue his/her chosen art form to find a home. The arts have changed who I am as a person, and I will be forever grateful to all of those who helped me or supported me in pursuing them.


Another Student’s Story: Charlie Lehmer

April 19, 2015

An interview with Charlie Lehmer

Periodically individuals are featured on the Maine Arts Education blog as part of a series called “Another Student’s Story”. Their “Arts” stories are shared with you, the Arts Education community. Please share with others. If you know of anyone who should be sharing their stories, please contact me at

charlie2Thanks to Ian Bannon from Figures of Speech Theatre for introducing me to Charlie Lehmer so he could tell his story. Charlie is presently a senior at Goucher College and will graduate this spring. His area of passion is film making.

In Charlie’s own words…

I graduated from Freeport High School in 2011. I mostly took music classes in high school. Unfortunately scheduling was so tight, essentially I had to choose either music or art classes. Outside of classes I participated in the student play every year as well as Figures of Speech’s program. In college I’ve taken a wide range of art classes, from drawing to visual design to photoshop to film. Currently I’m a Communications and Media Studies major, though I try to take art classes whenever my schedule allows it.

What do you value most from your arts education?

The hands off approach! It’s allowed me to follow. Because my school doesn’t really work directly with film, it’s allowed me to teach myself and really build up a passion that I think wouldn’t be so strong if it all seemed like homework. For me, learning about film never feels like work and that’s something incredible valuable, even if it was indirectly developed.

Name some skills, ideas, or life-long tools that you have learned in your visual and performing arts courses?

Keep your crew happy. In film, especially the early stages, your crew is generally doing you a favor, and a happy crew means a great film. If your crew doesn’t feel like they’re in a positive space and having a good time, the project generally tends to flop over.

Less is more. It’s easy with digital cameras to just shoot everything you see, but planning out a shot is where you really start to push your creativity and focus in on the finer details of a shoot. When you really take the time to stop and observe before filming, the shot will look great, or at least better than it would if you just click record.

I am a different person due to my involvement in the arts because…

At first it was my involvement with theatre in high school. Working with Figures of Speech Theatre helped me feel comfortable with who I was through improvisation. It allowed my creativity to form without any barriers, and that has infected the rest of my life. Every time I start a new project it’s such an extensive amount of work, that I end up learning a great deal about myself which continuously helps me to understand how I can improve not only my films but how I go about producing them.

If you could change any part of your arts education, what would it be?

charlieI’d definitely go to a film school. Since my school is not a film school, I’ve been forced to learn a great deal of my craft on my own. And although this is one of the greatest things about my education, at the same time it would’ve been far quicker to learn from a professional as opposed to the trial and error method I’ve used for the past few years.

What’s the most creatively inspiring experience you remember?

While I was studying abroad in New Zealand for a semester, I directed a short film with a small crew of 12 people. The pre-production process was unbelievable as we had so much input and creative ideas flying around from everyone on the crew. We had an art director coming up with concept art and a story board artist constantly pumping out scene set-ups. It really was an exciting process to be a part of. Seeing all those ideas come together into one cohesive story was a pretty awesome experience.

Why is making art or music and/or performing so important to you? Why can’t you live without it?

It doesn’t feel like work to me. I enjoy it more than anything else. The fact that I’ll get to do something I love for the rest of my life is truly mind blowing. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to do any other job.

 THANK YOU Charlie for telling your story!


Another Student’s Story: CJ Gaunce

February 8, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.03 PMMaking snow

CJ Gaunce is a junior at Waterville Senior High School. One of his teachers, Suzanne Goulet, who teaches Traditional, Digital and Emerging Arts, suggested that I take a look at a video that CJ recently made. She knows how much I love the snow and that I’d be interested in what this student has been spending a lot of time on – making snow! Unlike me, CJ has a way to make snow when we don’t have any naturally. I took a look at the video and received an email from CJ.

CJ has a blog of his own called Maine Snowmakers: a blog about Home Snowmakers in Maine. His blog is includes several outstanding photos and a clear picture of making snow! And, he has a youtube channel with other videos and invited me to stop by and see the snowmaking gun in action!

