Posts Tagged ‘teaching artist’

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Teaching Artist

July 11, 2019

Huey

Film maker and teaching artist Huey has several screenings and broadcasts coming up this summer. Huey is one of the teaching artists on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster. Check out the information below. 

Surveyor of the Soul
July 14, 7PM, Concord Museum, Concord, MA.  
Q&A with Huey and Laura Dassow Walls , author, Henry David Thoreau: A Life 
Free and open to the public. Part of the Thoreau Society’s Annual Gathering so limited seating for the public. To reserve seats go to  
https://concordmuseum.org/events/film-screening-surveyor-of-the-soul/
August 1, 7PM,  broadcast on Vermont PBS.   The film will also be available during the month of August to stream for online viewing at https://www.vermontpbs.org
August 21, 7PM, Monson Arts, Monson, ME. Free.  Q&A with Huey
https://monsonarts.org/uncategorized/summer-2019-public-programs/
Thoreau took the stagecoach through Monson on his way to Moosehead Lake in Greenville for his trips that he writes eloquently about in The Maine Woods.
August 20, 8PM & August 25, 3:30PM broadcasts on Maine Public Television’s August Pledge Drive.  Become a Maine Public member and get a DVD of Surveyor of the Soul.
Wilderness and Spirit: A Mountain Called Katahdin
September 5, 6PM, Maine Historical Society, Portland, ME. Free. Q&A with Huey.
Held in conjunction with the exhibition, Holding Up the Sky: Wabanaki People, Culture, History & Art
More info, trailers, order DVDs at  http://www.filmsbyhuey.com
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“Finding the Boxmaker”

May 7, 2019

Tom Luther’s album released

Finding the Boxmaker album cover

On May 1, 2019 composer/performer Tom Luther released his newest album, “Finding the Boxmaker”. The album has been released in digital-only format on Bandcamp, and can be found at THIS LINK.

“Finding the Boxmaker” is an instrumental work that was inspired by William Gibson’s Count Zero and the art of Mark Kelly. The music combines acoustic performance with electronic, improvised material with algorithmic/systems based material, and a layering of “found” sounds. The music explores different combinations of all three and alternates between “Tableaus” and “Assemblages”.

There are five “Assemblages” of slowly evolving soundscapes surrounded by six “Tableaus” of more traditional musical narratives. Like chapters in a novel, there are over-arching relationships between the Tableaus that “nest” the work together.

Much of the work is driven by the idea of assemblage, this being the collecting or curating of seemingly unlike (and often ordinary) found objects and arranging them in compelling ways. The work of Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) stands out as exemplary, and is a key narrative element in Gibson’s novel. Mark Kelly also works with assemblage in addition to working with some systems driven art which is the second primary driver of the work.

Despite the influence of Count Zero, “Finding the Boxmaker” is not a retelling of Gibson’s novel. “It is an exploration of systems, a merging of acoustic and electronic aesthetics, and a restructuring of how I think about music and art and my relationship to both”, says Luther.

“Finding the Boxmaker”

Tom is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster and a member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative as a Teaching Artist Leader. Tom will be facilitating on June 17 at the Teaching Artist professional development workshop. When Tom isn’t writing music he is teaching at the Midcoast Music Academy. Not to mention Tom is a great guy and musician that you should meet if you don’t already know him and his work. 

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Teaching Artist Professional Development Workshop

April 23, 2019

Space limited

The Arts Commission is providing a one-day professional development workshop for Maine Teaching Artists.
Monday 17 June 2019
8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Only 20 spots available – REGISTER TODAY
Viles Mansion/Governor Samuel Cony House, 71 Stone Street, Augusta.
$25.00. Registration is required.
Purpose
The workshop is focused on the role and benefits of a teaching artist. We will address how to structure and market a residency as well as tips for communicating and collaborating teachers,  administrators, and community arts representatives. The workshop will include resources and techniques on applying your expertise as an artist to the structure of your work as a teaching artist including communication tips, connecting standards and assessments in your lessons, promotional information, funding opportunities, messaging and much more.
Outcomes
  • Information on applying your expertise as an artist to the structuring of your lessons and residencies.
  • Hands-on experience in relating the learning standards and assessments to your work.
  • Participation in sessions that are planned to fit your specific needs as a teaching artist.
  • Promoting yourself and your work as a teaching artist
Workshop Presenters
  • Tom Luther – Teaching Artist, Musician, Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teaching Artist Leader
  • Lindsay Pinchbeck – Arts Educator, Founder and Director Sweetland School, Hope
  • Kate Smith – Elementary music educator, Central School, South Berwick
Please note: To be eligible to apply for the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster teaching artists must attend the one-day workshop.
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Dancing in Freeport

