Posts Tagged ‘Improvisation’

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Tom Luther

April 10, 2018

Teaching Artist – musician

This is the one 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 Tom for sharing your story!

Tom Luther teaches piano, digital/computer music, composition, and improvisation. He’s been at it for 6 years and has no real favorite ages or levels. Teaching is very much a shared pursuit with Tom’s students, meaning he considers himself as much a student as they are. He can, and has, studied the same material/concept as his students, and they can share what they’ve learned about it. Tom tells his students: “I’m not any better at this than you are, I just have a bit more experience practicing”. He thinks this notion is essential for learners, especially new learners, to take ownership of their study.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

Being able to revisit concepts through my student’s eyes, and re-experiencing the study in new and unexpected ways.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Ownership of the art, and having the permission to create.
  2. Objective observation/reflection
  3. Active participation as both audience and performer. This is especially true of the audience piece. Experiencing work outside your own is essential for greater learning and particularly inspiration.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

I have two main methods of assessment; recordings/listening sessions and master class style formats. Each allows the opportunity to practice objective listening, and speaking objectively about music. Having students listen to their own performances is especially helpful, as is will often point to a) how much progress they have made, and b) help them to hear how much better they sound than they initially felt. It’s also tremendously helpful as in terms of “practice performance” and dealing with the accompanying anxiety .

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

The opportunities for learning are tremendous, and very motivating and inspiring. This is coupled with an amazing network of teachers who are a fabulous resource for feedback. I think that we all benefit from the collective intelligence and imagination of the group.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

I take great pride in helping my students believe. For too long, the arts have been viewed as “for them, not us” because of a misguided idea about talent and ability. I am proud to be helping my students believe in themselves, and strive toward their goals.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

The current culture’s emphasis on “end product” versus “process”; the lack of belief in the intrinsic value of the arts( and the accompanying over-reliance on utilitarian value); general “anti-reflective” attitudes. I would also cite the rampant commodification of music as a fairly significant hurdle.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I raised $4400 in a crowdfunding campaign a few years back. Those things always look easy until you run one.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

This is one of the most important and fulfilling things one could ever do. This is an opportunity to guide an inexperienced mind into the world of the arts. This is an opportunity to sculpt learning, both for the student and yourself. This is an opportunity to help make lives better, more rich, and more well rounded. Don’t do this if you think it will be easier than getting a “day job”. Don’t do this if you think its “easy money”. Don’t do this to gratify your own ego. Becoming a teaching artist is to become a mentor, and take responsibility for starting (or continuing) a student on a magnificent life’s adventure.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Honestly, pay off my mortgage. While this may at first sound a bit selfish (and it may be), but the reality for all teachers is that financial issues are always a source of stress and distraction, and can potentially drive an individual out of the profession, simply because they can’t take care of the everyday basics. That said, I would take the remainder and consult with my finance whiz brother-in-law to grow a fund to support arts education programs in under-served areas. Arts education should not be contingent on income level.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Probably. I maintain pretty high, and probably unrealistic, standards for myself and it is extremely likely that there will be at least one thing I haven’t done yet. Then again, I have a bad habit of assuming things and ideas that won’t necessarily transpire, so who knows. I can say that I am going to try my best to avoid regrets.

Tom spends some of his time teaching in Rockland at the Midcoast Music Academy

In the fall of 2017 Tom had two strokes back to back. As part of his ‘come back’ he created a weekly video to share his learning, his pathway to recovery, and to inspire his students (and others) to use a growth mindset. The amazing video series is called Practicing My Way Back and can be accessed at Spheremusik, Tom’s YouTube channel. 

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Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Jake Sturtevant

May 1, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series will contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Jake Sturtevant has been teaching High School Instrumental Music at Bonny Eagle High School (SAD6) in Standish Maine. He has taught there for 3 years, and before that he was at Washington Academy in East Machias for 3 years. He currently teaches Band, Guitar, Music Appreciation, Improvisation, and Songwriting. He also runs the after school Pep Band, Jazz Band, and Jazz Combo.

Jake has been a Teacher Leader in the first phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

2. What do you like best about being a music educator?

Seeing students acquire a passion and understanding of why we as humans need the arts in our lives. I also like the fact that I can go in on any given day and I could be randomly invited to play a game of hacky sack or Ninja, and that’s OK!

3. Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Bb Major  = Comfort
  2. G Minor = Connections
  3. Ab, C, D, Eb, E, G, Bb= Creation

4. What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

If my assessments reflect the expectations they would have in a real-world music environment then I feel I have helped them prepare adequately.
I have a variety of assessments including performance assessments, self-assessments, concert reflections, essays, theory worksheets, and composition and improvisation activities. All of these assessments are there to make sure I can give specific feedback, and students can illustrate they can respond to that feedback and focus on what they need to do to develop on a particular skill or concept. This specific feedback and goal-setting is so much more helpful and productive then randomly assigning a symbol (letter or number).

5. What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Squash Pizza = Connections to interesting people
Building Airplanes in the Air = Doing it all on the fly with the help of some co-workers
E=mc2 makes a Bomb = Concepts to practice
Wicket Wystri Warrick = Just because I am a geek.

6. What are you most proud of in your career?

That when I feel like I finally get to the surface I remember to grab a snorkel as quick as I can.

7. What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Pride and laziness. Did I just say that?

8. Apple or PC?

Depends on the task. Apple most of the time though. Red delicious is my favorite!

9. What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Working as a music educator in a public school with a degree in Music Composition.

10. Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

I see in a man…  no a woman…. oh, I just can’t tell, but he or she seems to be on a quest of some sort, a journey…….  no, they are playing a board game with lots of pieces that are hard to figure out which one goes where. They might think they got it figured out, and they say  “Alright, I’ll give it a try”, and then a tiny green thing says, “No! Do, or Do not, there is no try.”  So when the X-wing doesn’t come out of the swamp they get all discouraged, and think their life is over, but they don’t realize that sometimes it takes more then strength to prevail.
Now I see a broom…. no a witch…. A witch on a broom, laughing with that sinister type laugh as she tries to zap you with her very fake lightning bolts that come from her fingers, and she says “I’ll get you my pretty… and your little dog too!” And she tries to stifle you by giving you more mandates and paperwork, and by the way you have to be on the Emerald City committee too. And you grumble and complain, and think your life is over and you will be in prison for the rest of your life with all these green men who sing “Yo, he, ho” all day long. But then you realize that all it takes is a bucket of water, and a few friends, and life isn’t so bad after all. All that worrying and complaining didn’t really do you much good did it? Remember: it’s really about the friends you’ve made, and search for new buckets of water.

11. If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would travel with my family to a place where people are truly happy and thankful for anything they are given because they may have very close to nothing. And then I would spend a year with them getting to know them and hear their stories, laugh, cry, and play. Then I would give each of them or an organization that would help them the money. And of course we would create together in the process.

Thank you Jake for taking the time to tell your story in such a creative way!

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