What has inspired you to want to make snow?

Each weekend I go skiing with a group of friends at Sugarloaf. All my life I had been interested in ski lift mechanics and ski area operations. While we were riding the skyline lift up at Sugarloaf on December 10, 2012, my friend told me about another friend from Freeport who makes snow and suggested that I meet him. Below us on the lift there was a mystery child (perhaps about 14 or 15 years old) dragging about 15+ snowmaking hoses down the trail with Sugarloaf snowmakers.

Phone calls, and multiple extensive researches later, I was making my own snow in the backyard with just a pressure washer. I only ran .5 gallons a minute then but at the time it was great just seeing this cloud of white in the sky come from (my efforts). I loved it ever since, and on March 15, 2013, I made snow with my own home built snow gun, called a tee gun. By the next season I had built an even bigger snow gun doing 1.5 gallons a minute during the 13-14 season. Last summer was the biggest upgrade season yet. I installed 200 feet of pipe through the ground, built my own water pump that puts out over double what I did last year making around a foot an hour. I’ve also built my own air demoisturizer and added a second air compressor. As of January 8, 2015 I’ve used 10,000 gallons of water.

How did you get started with snow making? (the mechanics of it)

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.18 PMI started with a simple air/water snow gun called a tee gun in March 2013, and in 2013-2014 I upgraded to a combo gun. A combo gun has at least 2 nozzles, all mine have 3 total nozzles. On my snowguns the bottom nozzle is an air/water mixture while the top 2 are just water. The air/water nozzle is called the Nuc nozzle and top 2 are called the bulk nozzles. The Nuc nozzle creates a fine mix of ice, the bulk nozzles spray a fine mist of water. When (the temperature is) cold enough the water mixes with the ice and it crystalizes to form snow. The Nuc nozzle is key because without the ice there is nothing for the water to bond and crystalize to.

Are you a skier or involved in other winter activities? If so, what?

I am a backcountry skier up at the ‘loaf. I’ve been skiing ever since I was 2. Skiing is really my life, my life literally revolves around the weather. When its cold I’m always pumped to go make snow. Or when a snowstorm comes I jump around the house with joy and send photos and videos to everyone I ski with.

What do you do in your free time?

Honestly, all I do is make snow, when I’m not making snow in the backyard I’m out at Quarry Road making snow at the Waterville Recreation Center were I (volunteer to) help run 20 HKD snow guns. I also have a strong snowmaking connection with Sugarloaf and Eaton Mountains.

Has your formal schooling influenced in any way with your making of snow?

Not really, everything with snowmaking has been self-taught. The mechanics of it are self learned. Every design needed, came from hours of thinking to create the best possible design for what I’ve needed. Almost 100% of the things I’ve built have been thought of and designed in school while (in other) classes.

Who has supported you in pursuing your interest?

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.34 PMMy friends have definitely supported me. My friend from Freeport and I are best friends now. We literally swap equipment back and fourth like nozzles, hoses, pumps, you name it. Each fall we do mega snowmaking runs at his house where we combine our equipment to make as much snow as possible. Then in the spring we come to my house for the Bug Mega Run. This past fall we used nearly 3000 gallons in an 8-hour period and covered his entire hill, top to bottom, with 9+ inches of snow for a rail jam the next day with 6-8 (guys).

How do you (if in any way) apply what you are learning in school to your passions/interests outside of school?

There is only one subject I’ve applied into snowmaking from school and that’s filming. I make a ton of videos on snowmaking and do lots of photography. Snowmaking is very math and science based but what we learn in school (is different from this real-life application of) snowmaking. Teachers love the snowmaking thing but I don’t think they really understand the magnitude of time and effort it takes. You could do an entire science unit on snowmaking from water droplet sizes at given pressures and cohesion and adhesion, PSI, GPM, CFM, flow rates and on and on.

What are your plans for after high school?

My plans after high school are to go into ski are management. I’m looking at Lyndon State College right now.