April 10, 2019

Learners at the center of their learning

During the 2018-19 two schools in two different districts were the recipients of the Dance Education grant awarded by the Maine Arts Commission (MAC). Freeport High School and Maranacook Middle School created amazing units that impacted hundreds of students in Grades K-12.

Collaborators – Teaching Artist Nancy Salmon and Freeport High School Theater teacher Natalie Safely

The Dance Education grant is the only MAC grant that is a grass-roots effort grant. Several dance studios and two high school dance programs have a fund raiser each November. The money raised is what funds the dance education grant at the Commission. Without the dedication and commitment of many educators, dancers, parents, and community members this grant would not be possible. Special thank you to Thornton Academy Dance Educator Emma Arenstam Campbell for her contributions to being instrumental in making the Dance Education grant possible.

This blog post describes the dance education program that took place in Freeport this year. It is truly amazing to see what occurred when a teaching artist and an arts educator collaborate!

Natalie Safley is the theater arts director at Freeport High School but I learned quickly that she is much more than that. Natalie is a connector, an integrative thinker, a big picture and detailed person AND most importantly she “gets education for high school students”! Nancy Salmon is a dance educator and teaching artist who has worked with students and teachers of all ages for many years. Natalie and Nancy put their heads together and created a dance education opportunity for Freeport High School students that would touch younger students in RSU5 and introduce them to possibilities in dance.

FOUNDATIONAL STEPS

Workshop with grade 2 students following performance

Ms. Safley reached out to all RSU 5 elementary teachers for suggestions on source material as a beginning step in this performance process. A kindergarten teacher suggested the books by Kobi Yamada. Once Safley read each of the books, she new that would be the perfect starting point. Each book has a central theme: What do you do with a problem? What do you do with an idea? What do you do chance?.  In small groups the high school students first read the books on their own and pulled out lines and visual images that they connected with in each of the stories.  Then they made physical representations of the lines they pulled out from the text.  It was important throughout the process to have the students connect the text with a physical action. From there students continued working with the texts as well as writing their own pieces related to each of the respective teams. Finally, the students individually created a slide show of images that represented one of the three themes. The images came together and students physicalized them in smaller groups. The final performance had parts from all of the activities. Since the final piece was derived from the students’ own work they were more invested and committed throughout.

CLASS WORK

  • The work took place in the Theatre I class. Days 1-3 took place earlier in the semester when Natalie focused on Movement and the Actor. Nancy provided her instruction on establishing a performance vocabulary. Natalie continued to emphasize this vocabulary throughout the semester. This allowed Nancy to come in during the final project and begin working on the final dance elements immediately; building off the foundational knowledge established early in the semester. The culmination was students conducting a hands-on workshop with the elementary students to teach them the steps needed to perform the dance movement that was performed within the context of the show. Working with the elementary students in this capacity illustrated the high school students’ proficiency with dance literacy disseminated throughout the project.
  • Dance was incorporated into the work in a variety of ways. The work began with an introduction to dance movement warm-up and the elements that are common to all dance and movement of any kind as developed and described by Rudolf Laban (Body, Energy, Space, Time or BEST). Students view a demonstration by KQED Art School on Youtube and talked about the Elements. KQED includes a 5th element – Action, which was discussed but did not include further in our work. Students and teachers discussed where dance movement could be included in the scripts or the production to best support or enhance the message. The opening entrance used strong, quick and direct movement introducing each student and getting everyone on stage. In contrast a small cadre of students were the “Chance Butterfly Brigade” in the 3rd section, using quick, light and indirect movement illustrating the notion fleeting chances that one needs to grab. Pathways were explored as well as the notion of repetitive movement in order to create a background of indecision, decision, action, disappointment, success. Viewing another video students learned a specific lift that required trust, timing, strength, and cooperation to make a person “fly”. Several students were particularly successful at embodying the intention of their character by understanding and using the dance elements.

