Posts Tagged ‘Connie Carter’

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Nicholas Parker’s Story

February 26, 2022

Musical journey and it’s impact on something larger

This is a story about Nicholas Parker but his story is especially poignant at this time with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine earlier this week. Samantha Smith was a 10 year old girl living in Manchester, Maine when, in 1982, she wrote to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Yuri AndropovI. She was seeking to understand why the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were so tense. Her question and bravery prompted a response and made a huge difference. She received an invitation to the Soviet Union and became a Goodwill Ambassador. Sadly, Samantha, at the age of 13, and her father, died in a plane crash. Her spirit and commitment to peace lives on. I pray for peace for the people of Ukraine.

If we could be friends by just getting to know each other better, then what are our countries really arguing about? Nothing could be more important than not having a war if a war could kill everything.” ~Samantha Smith

NICHOLAS PARKER’S STORY

As many young children do when there is a piano in the house Nicholas started ‘playing’ random notes for fun at an early age. At age 9 he started taking piano lessons from Amy Irish. At the time, he knew how to play “Do-Re-Mifrom The Sound of Music using solely his pointer finger. Amy taught him to develop his piano abilities and he fell in love with the instrument over the next decade.

PLEASE NOTE: All of the indented bold and italic sections below are quotes from Nicholas Parker.

“Plunking around on the piano and coming up with my own melodies has been one of my favorite activities since the beginning, though I never really put my efforts into writing a complete piece until the eighth grade.”

Nicholas playing Do-Re-Mi

In 2014 while in grade 8 at Reeds Brook School in Hampden Nicholas had Karyn Field for a teacher. Students were engaged in project based learning using Meridian Stories. Along with teaching Karyn was the Civil Rights Advisor so she decided to reach out to Rob Shetterly and Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) to enrich the opportunities for student learning. Rob brought some of his large portraits to school to hang in the library. Students selected a portrait from Rob’s collection and were assigned to do some sort of creative project on that person. Nicholas chose Samantha Smith.

I chose Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine who, in the ‘80s, was known as America’s Youngest Ambassador, and who traveled to the Soviet Union as a peace activist at the height of the Cold War. For my project, I wrote a piano piece about Samantha’s life.

Piano recital with Amy Irish

For several days Nicholas worked independently in the music room while writing the piece about Samantha Smith. Karyn remembers checking in with him periodically to hear what he was accomplishing. Nick used his musical abilities and combined them with Samantha Smith; an ideal project in many ways.

When Rob and AWTT staff saw and heard what Nicholas had accomplished they were very impressed. A conversation followed and out of this grew the ongoing AWTT project offered each year to middle students. The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for middle and high school students that uses the creative arts to build a bridge between the classroom and the world as students become compassionate, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them and work for the common good.

“Looking back, I would have written the piece a bit differently now (on account of my skills having developed significantly since I was 13), but the music nevertheless managed to elicit a response from Mr. Shetterly, who was present when we displayed our projects.”

Playing on a street piano

Karyn shared that Nicholas was a confident and very humble student. He was provided an amazing opportunity to take what someone did that created change and through Rob’s painting of Samantha, together they elevated her voice. Nicholas was invited, while in high school, to speak at the New England League of Middle Schools annual dinner. Karyn said: “Through his passion and intelligence and his gifts he opened doors for others students and served as a good role model.”

“Seeing the impact my project had on Mr. Shetterly and the creation of the Samantha Smith Challenge was wonderful. Since then, I’ve loved staying in touch with AWTT when I’m able, and have enjoyed learning much more in the fields of piano performance and composition.”

Nicholas returned at Christmas from a semester studying in Italy. He took time to provide an update what he’s doing and some of his thinking.

“Today, I am headed into my senior year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where I am majoring in Music and Italian Studies. While I have grown a lot in my abilities, I must admit that I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I want to write (and how to write it). George Winston, whose CDs my parents used to play when I was growing up, is a source of much inspiration. His seasonal albums are some of my favorites, and the way in which he captures natural settings through the piano is exceptional. 

Working on music while in Italy last fall

The opportunity to teach music to others has presented itself in recent years as well, and I have found myself working with a few students—albeit largely in a virtual format—on the fundamentals of music and piano-playing. To introduce people to the piano has been an immense joy, and quite often has made me think of the importance of the arts and music in education. I personally have learned at least as much from studying music as I have from any science or math course, and in fact have found that the subjects of music and science are not quite so different. And yet, when it comes to many schools (especially those in less-privileged areas or with less funding), the arts and music programs are all too often the first on the chopping block. The benefits of music in education are plentiful, but inclusion and accessibility are indispensable when it comes to having an impact on students’ development.