Please provide any information about your art class or Ms. Goulette and how art has influenced or impacted you and your snowmaking passion.

Art has impacted me from doing cool designs for my backyard park. Like the iconic forest park pine tree I stenciled on to literally every rail/box. It’s even on my big ramp. Art has also helped me with drawing and designing my projects. Ms. Goulet has definitely been a huge supporter of my snowmaking set up.

These innovative real-life applications can be seen at


Another Student’s Story: Sarah Tuttle

June 19, 2014

Sarah is studying music 

This post is one of a series on graduates from Maine high schools who are sharing their stories. Sarah Tuttle is a 2009 graduate of Medomak Valley High School. Sarah went on to Gettysburg College where she studied Music and Art History graduating with honors in 2013.  In high school Sarah’s courses included Jazz Ensemble, Studio Art, and several AP classes. She is presently working towards her Masters degree in Voice Performance at the Bard Vocal Arts Program, under the direction of soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Kayo Iwama.

ST1What do you value most from your arts education?

It was a source of comfort and inspiration during a rough middle school and high school experience. I felt like I could be my complete self, and say whatever I wanted in my art/music. It was extremely satisfying to engage in something creative—and was a great source of fun!

I also learned to create a great deal of my own opportunities, and to be an independent, self-directed person: a large amount of my arts education took place outside of school: I was a member/soloist of choral groups in the community, active in the local theater, and took additional art classes locally/at Haystack.

Name three skills, ideas, or life-long tools that you have learned in your art/music/dance/theatre classes/courses?

  1. Patience, tolerance: with myself, and with others. Once you acknowledge the amount of time it takes to learn something/to become good at something, you appreciate the journey JUST as much, if not MORE than the destination. You accept that you can’t please everyone, and that you never really stop learning/growing, and that frees you to play and embrace your curiosity.
  2. Curiosity: relating to patience—if you can teach yourself to be patient with yourself, and with others, you can gain great insight and new perspectives from the people around you. Asking questions can lead you so many great places!
  3. CARE: It’s important. CARE about what you do, and give your work the attention and love it deserves! Treat your work with compassion and patience, and don’t be afraid to let it evolve.

I am a different person due to my involvement in the arts because…

I am a curious person, unafraid to ask questions of myself and of others…I am a motivated and energetic person, never satisfied (in the best sense) with my work. I am a generous person—I think it takes a tremendous amount of generosity to share your work with others, in the hopes that they will be consoled, refreshed, or inspired. There’s a special vulnerability that comes with making and sharing art, and I think it’s something that people are, at times, afraid to explore and expose.

If you could change any part of your arts education, what would it be?

I would like to have felt more support in my school environment in my art work, and would love to have found more kinship with my fellow students. I would love for there to have been MORE…just MORE arts ed, more opportunities, and more enthusiasm for its importance and necessity in our world, and in our schools. There were a few very key players (Julie Sanborn, Argy Nestor, Krisanne Baker, Aaron Clark, Chuck Boothby) that were sources of motivation and inspiration, and I am especially grateful for their presence in my schooling. Their open-mindedness and compassion were deeply appreciated.

What’s the most creatively inspiring experience you remember?

I was given the opportunity to study music/musicology in Vienna for a semester, and my time there filled me with courage, energy, and curiosity about music, and what I could contribute to such an important discipline. Living in a city to which art is SO ingrained showed me its importance, and its necessity, and how IN NEED of it my generation is. Everyone showed this remarkable appreciation and respect for creative work, and seemed to derive a great deal of energy and comfort from it—just think if those opportunities were available to everyone, how tolerant and inspired people would be!

Why is making art or music and/or performing so important to you? Why can’t you live without it?

Singing/making music feels GOOD—It’s a mutually beneficial activity. I appreciate it’s interdisciplinary nature—musicians are poets, and physicists, and historians, and mathematicians, and teachers, and artists! Lots of left- and right-brain activity and crossover—I feel emotionally and spiritually fed.