Nancy working with students on movement

LEARNING/OUTCOMES

The students learned…

  • to work as an ensemble, yet individualize the subtext of their characters.
  • to apply and embody vocabulary for dance literacy and devised theatre.
  • a different approach to analyzing a text for performance.
  • about using their bodies to inform the text.
  • that dance is more than memorized steps.
  • to write a story for performance.
  • student voices – benefits, what are they gaining? How might they transfer their learning to real world situations?

QUOTES FROM STUDENT SURVEYS

  • Dance is more than just traditional dancing to movements. It can be more simple and unique.
  • I’m really proud that we accomplished the lift during the last section of the play because the 2nd graders said that they really enjoyed it and loved that section of the play.
  • I am most proud of accomplishing my different facial expressions. I feel that some of my lines in the play make me have to give a lot of emotion and doing that I need a lot of different facial expressions.
  • The synchronization between everyone in the class and how even when we might have made mistakes, we just rolled with it.

WHAT ADMINISTRATORS SAID

  • Thank you so much for sharing this with the second grade. We were very impressed with the way that your students interacted with the younger kids. It made my heart warm watching our students faces in awe of your kids!
  • Thank you SO much for bringing your incredible Kobe Yamada performance to Pownal! The younger kids were in awe by your moves (especially when you made each other fly!), and the older kids were so inspired by how well you depicted the three texts! At a discussion afterwards one of my students said “I want to do what they were doing one day.” Thank you for being such great role models to the kids! We hope you will reach out with any other opportunities for us to see your work again!

LINK TO ONE OF THE PERFORMANCE VIDEOS

LINK TO ONE OF THE WORKSHOPS

To learn more about the MAC Dance Education Grant program Please CLICK HERE

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Two Teaching Artists’ Journeys

March 19, 2019

Nicole Cardano and Brian Evans Jones

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teaching Artists Leaders, summer institute, 2017. Brian is in the back row, third from the left. Nicole is in the front row, first person on the left.

I’m always interested in learning about the needs of teaching artists and how to better support them. I view their role in education as vital. Oftentimes it is the teaching artist who inspires a young person. Providing opportunities for learners in grades PreK through high school that include a teaching artist can be empowering for the learner. I have hope that every young person either becomes an artist or an appreciator of the arts as they continue learning on their life journey.

Those of us who have made arts education a career are so fortunate. We are engaged in the creative process as  individuals and have the chance to help young people develop their artistic ideas as well. When arts educators collaborate with teaching artists it is truly amazing. Both teachers learn but the ones who benefit the most are our students.

Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up. I think of the artist in each of us as a fragile, beautiful and precious light, a creative spark inside of every person.”

Nicole and Brian at the MALI Summer Institute, 2018

Recently I asked two teaching artists who are leaders in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) to ponder what has contributed to their success as teaching artists. Brian Evans-Jones and Nicole Cardano joined MALI in 2017 during the summer institute.

Brian Evans-Jones is a poetry and creative writing teacher who moved to southern Maine from the UK. He’s been writing poetry since he was 16. Brian has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University.

“Since 2005 I have taught creative writing, which is as important to me as my own writing. I’ve taught all kinds of people, from 4 to 94, in all kinds of venues, and this is the main way I try to spread the appreciation of poetry.”

Nicole Cardano has been teaching Drama and Improvisational Theater in PK-grade 12 schools for eight years. In addition, she teaches adults. Nicole’s studies and practice of improvisational theater connect to the foundational philosophies of Listening, Support, Eye Contact and Respect. The games that she teaches and her directorial mindset work from these foundations. Nicole believes in the process being more valuable than the product. Learning and developing these skills fosters a stronger community, a place of open listening and supportive fun. You can learn more about Nicole’s work on Facebook at Theater Today, Nicole’s non-profit organization.

“This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises.”

NICOLE, HER TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

I started out as a Teaching Artist before I knew that this job title even existed. I was teaching drama and improvisational theater at the Summer Festival of the Arts and re-establishing the drama club program at my alma mater, Pemetic Elementary School. One program would lead to the start of another one. In the last nine years the work has grown. I have formed a non-profit, Theater Today, and have been able to spearhead a larger program in partnering with The Grand Theater, in Ellsworth.