Nick performing the Samantha Smith piece he wrote:

As was stated by Stanford University professor Eliot Eisner (quoted previously on this blog), “The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.” Whether by aiding in telling the story of Samantha Smith, or by helping me explore the natural world around us in a way that words and numbers cannot, music has occupied a space in my life that nothing else could. It’s impact on me has in turn given me the potential to impact a little bit of my corner of the world, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

AWTT Education Director Connie Carter has valued her time working with Nicholas and said the following: “Besides being the catalyst for AWTT’s education program the Samantha Smith Challenge, Nick has continued to be a strong voice for courageous student activism.  He has spoken at conferences about AWTT and was a critical voice in our strategic planning process.  Listening to Nick talk about the importance of finding and using one’s voice is like listening to a beautiful musical composition  — full of meaning, compassion, and inspiration.”

It was such a gift to converse with Nicholas and hear his story. His journey in many ways is just beginning, especially to those of us who have been around for many years. But, his musical journey started many years ago as a small child. I’m grateful Nicholas shared his story and I’m sure it will inspire and remind us how important it is to provide learning opportunities in the arts for all.

If you have a student or a former student whose story will inspire please contact me at meartsed@gmail.com!

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Samantha Smith Challenge

November 19, 2020

Guidelines available

The guidelines for Americans Who Tell the Truth‘s (AWTT) Samantha Smith Challenge are posted on the website (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org). Connie Carter, Education Director, from AWTT hopes that you and your students will take this opportunity to engage in this challenge as we work collectively to find creative and powerful ways to make our society stronger.

MISSION

The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle and high school students that uses art to to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.  

Maine student, Peace Activist, 1972-1985

SSC 2020-2021: Show US Who You Are

As Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) reflects on the past year and looks forward to the months ahead, we are asking students this year to focus on one of three critical themes – racial equity, climate change, and health care. The SSC asks students to use their voices on one of these topics, take action, and Show US Who You Are. AWTT portrait subjects model how the beliefs, voices, and actions of youth can influence important social justice issues. Check out: 

Kelsey Juliana
Zyahna Bryant
Claudette Colvin
Becci Ingram
Rachel Corrie
Barbara Johns
LeAlan Jones
Nicole and Jonas Maines
Chloe Maxmin
and, of course, Samantha Smith

There is no deadline for registering unless you want to have a virtual visit Robert Shetterly and Connie. Please contact Connie Carter at connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org with question or if you’d like to connect with any of the living portrait subjects about your projects.  

A warm message from Connie: “Thank you all for being phenomenal educators in a time that demands so much.  Your students are very fortunate to have you!

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Americans Who Tell the Truth

January 9, 2019

Syracuse University curriculum connections

Students preparing for their solo performance based on one of Rob Shetterly’s paintings.

If you are a Maine Arts Education blog follower you know that I’ve included a handful of posts on Americans Who Tell the Truth and artist Robert Shetterly. The last post Americans Who Tell the Truth in Syracuse included information on the 238 portraits of Rob’s that were on display at Syracuse University.

I followed up with Connie Carter who works with Rob visiting Maine schools who are using the paintings in multiple ways. I was curious how a higher education institute was tapping into this incredible body of work. Fortunately, it was a question that Rob and Connie asked as well and videos have been created on the topic. Raw footage for the most part that are posted on Vimeo can be found at the links below.

Steve and Rob conversing about the Solo Creations course work.

Jim Clark from the theater department at Syracuse University was interviewed and speaks very clearly about the power of the portraits for students in the creative arts and beyond. CLICK HERE to view the interview and use the password AWTTClark.

The second video includes an incredible interview with Steve Cross, professor of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. He teaches a required course titled: Solo Creations that uses the portraits to explore ideas about creating a solo piece. The video includes performances by a couple of his students so you can see the outcomes of the work with Mr. Shetterly’s paintings. CLICK HERE to view the interview with Steve and his students performances. Use the password AWTTCross. 

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Americans Who Tell the Truth in Syracuse

November 30, 2018

Just imagine

At Syracuse University this week all 238 Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits are being displayed. Many of the visual and performing arts faculty are involved in using the portraits as part of their fall curriculum. Several of the living portrait subjects were on hand for part of the week. I can only imagine what a sight this was for all of the visitors. AMAZING! An true testimony to the power of art! THANK YOU to artist Robert Shetterly for his amazing art and his willingness to share it with others. THANKS to Connie Carter, who works with AWTT for taking and sending the photo below which shows only a portion of the exhibit. It’s wonderful that this is taking place along with the two last blog posts on AWTT and the Samantha Smith Challenge.

