Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kenan Fellowship Phase I Reflection - Rachel Perkins

I have learned a lot about myself and about what Aesthetic Education means in the past several weeks. In July, I was given the opportunity to see a performance of Les Éphémères by the French theater company Le Théâtre du Soleil. I jumped at the chance, because I have studied French for several years and thought it would be an interesting experience. It was an incredibly moving and beautiful performance, and I am grateful that I was able to see it.

During the performance, I found myself deeply involved in noticing details and questioning the purpose of certain artistic choices. The play was completely in French (with some bits of German) and I also found myself deeply engrossed in the word choices. I would look at the English supertitles and notice differences in the translated meaning-– how did this affect the perceptions of people who relied on the supertitles to understand the play? It was a very powerful experience, and something I don’t think I would have enjoyed as fully prior to my time at LCI.

My experiences at Summer Session taught me valuable lessons about the variety of learning and teaching styles that exist. I am particularly interested in the concept of a “community of learners”: the students and teacher all benefit from their shared knowledge. It allows the student to make connections and gain insight they may not have come up with on their own, and gives each person an equal voice in the process. As a participant in the Aesthetic Education process, I became aware of the depth that is possible in discussing one work of art. As a group, we were able to dissect a single work of art for more than an hour-– and probably could have gone on much longer!

I have begun using some of the Capacities for Imaginative Learning in my daily routine, especially in my violin practice. As I practice, I find that I am able to focus on details in my technique that I haven’t been able to do fully before. I have focused in on what is specifically happening in my body-– the way the joints move, tension in places I never noticed, etc. The Capacity of "noticing deeply" seems so obvious, but unless time is taken to discuss what that really means and the level of depth that is possible, I believe most people don’t fully experience this skill. I am excited to see how I might use the Capacities when I start teaching again, because I feel they are very useful tools for both teachers and students.

I am truly inspired by the amount of passion that I saw on a daily basis from those around us at LCI. Every person we encountered this summer who works at LCI expressed a great deal of joy about the work they do and I also became excited about the work that LCI does. I have had many conversations with my former kindergarten teacher, my father, and former colleagues from UNCSA about the work that LCI does and its importance. I am anxious to observe and participate in the work in the classrooms, so that I may continue to share these experiences with others.

It is important to me that after I finish the Fellowship, I am able to address the following questions: how can I bring my experiences at LCI to others? Will it be through teaching violin? Getting in touch with more former teachers who could benefit from LCI’s approach? Perhaps most important, how can I become involved in the community-– what can I do to "take action"? These are just a few of the ideas that have been sparked during my time at LCI.

Posted by Rachel Perkins

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kenan Fellowship Phase I Reflection - Emile Blondel

While considering my experiences during the past few weeks at the Lincoln Center Institute and comparing them to my training as a pianist at UNCSA I came across some general concepts that are shared by both environments and others that are unique to each.

First, the intent of the training in a conservatory setting is different than that of Aesthetic Education-- it is primarily to focus, develop and refine skills in one specific area. Aesthetic Education also focuses and develops skills, but does so in a broader sense where they can be applied to many different aspects of life. While I did absorb a lot which could be applied to broader areas at UNCSA in the context of studying piano and sharing ideas with fellow art students, making those connections was up to me and not a part of the curriculum. Being around so many inspiring people and performances in various mediums helped to expand my learning process, but the information and guidance I was receiving from professors was very specific and narrow to my medium.

This is not a critique-- I believe that it is essential to spend time under the microscope intensely studying a particular skill to introduce deeper levels of exploration. But given the fact that there are so many common goals in creating works of art in any medium it would be helpful to spend some time exchanging ideas with others. Even within a particular school, such as the school of music, it is easy to get capsulated into our “specialty” and lose awareness of the common elements of creativity and expression. For example, a shared improvisation class between musicians and drama students would have been helpful for me to be more comfortable standing on a stage and overcoming self-consciousness, something necessary to both art forms.

There were some concepts I noticed that were shared between the two environments. One is the idea that every work has multiple facets and entry points; there is not one correct answer or style. This I felt at UNCSA while studying pieces of music and bringing them up to performance level, when I was told not what to do, but to do something interesting and then given some ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Also, in private lessons and performance groups a clear goal was to retain how to go through this learning process on our own in the professional world without coaches and teachers, meaning that we were learning how to be good learners, another concept which I see in the Aesthetic Education approach.

The sense of a learning community that was established in the NEW workshop was also present in my UNCSA experience, with my piano studio consisting of a mixed group of high school students, college students and graduate students all taking class together. This chance to observe and interact with students from different backgrounds working on similar goals was extremely valuable. I think that both approaches, intense practice in a specific area and stepping back to realize the creative elements at work, can compliment each other. Without the focused practicing and building of technique there are less tools to be creative with, and without finding inspiration any tools we have become useless.

The NEW workshop was a very interesting experience. I appreciated going into this workshop fresh without knowing a lot about what was going to happen and then experiencing the process of understanding first-hand with the other participants. There was a general sense of openness and comfort in the workshop even though we were asked to do things that may have pushed some people out of their comfort zone. The important role of the LCI facilitators stood out to me. There was obviously a lot of planning that had gone into the activities which led into our study of a work of art, but additionally the facilitators' delivery and the way in which they responded to questions was important and helped to create this stimulating atmosphere.