Two years ago I learned that The Grand had a program called Performing Arts for Children showing school-aged performances during the school day, but they were not getting the audiences that they hoped for. The opportunity to partner was clear. Several professionals collaborated to create a Community Arts Curriculum out of which grew my role as the Arts Outreach Educator. This is our second year of this outreach collaboration and we are working with the full student body of four schools, three serving grades K-8, and one 9-12 high school. I have worked with 1,311 students leading theater integration workshops in their classrooms since September of 2017 in just this partnership alone (not including the additional programs I still lead). After meeting with classroom teachers, I design improvisational theater workshops that provide connections between the classroom curriculum and the live theater field trips at The Grand.

I grew up locally on Mount Desert Island in Maine. I got my first taste of theater in school. This made me aware that I wanted to be able to sing better, as I could not really carry a tune. As luck would have it there was an outstanding vocal teacher in our town. Carol Cramer Drummond was an accomplished opera singer and became my performance mother. Carol taught me confidence through song and showed me another world. I struggled to learn in school in the format I was expected. My mother too had her own history of challenges in school. I am now raising my daughter, also as a single parent, and I find myself advocating for her experiential learning needs.

Theater was the only subject I could think to study as I went on to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Both of my parents supported this decision. I graduated cum laude with a departmental award of honors and minored in Spanish as an extension of my year abroad in Mexico. My senior year of college one of my theater professors was intrigued with the book “Truth in Comedy; the Manual of Improvisation” from the training and performing center IO (formerly Improv Olympic) in Chicago, IL. IO teaches long form improvisation, where you perform a full show based off of one audience suggestion. Our professor formed an improv troupe and we studied this book. I graduated college in May of 2001 and went home to work a summer job and await a New England Theater festival that I had been selected to compete in. I had plans to go to New York City to follow a job lead. That September our nation experienced 9-11. My understanding of the world as I knew it had changed. The job did not pan out. Going to Chicago to study improv felt like the most sensible and sane endeavour. I competed at the festival in January and flew out to take a level one class at IO. I stayed for the full year and completed the improvisational program. Chicago became my home. Improv was the language that I spoke. I continued to study, perform and work for ten years in this city.

I moved back home to Maine for family reasons. I was raising my three year old daughter and my father had gone through stage four bladder cancer due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Time moved forward and my daughter entered school. She was also displaying learning challenges and was not showing the results that our schools wanted. I served for a full term as the chair member of our local school to support education and to better understand it. I really enjoyed being a part of this team. My term ended and I had to decide where I could make a greater impact. My programs were growing and it is a conflict of interest to be on a school board and working in the schools. I continued to develop the work that I saw a need for and believe in. I formed Theater Today to continue this mission. Theater is a tool that helps to communicate and explore topics of interest. This has been true on my journey through life. The practice of theater is a social, emotional and educational tool for all. I embrace process more so than product.

I design the curriculum for the theater integration workshops as the Arts Outreach Educator with The Grand. In our first outreach workshop I was working with 8th graders. The show that they were scheduled to see was “Frankenstein”. The students were studying gothic romantic writing. I taught them about the significance of Mary Shelley and how she wrote Frankenstein, the first sci-fi novel, based on the real modern science of the early 1800’s. The science teachers invited me to speak on this in their classroom, and so I did. In these workshops we highlighted that we are in the middle of history. Through the use of improvisational theater we “built” Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and acted out scenes on what could go wrong with today’s modern science….

Next I worked with high school juniors and seniors in preparation for seeing Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. With the practice of theater we explored the American Dream and enhanced public speaking skills.

This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises. We explored Dickens mission of the important role of education in the fight against poverty.

The curriculum areas of integrated study have spanned grades K-12.

In the growth of the outreach program with The Grand I see that there could be more partnerships with other arts organizations in an effort to expand the community of learning. For example, art exhibits could have in-classroom workshops with visual artists in connection to gallery showings. The possibilities are endless. Partnering teaching artists with directors of arts organizations has the potential to create a lot more routine work for arts integration in our schools and blurring the line between classroom and community, thus creating more experiential learning opportunities. Many students, and adults, have not been exposed to all that their town or neighboring towns have to offer. Arts outreach expands the exposure to life that any one person has.