 In addition…

Over the past five years, I’ve been able to travel to France, Switzerland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Austria, and Nicaragua with various musical groups, as well as doing some touring here in the states. I think that travel and music go hand in hand with promoting tolerance and respect–both domestically and internationally! Musicians/artists have an important job: art, in many ways, transcends language and religion, and in other ways, enhances our understanding of them. Artists are ambassadors to other people, and serve as interpreters/translators of culture and the human experience. I think the understanding of art, or at least the appreciation of art, is the key to promoting tolerance and love within our own society, and between cultures. The reason I mention my travel is because my view of the world and their various musics was deeply enhanced by my spending time with others, often strangers. It’s such a special feeling to bring joy and comfort/inspiration or intrigue to complete strangers, because you realize they’re NOT complete strangers–all people feel, and think, and respond.





Another Student’s Story: Sarah Robinson

February 5, 2014

Gorham High School graduate

Sarah-1Sarah Robinson is currently a fourth year student at the University of Maine. She is a double major in Mass Communications and New Media, with a minor in Graphic Design. In 2010 she graduated from Gorham High School.  During high school she was especially interested in her media based art classes; these classes included photography, printmaking, and graphic design. While in college she has taken many art classes that were directed towards design, for example: 2-D design and graphic design courses. She has also taken a drawing class, along with many photography classes.

In Sarah’s own words…

I would have to say that my parents have always encouraged my sister and I to be expressive and creative with everything that we do. This support has encouraged me to incorporate the arts as part of my college education. My creative appreciation and talents have grown and I taken away a greater knowledge and emphasis on design and color relationships. As a New Media major, there are many different paths to explore, and I have always focused on the design aspect.

I have gained many skills and life-long tools from my art courses at UMaine. I have learned to become more innovative, to explore beauty that goes unnoticed and to lead with passion.

My involvement in the arts has inspired me to look at things through a different lens. I have learned to be more imaginative and creative. Though I love photography, my experiences with the arts has also taught me that sometimes you need to take a step back from being behind the camera and actually experience what is going on in front of you to capture the beauty of the moment.

If I could change any part of my art education, it would definitely be to take more art classes, I was always worried about fulfilling all of my core classes that I never took all of the art classes that I knew I would enjoy. I believe that it is important to pursue classes that allow us to explore our interests and passions. I also feel that we don’t just learn in the classroom and it is important to seek education and experiences outside the classroom.

My most creatively inspiring experience would be expressing myself through graphic design. Graphic design has allowed me to express myself both creatively and artistically. I have been able to incorporate both my computer and artistic skills into my school and personal projects. Graphic design has allowed me to study color psychology and typography.

Art is important to me because it is in any medium/media in which I choose to express myself. My parents have always encouraged me to express myself creatively and to do so is a natural part of my life. One thing that I love about art and being creative is that I have used art and graphic design to contribute to non-profit organizations that I am involved with at UMaine.  My job as the Student Media Assistant for UMaine Student Life allows me to use my creativity, designing posters and fliers for various organizations, as well as photographing events and scenery around campus. I also create a lot of material for Alternative Breaks and Colleges Against Cancer, which combines my passion for volunteerism and design into one. Art and design is a part of me, the way I think, dream and live.  

I met Sarah in October at the statewide arts education conference Leading the Way that was held on the UMaine campus. When I learned of her majors I asked her questions about communicating and social media in terms of arts education. I could tell by Sarah’s confidence in the work she was doing and the information that she provided that she has a bright future! Best wishes to Sarah in her last semester before graduation!


Another Student’s Story: Sara Richardson

November 1, 2013

Sara Hallie Richardson

Sara RIchardson is a singer songwriter (and a former student of mine) from South Portland and tells her story for the meartsed blog readers.

Rybus_SHR_MY_HR-3295While keeping a part time job to support the obvious necessities, I write and perform music to sustain my passion.