 

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Samantha Smith Challenge

November 28, 2018

Americans Who Tell the Truth

Americans Who Tell the Truth and MAMLE are excited to announce that the registration for the 2018-19 Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is now open! As we launch the fifth year of the Challenge, we are excited to know that middle school students across Maine will be tackling important issues and modeling for all of us what it means to be an engaged citizen.
What is the Samantha Smith Challenge?
The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is an American Who Tell the Truth (AWTT), MAMLE & Thomas College Initiative designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world, teaching students to identify, study, and work to solve the challenges and problems they see around them in their communities. Participants will hear from past SSC participants and learn how to bring the Samantha Smith Challenge to their classrooms and help students use the curriculum to turn global concerns into positive action while connecting to standards.
This year’s focus
We are especially enthusiastic that this year’s SSC will focus on the different aspects of individual and group identities as students learn to become engaged, change-making citizens. We are asking SSC students to think first about their own identity, considering identities that, for the most part, are unchangeable — race, ethnicity, gender, age — and also those identities they can choose –beliefs, clothing styles, groups they join, issues they engage, etc. How do these characteristics affect expectations they have for themselves and expectations others have for them?
Then, as they look around, in their community or across the state, nation, and world, think about these identities and expectations affect others. How does this combination of identify and expectation connect to the justice and equity issues they see?
This year’s celebration
Mark your calendars for this year’s celebration which will be held on Monday, June 3, 2018. Besides having the opportunity to share important work on many social justice issues, there will be a great program that emphasizes how important youth activism is to our world.

As in past years, Robert Shetterly and I will be available to do workshops with your students. It is always a highlight to meet your students and experience their energy for their chosen issues.

REGISTER and LEARN MORE

We look forward to working with you and your students as you engage in the Fifth Samantha Smith Challenge! Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Tomorrow’s blog post is provided by a teacher whose classroom participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge.
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Americans Who Tell the Truth

August 23, 2012

Meeting with Rob Shetterly

Last week I had the chance to meet with Connie Carter of Operation Breaking Stereotypes. Since 2002, Operation Breaking Stereotypes (OBS), a non-profit, service-based organization working with schools in Maine, Boston, and New York City to help students address ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and racial stereotypes through writing, reading, music, photography, and personal connections.

We met with Aran and Robert Shetterly to talk about their work Americans Who Tell the Truth. (AWTT) Americans Who Tell the Truth = Models of Courageous Citizenship. AWTT is dedicated to the belief that a profound sense of citizenship is the only safeguard of democracy and the best defense of our social, economic, and environmental rights. Through portraits and stories of exemplary American citizens, both historical and contemporary, AWTT teaches the courage to act for the common good. Its powerful educational programs promote our country’s ideals, illuminate the necessary work of the present, and inspire hope in the future.

You might know Rob Shetterly’s work. A handful of years ago Rob was at Haystack for the fall Maine Art Educators conference. I remember thinking “wow” what a difference this man is making in the world. He is able to select individuals (and paint them) who get to the heart of a topic in the most truthful and honest ways. His work really “speaks” and I think it would be a gift to have these paintings surround us in our living spaces every day.

Rob’s son, Aran, is working with his Dad to bring the work into schools and educational settings in a more formal way. AWTTs new website is filled with information that you may find useful, certainly interesting.

In the near future they will be offering regional professional development opportunities for educators to take a close up look at the paintings, the people in the paintings, and the teachers and perhaps students who have been fortunate to hear from Rob in classrooms across Maine. Aran, Rob, and Connie are in the process of planning these events. I am grateful to know that more students, teachers, and schools will have this opportunity in the near future.

Watch for information on meartsed blog about these professional development opportunities and if you have questions please contact Aran at aran@americanswhotellthetruth.org.

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Show Choir Performances

April 9, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The excitement was intense and impressive at the annual Maine State Vocal Jazz Festival held at Ellsworth High School.

Connie Carter attended and said the following:

“What an amazing showcase of talent, energy, commitment, collaboration, and just plain incredible entertainment!  It was so exciting to see Ellsworth High School overflowing with people who suipport the arts.  There was enough creative energy there
on Saturday to meet Maine’s energy needs for a year! Clearly the arts have a voice in Maine!”

And Ed Brazee’s observations:

“I loved every minute of the state competition for Show Choirs and Jazz Choirs last Saturday at Ellsworth High School. It was particularly gratifying to see high school students from across Maine collaborating and enjoying each others’
presentations. Were they competive? Of course, but they were also appreciative and supportive of each other’s efforts. Very impressive!”

The Ellsworth High School Show Choir won the Division I State Championship at the event for the sixth time in the choir’s history and the third year in a row. They also received a “Gold Award” rating of 1 and received the “Outstanding Choreography” Award for the third year running as well. Special recognition for 1 rating performances in the solo category went to Tyler Small, Tyler Beardsley, Kassidy Jordan, Tim Follette, Blake Pattengale, Marissa Boynton, Lauren Barkhouse, Savannah Jackson, and show-stopping Melissa Wells. The choir presented “I Know Where I’ve Been: Twenty Years of EHS Show Choir” . The evening final performance may be found on You Tube. On Tuesday, April 10th, the Show Choir leaves for Orlando, Florida where they will be competing in Disney Festival and performing on the Waterside Stage in Downtown Disney. Congratulations and Good Luck!

Ellsworth High School Show Choir

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