The programs with The Grand and Theater Today are primarily supported by grants and scholarships. We do hope to expand the sponsorship opportunities for this programming.

BRIAN, HIS TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

Path 1:

January 2005:  I am in the last year of my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Warwick University, UK. Not sure what to do after graduating, I go to see my course director and ask him, “How can I teach creative writing?” He tells me I should go see the professor who runs the university’s creative writing summer school for students aged 11-16. He gives me a job. I work on the summer school for the next 4 years, starting as an assistant for a couple of days, and ending up as a full teacher, staying for two weeks.

April 2006:  I am training as an English teacher in a vocational high school in Manchester, England. I hate it. The school asks for volunteers (unpaid) to run Enrichment workshops. Starved of creative writing teaching, I run one on story writing. 8 students attend.

June 2006:  I am interviewing for a full-time job as English teacher at another high school in England. The principal offers me the post. I say I’ll take it provided I can teach an hour’s creative writing a week, pointing to my experience on the Warwick summer schools and at my previous high school. He says yes.

January 2010:  My creative writing group at the high school has had enrolments of 12 students, 4 students, 18 students, and 23 students. I have organized annual competitions in poetry and fiction, getting the principal and vice principals involved in the judging. I have published chapbooks of the students’ work. In January of 2010, the head of Creative Writing at the local college (Winchester Uni) agrees to judge a fiction competition, teach a lesson to my groups, and give them talk about taking creative writing at college.

December 2010:  I have quit my job at the high school. I contact the head of Creative Writing at Winchester Uni to ask for work, and he asks me to teach an undergraduate course. I teach at Winchester Uni until I leave England in 2014, eventually increasing my teaching to 6 courses per year.

November 2011:  One of my colleagues at Winchester Uni starts an organization called the Hampshire Writers Society. I attend the first meetings to support her initiative. She tells me about a competition to become Hampshire Poet Laureate in 2012 and encourages me to enter. I enter it.

January 2012:  I am named Hampshire Poet Laureate. Over the next year, I am paid to write 4 poems and to run workshops in prisons and homeless hostels. The Poet Laureate also promotes my work as a teaching artist to schools throughout Hampshire. I set up an online project (Writing Hampshire) that encourages people to write poems about their favorite places in the region and submit them for web publication.

2012-13:  Approximately 30 schools contact me to ask me to run poetry workshops. About half of these want me to help students write poems for the Writing Hampshire project. Writers’ groups, arts centers, and community organizations also ask me to work for them. Combining my work as a college professor and teaching artist, I am teaching creative writing full-time.

Path 2:

June 2006:  I am completing my training as a high school English teacher. One of the requirements is to join relevant professional associations. I find an organization I’ve not heard of before called the National Association of Writers in Education. I don’t have much money, but I decide to join it.

July 2008:  All NAWE members receive a letter from the Open University. The OU is expanding its creative writing courses and wants new teachers. NAWE members are encourage to apply. I do, and I am given a course to teach.

June 2010:  After two years teaching my OU course, my manager contacts me. They have a vacancy at short notice, and would like me to take it. The combined income gives me enough money to quit my unhappy high school job and go freelance, albeit with a part-time income, but with more time to write.

December 2010:  I contact my local arts center. Based on my experience teaching for the OU, they hire me to run poetry and fiction workshops. By the time I leave England in 2014, I have run 30 workshops and classes fort them, for children and adults.

April 2013:  The manager of the Jane Austen House in Hampshire, England, attends one of my poetry workshops at the arts center. She hires me to run a poetry workshop at the Jane Austen House.

August 2014: I have moved to Maine with my family. We go to a children’s art event at the Jewett House in South Berwick. I get talking to the manager, and tell her about my work at the Jane Austen House. She hires me to run a writers group at the Jewett House and also some one-off creative writing workshops.

November 2015: With some others, I give a presentation at the New England Museums Association Conference on my work at the Jane Austen House and the Jewett House. Soon after the Conference, I am hired by two other historic buildings to run workshops for them.

May 2015:  I am at the end of my first year in grad school at UNH and looking for ways to fill the summer. I offer some free mentoring to a young writer who has come to my writers’ group at the Jewett House. Her mother is grateful, and invites me to go with them to an event called Big Night run by something called the Telling Room in Portland. I go, and I am hugely impressed by the Telling Room’s work with school students. I ask to train as a Telling Room Teaching Artist.