I went to University of Maine in Orono (2008) where I graduated with a BA in Music. While there, I took an independent study on electronic music with Beth Wiemann. I feel incredibly lucky to have had her as a mentor as that independent study led me to achieve the Research and Creative Achievement Award and the Outstanding Achievement Award in Arts and Communication Media.

What I value most from my arts education is the encouragement to be independent. To find, through your own workings and methods, your very own sense of Self.

The three life-long tools that I’ve learned from my arts course are:
1. Practice.  2. Patience.  3. Perseverance  (I am a singer! Alliteration!)

I am a different person due to my involvement in the arts because…
It has taught me to connect with people through intuition, emotion, and compassion and to cope with challenges and obstacles that one experiences through life. I find a way to share my personal story and have it relate on a universal level as well, furthering that connection with others.

If I could change any part of my arts education,
I would have asked more questions. Music and art is ever-changing and evolving. The more you analyze it, the more interesting and expansive it can be.

Alive at 5 showPerforming has always been extremely inspiring for me. It requires great focus as well as the ability to relax and let loose. To find that balance has always been a huge awakening. Recently, an audience member had informed me that one of my songs had gotten him through his kidney transplant. He told me he was convinced that my words and voice had helped heal him.  That was something I will never forget.

Making music is extremely healing. This world can easily distract us with fear, anger, hate, violence, and pain.  Through music, I can find solace and safety.  If we all can connect to what we know is true through self-expression (art+music), we will all be better off.

You can learn more about Sara and her work at her website:

View her at videos:  and

Catch Sara at her upcoming shows:

Nov. 3rd Theater in the Wood, Intervale, NH 7pm

Dec. 6th at the State Theatre  Big Band Syndrome, Portland, ME 7pm

Thank you for telling your story Sara! If others have students or former students whose story should be heard please email me. Thanks!


Another Arts Student’s Story: Izaiah Stackpole

May 24, 2013

Grade 5 student

IMG_1230Izaiah Stackpole is a 5th grade student at the Biddeford Intermediate School. His music teacher is Andrea Wollstadt, one of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The following is an interview with Izaiah that happened as a follow-up to a recent visit to the Biddeford Intermediate School. Debi Lynne Baker and I were visiting to video tape Andrea in her music classroom. You will see Izaiah in the video in the near future.

What value do you see in taking a music and theatre classes?

Music expresses how I feel and I have fun doing it. Theater is important to me because it brings out my inner-self and music helps with it too.

Name three skills, ideas, or life-long tools that you have learned in your arts classes? 

  1. I have learned you don’t need to be afraid to sing or act in front of tons of people.
  2. In art I have learned to express myself.
  3. I learned how to re-write songs, and count rhythms in musical notation.

What is your favorite part of the being involved in the arts?

My favorite part of theater is when you get to be the character and you get to be in someone else’s life.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of singing a solo in chorus, being able to play percussion without stumbling, being able to do lines in front of tons of people.

Did anyone encourage you to be involved in the arts?

Ms. Wollstadt encouraged me to take chorus, and my sister encouraged me to take chorus too. Who provides the greatest support for the work you now do and how do they support you? My Mom and my sister support me the most.

How does your work in the arts support and develop creativity for you?

In theater when you stumble on a line you have to use improvisation. One time I was in Beauty and the Beast – I was Gaston. I had to fight with someone and my wig fell off! The other character and I made up our lines to cover it up.

If you could change any part of your arts education, what would it be?

I would take more theater and chorus classes.

What are you plans as far as continuing your study of the arts?

When I go to middle school I’ll start chorus, band and theater. I hope to take an art class too.

Thank you Izaiah for taking the time to answer the questions for this interview.


Another Student’s Story: Natasha Shacklett

December 11, 2012

Featuring one student’s journey

This is the first in a series of blog posts telling story’s of students who are passionate about the arts. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity to about the importance of the arts through another voice. You might want to share them with others. If you have questions or comments please post them at the bottom. These student’s might be middle or high school students or perhaps adults. If you have a story to tell please be sure to request the questions by sending me an email at

Natasha Shacklett, Oceanside High School, grade 12

Natasha Shacklett, Oceanside High School, grade 12

“As a child, I grew up around art and I’ve always loved to draw. My design for the cover of our yearbook wasn’t very premeditated; I sat down during the class and just did it. For future plans I’m applying to both art and culinary schools and I hope to do something with both in my future.”