2016-2018:  I work on multiple residencies for the Telling Room, working with 7 schools and leading several residencies.

Path 3:

April 2016:  I am at the end of time in grad school at UNH and wondering about starting a creative writing nonprofit. I hear about a funding workshop run by the Arts Council of NH. I go to it and meet the woman in charge of Arts funding. We meet again later; she tells me about the NH Teaching Artist roster. I apply to the roster and am accepted.

May 2016:  I look for other rosters to apply to, and discover Maine has one. I apply, am accepted, and am invited to a Teaching Artists Training Day.

Brian conducting Poetry Out Loud workshop at Hermon High School

August 2016: At the Training Day. I meet Argy Nestor, who talks to me about Poetry Out Loud. I have experience of the British equivalent. Argy asks if I could do some workshops for POL in Maine. I say yes! I also meet Kate Smith, music teacher at my local elementary school. She tells me about our local Education Foundation, which funds projects in our district. She encourages me to apply for a grant to work with Central School in South Berwick. The grant is funded.

November 2016 and 2017: Argy sends me hundreds of miles to the parts of Maine that are farthest away from my home in South Berwick, bringing Poetry Out Loud wokshops to rural schools and broadening my knowledge of my adopted home state at the same time.

March 2017: My 2-week poetry residency with second grade at Central School in South Berwick takes place. 80 children all write several poems, redraft one to go in a chapbook, and share their learning with their parents.

Brian and Kris presenting, MALI Mega, March 2018

August 2017: Argy invites me to apply to the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). I attend as a Teaching Artist Leader. Kris Bisson, Chorus teacher at Marshwood Middle School, attends my poetry workshop. She asks me to be involved in a composition project with her 7th and 8th grade chorus groups, and writes a grant to the Marshwood Education Foundation.  I also meet Tim Christensen, potter and Teaching Artist extraordinaire; Nicole Cardano, improv artist; and Lindsay Pinchbeck, teacher of the integrated arts school Sweet Tree Arts.

Fall 2017:  I run my part of Kris’s chorus project. I meet the students for 6 sessions and help them write lyrics based on a local landmark bridge that is the focus of a community renewal project.

Tim Christensen, Brian, Lindsay Pinchbeck at Sweetland School

January and October 2018: Lindsay Pinchbeck invites me to Sweet Tree Arts to run collaborative residencies, first in partnership with Tim Christensen and later with Nicole Cardano.

2018:  The Arts Council of NH send me to schools throughout the Seacoast region of NH to run Poetry Out Loud workshops.

2018:  Kris Bisson and I present our collaborative project at MALI and at the MAMLE conference.

November 2018:  Argy asks me to make some Poetry Out Loud videos to be hosted on the Maine Arts Commission website. I work with student POL competitors and the MAC’s Ryan Leighton to plan and record the videos.

December 2018:  Kris’s chorus perform their composition piece at the State House in Augusta. I am privileged to attend.

This is not a complete picture of what I have done, but I hope it gives an idea of how my work as a Teaching Artist started, expanded, and changed. What I want to show is that I never planned to do this: every new thing emerged and developed from other things I did before, generally not knowing what they were going to lead to. I don’t claim that this is an ideal path: I still have not gotten back to being a full-time teacher of creative writing as I was in 2014, before I left Britain; and even then my income was barely enough to support a new family. But it has been a fun ride.

If I have advice for new teaching artists, it would be:

·      Find things to do that are the right things to do for you, however small at first.

·      Look for places to meet good people: people on the same wavelength as you.

·      Be as creative about your teaching are you are in your art.

Good luck!

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader: Joe Cough

March 5, 2019

Teaching Artist – Musician

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Kerry for sharing your story!

Joseph Cough is a Music educator with a specialty in Voice, Guitar, Composition, Theory, Piano, Trumpet. He joined MALI this year as a teaching artist and teaches all ages at the Midcoast Music Academy.

I didn’t know right away that I wanted to teach people music.

In fact, for a long time, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in music and performing arts, either directly or indirectly. It wasn’t until I attended the College of the Atlantic where I actually thought that I was able to make anything from a music profession. I was greatly inspired by John Cooper, the professor of music there. His ear for music and ability to abstractly write out pitches that he heard (and sang back) was like watching an artist paint a canvas. I wanted to be able to do that too, if only for myself.

It was because of him that I needed to understand music inside and out. How does it work? Why does it work like that? Why is this pleasing to me aurally and this not? I wanted to know every detail about a piece of music, no matter who composed it. What scales were used? What modes? What chord progressions can be heard?

In large part, I’ve accomplished that.

Not to say that I understand EVERYTHING about music, but I’m now in a place where I have reached one goal. One goal, of many more. There are many things about music that I have yet to think about and discover. The list of what more I want to do is endless. I’ll never reach the end goal of complete musical proficiency and knowledge.

And that’s ok.

I don’t have those kinds of expectations of myself. In fact, I don’t have any expectations of myself. Well, I do expect myself to put all of my effort into what I’m doing, and to keep a positive and open-minded attitude, but I don’t have a master plan, or an end goal that, if not reached, means I’ve failed. I don’t fail.

Even when when I’ve cracked a note on stage, mistook a perfect 5th for a perfect 4th, muted a string incorrectly, or have played the same passage on the piano at a tortoise speed 28 times, I’ve learned from every one of those experiences. Learning what works, what doesn’t, what is challenging, what isn’t, these are all victories. Gaining this knowledge, despite its positive or negative effect is always and opportunity for growth. This is why I don’t fail.

This is why no one fails.

This is the most important message that I have for anyone who wants to listen.

This is more important than knowing your major scales from memory.

This is more important than having perfect singing posture.

This is more important than ‘good’ pedagogical practice.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘best’ in music.

There is no ‘bad’ or ‘imperfect’ or ‘worst’ in music.

Music, to me, is an experiment. The great thing about this experiment is that when something goes awry, laboratories don’t explode, or things don’t catch on fire. Yet, many students that I’ve worked with over the years are so cautious around music as if one of these things might happen. The good news is, I’ve never seen anyone maimed because they squeaked when they sang, or melted because their dynamics were not interpreted correctly. This is how we learn. This is how we discover what we are. This is how we see what we’re capable of. A lot.

We have preconceived notions of what music should be, and what it shouldn’t be.   

If Schubert didn’t do this, it shouldn’t be done.

If Hendrix did this, it’s the right thing to do.

This is nonsense.

When I teach, I don’t show students what they should do to be a musician. We’re all musicians. We’re born that way. I strive to show them what they’re already capable of doing. Take risks, experiment, make ‘mistakes’ (if there is such a thing).

I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t or needn’t learn from the musicians of the past, and learn music in an academic way.

Schubert was a ‘master’ of German lieder, this is what he did and how he did it.

Hendrix transcended the guitar. This is what he practiced and how.

It’s important to learn all 12 major scales backwards and forwards.

It’s important to train your ear to hear all possible intervals on our tempered scale.

It’s vital to practice the physicality of your instrument.

There are many things someone studying music ought to know.

This is how we communicate with other musicians. This is a way to work with and collaborate with other music artists. If we all speak the same language, we can create stories together and understand them. Does this mean if someone isn’t ‘100% fluent’ in music that they won’t be able to speak and be understood?

No.

But the more we learn, the more we explore, the more curious we are, the more we can teach others our language, and they can teach us theirs. We can share our stories.

It has taken me a long time to truly understand this. Nothing about my musical experience came quickly, or easily. But instant gratification to me is cheap, and contains no substance. I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve picked up the guitar, sat at the piano, sang a self-created vocal exercise. I’m thankful that I can do it as often as I do. I wasn’t born with innate knowledge of music and ‘how it works’. We all have the ability to be musicians, but do we all have the time to invest in the craft? I’ve been told many times that I’m ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ because I do what I do.

I’m not talented. No one is. Talent implies some divine deity bestowed a gift to me that I didn’t have to work at. I wasn’t born an experienced musician, but the hours that I’ve put into the craft give me that experience. This is the other message I have for any learners: our mindset dicates how far you can take your musical journey. Your thoughts tell you your story.

I hear this often in lessons. “This is too hard”, or “I’m just not good enough”, or “if only I started when I was 6 taking lessons, then I’d be good now”. These few word sentences are stories, and we often tell ourselves these stories over and over and over again. They become our story, our reality. The story ends, but is played on a loop. Again, and again, and again.