Natasha Shacklett is a grade 12 student at Oceanside High School in Rockland. She is presently enrolled in AP 2D Studio Art with veteran art educator Holly Smith.

What value do you see in taking a dance, music, theatre, and/or visual arts course?

I think that there is great value in taking any kind of arts class. Art allows people to express themselves through creativity. Dance, music, theatre, and visual arts classes provide a place for people to be themselves.

Name three skills, ideas, or life-long tools that you have learned in your art courses?

I’m not sure that I can put what I’ve learned into a list. Sure, I’ve learned techniques and how to matte photos and paintings, but my art classes have helped me grow as a person. Saying what you learned in an art class isn’t as simple as saying you learned 2 + 2 = 4 in a math class. I learned that art is something I can always come back to, and it’s place where I can express how I feel about a subject. I’ve realized art is a lot more than just putting paint onto canvas, art is personal.

What is your favorite part of the art course you are taking? What are you most proud of?

My favorite part of my art class I’m taking is the free reign I’m allowed to take. If I have an idea of how to do the assigned project, and it’s a little changed from the original project, I can do it.
I’m pretty sure that the question, “What are you most proud of?” is referring to a specific painting, or maybe a concentration of mine. Truthfully though, I’m most proud of the work that my classmates and I did to save our art teacher, Mrs. J. It was hard work and at times became very emotional at the school board meetings. All of us were under 18, so we couldn’t vote at the meetings, so being able to influence people’s decisions and ultimately save her position makes me very proud of what we did.

Did anyone encourage you to take an art course? Who provides the greatest support for the work you now do and how do they support you?

When I started high school taking an art class was all my choice. As I’ve continued taking art classes throughout high school my friends and most of my family have been behind me in my choice. I’m not sure who provides the greatest support, everyone has their own way of showing it. My mother, father, and my brother, Brian, all have shown it through buying me endless art supplies. That’s probably the best way of showing support since I rarely have the money to buy them myself and I can’t turn down a new sketchbook or pencils.

How does your work in the arts support and develop creativity for you?

I find that when I’m making art I become more creative and start making more art and come up with ideas for more art. So I guess my work in the arts makes me want to make more art and become more creative.

If you could change any part of your arts education, what would it be?

I’d really like the arts program at my school to get more recognition. Even though we did hold a contest for yearbook cover, I feel like we are still judged very hard. As a member of one of the AP Art classes at my school it seems like the administration is pushing very hard to have us score higher and higher. Of course, getting high scores on our portfolios is what we aim for, putting us under pressure isn’t going to produce creativity, and certainly not the high scores they are looking for.

What are you plans as far as continuing your study of the arts?

I’m applying to a few schools this year, my top choice is an art school. I’d really love to get in and be able to submerge myself with all the creativity there. If I don’t attend an art school I’m going to keep working on art either outside of school, or perhaps major in something related to it. I’m not really sure what I’d like to do after college, but I’ll probably figure that out as I go along. As far as I can see, I have no plans of stopping my study of the arts anytime soon.


What’s Your Story?

October 16, 2012

Looking for student arts stories

If you are a regular meartsed reader you followed the 20 posts from January through June called Another Arts Teacher’s Story. The series will continue later on in this school year. Along with telling teacher’s stories this year, student’s stories will be shared as well.

I invite arts educators to identify a student who has an arts story to tell. Arts educators have helped me create a set of questions for students to answer. The students can be middle, high school or graduates. If you have a student who is passionate about the arts, who has benefited from arts instruction, who is proud of their accomplishments in dance, music, theatre and/or visual arts, their story should be shared.

Please email me at and let me know what age the student is and I’d be glad to send you the questions to pass on to a student. I know there are many many students whose story should be shared. I look forward to hearing from you!

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