But what if we changed our stories to “this is challenging, but with more time, I’ll get it”, or “I’m not where I want to be yet musically, but I’ll continue to strive toward what I want to be”, or “this is what I’m capable of now, and I take stock of my accomplishments and will continue to add to them”. These stories don’t end. They are ever evolving. They have substance. They don’t just stop.

So, in a roundabout way, this is where I am now. Even for teaching, I continue to write and edit my story of what I want to be as an educator. In anything really. I literally can do whatever I want to artistically, professionally, etc. It just depends on how much time one has/wants to invest in it. I cannot create professional singers, or guitarists, or composers. But with time, anyone can create the artist within themselves. Any student can write the story in their own mind. Once in the mind, it can manifest itself in any way imaginable.

This is but a small sample of my story. A chapter. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure I could give sound advice to a new incoming Teaching Artist. My style is different than everyone else’s. Maybe the only advice I could give would be to be kind to yourself. Teaching is, an art. Like anything, it needs to be practiced, tried, retried, reworked, adjusted. No one is born a ‘gifted’ educator. But I’ve learned and received some gifts along the way from my colleagues and mentors and teachers. This is why I’m happy to be a part of the Maine Art Leadership Initiative as a Teaching Artist Leader. I can learn from other’s experiences, and they can learn from mine.

What I learn from my colleagues and students in the coming years will all be included in the next chapter of my story.

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Shawna Barnes

February 5, 2019

Teaching Artist – Sculptor

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Shawna for sharing your story!

Shawna N.M. Barnes is a Ceramic Sculptor who has been focused on teaching for three years. Her favorite group to teach is the one full of people who “don’t think they can” because of a disability. Or never gave art a try because of their disabilities. “Problem solving and finding ways to show them they can create and engage in creativity… is amazing.”

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love all the people I have met as a teaching artist. Doors that have been opened, and opportunities presented. It has provided me the ability to share my passions with others who appreciate it.

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

First, allowing for differential interpretations of a topic. Essentially acknowledging that the world is full of gray. And when it comes to art, the spectrum of how art and its concepts are perceived, truly is a spectrum.

Second, the ability to acknowledge that art is a bridge between worlds. Whether that be yours and mine, real and fantasy, or past and future. It allows for difficult conversations to be had, often bridging a divide caused by a lack of understanding. Teaching this concept to our students is vital.

Third, the ability to appreciate content, subject matter and skills needed to complete a work of art without having to like the art itself. The ability to see it with an objective eye.

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

Thus far, assessments have helped guide the evolution of my classes and workshops. By evaluating what is working, what is not; what different ages and abilities respond to; I have been able to fine tune the classes so that the highest number of people fund value and enjoyment from the class.

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

The benefits have been innumerable! It has been the push I needed to create the resource center in my website. I have been given the opportunity to grow my speaking career by giving presentations at conferences. It has sparked collaborations between several members for brand music, for upcoming tutorials, and similar applications. It has introduced me to a group of peers that have become my support network. It has given me the confidence in my own set business that my intuition is right and I am on the right path.

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

I am most proud of breaking barriers and showing others where barriers exist. As a disabled artist, I often chose to just not participate in events and workshops because it was easier. I’m taking my challenges and helping create solutions that benefit not just me… but hopefully generations of disabled learners and artists so that they can have access to creative outlets.

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

My health, admittedly. It can cause me to be unreliable and miss deadlines. Another factor is physical accessibility to facilities that may want to host me for workshops or seminars

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

Simply being an artist is hard work and requires determination every day to put the work in. I work through a variety of disabilities just to be able to create; myasthenia gravis,  cervical dystonia,  hypermobility joint syndrome, seizures, chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and PTSD are the heavy hitters.

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

You will stumble as you find your footing but don’t let that detour you from continuing to put the work in to build the foundation of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There’s plenty of room for everyone at the top, do not entertain a scarcity mindset. 

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

Build my handicap accessible studio. Give a few grants to local artists and arts organizations looking to make their space accessible by adding ramps or stairlifts to their infrastructure. And spend a few weeks in Paris, soaking up all the amazingness that is the Louvre.

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

None.

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