Everything that was brought to the table became in some way relevant to the understanding of ideas being discussed, and a momentum that had been building throughout the week could be felt by the last day. Playing piano for the first time after the workshop I felt distinctly different than usual, with my whole attention focused simply on the sound that was being produced by the instrument and with less unnecessary thoughts bouncing around my head. And this was after spending only a few days discussing and observing, without any time spent thinking specifically about piano playing.

It was also informative to see the many types of educators that were present at the workshop, and to see the different ways in which they responded to activities. I learned about communication by observing how the facilitators handled different points of view and resistance coming from some of the participants.

My overall reaction coming away from the Summer Session is that I feel more excited about the idea of teaching, and also realize that teaching and learning are closely related; the teacher is always learning with the student. In this sense teaching is not on a separate tier from performing and creating, rather they are all connected and support each other. The biggest question that I have at the moment, which may be answered this fall during our visits to schools, is how these practices will integrate into a system that is measured primarily on test scores. I am also curious to see the dynamics of a classroom of students with differing personalities and backgrounds and how they will react to the LCI approach of learning.

Posted by Emile Blondel

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kenan Fellowship Phase I Reflection - Mari Meade Montoya

On the train the other day, while perfecting my blank stare, enabling me to be aware of everything yet of nothing in particular, I noticed something. Across from me there were two pairs of yellow shoes, snugly fit on two pairs of feet, attached to two pairs of legs, connected to two entirely unrelated people. But their shoes were the same bright sunshine yellow, devoid of any other color. I squinted, cutting out every other sight and sound on the train, and framed just this perfect pair, suddenly wishing I had a camera. Finally, satisfied with my new creation, I shifted my gaze to the right. There was a dark haired man, sitting nonchalantly, perhaps too practicing his subway stare, wearing a solid sunshine yellow shirt, with a slit down the middle revealing a hairy middle-aged chest. I thought about the dreary, rainy, slightly chilly day, and looked down at the shorts I was wearing in anticipation of any other sweltering mid-July day and decided: sunshine yellow was the color of the day. Perhaps this was just a happening of the day, but it struck me as something more-- it struck me as a cut to a diamond, and with each cut the diamond (or day, month, year, life) became more valuable-- held more quality.

In a recent discussion, Scott Noppe-Brandon stated the great importance of improving the day to day quality of life. This experience on the train is just one of the many new involvements I have had with the world because of the search for increased awareness Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) has installed in me.

The first theme that struck me about LCI was in our introductory week. I met a wide variety of people that worked at LCI, but every single one of them really supported the philosophy of Aesthetic Education. It didn’t matter if their job was directing schools or organizing markers, each staff member was very aware of the exact definition of Aesthetic Education (AE), and truly believed in it on a personal and educational level. This was my first sense of the cohesiveness and deeper importance of the program, and made me want to delve in and be as involved as I could with LCI and AE.

In the beginning of the summer session the group of Fellows began to apply more of the practical side of Aesthetic Education. In the evenings I would conscientiously ask a wide range of questions about what I was experiencing-- How did Andy Warhol make the photograph print so big? Is the oceanic culture still tribal? Does everyone over exaggerate themselves? Are MySpace/Facebook profile photos the new self portrait?

These examples are from one afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I started asking similar questions in all of my activities. As the week wore on I noticed the importance of questioning. It seemed many of the other nine “capacities” as defined by LCI were encouraged by these open ended questions. I had to notice more deeply in order to question, and noticing allowed me to identify patterns and make connections.

Thinking of questions often gave me a personal attachment to the piece of art, allowing me to embody the piece and express empathy toward it. By this time I didn’t need to create any meaning, just to identify what was already there. And, generally so much of me had been invested in this process I immediately wanted to take action-- I’ve written down hundreds of noticings, begun a project writing a children’s book, as well as chosen from a plethora of ideas which ones to shape into dance pieces. Now I just need to take time to work on my new projects, but also settle back and reflect on all of this new and exciting information.

These nine capacities really help identify, without limiting, a few important aspects of LCI’s Aesthetic Education. I believe it is in these specific capacities that UNCSA relates to LCI. The most obvious place we practice these capacities is in composition class. We were really encouraged to go through each one of the capacities, though maybe worded differently, when creating a composition on ourselves or others.

I think UNCSA could benefit from having these capacities, which are already a part of the program, identified. However, the relationship goes beyond just composition. Noticing deeply is how we observe and change our bodies in technique class, we strive to embody a work of art when we perform it, and we exhibit empathy in order to fully encompass a character in acting class. In the third year UNCSA also does lecture demonstrations in schools, first having the kids participate (for example do a teacher led shape study), then watch a UNCSA student choreographed piece (in this scenario one based on shapes). It would be great if we could incorporate the next step of LCI’s AE and ask the students “What shapes did you notice?”

One of the other significant lessons I have learned from AE that I would like to bring back to UNCSA is accepting ambiguity. The training is so high-quality and specific that sometimes I found myself forgetting that it’s okay not to know. The more you ask questions, the more you realize how much there is to know, and that it’s impossible to know everything. I remember hearing a few years ago, “The more I learn, the less I know”. Yes, there is a great deal of concrete information to learn, but there is also a necessity to just put questions out in the universe for a while sometimes. You can always come back to them, they will always be there, but it’s okay not to find the right answer for every question in that moment.

Finally, UNCSA prepared me for LCI. Beyond a technical training UNCSA taught me to be a student, to be a teacher, to collaborate with others, to invest myself fully, and to be present. I really value this transition to the city and I am excited to continue my involvement with LCI.

Last but not least, I would like to end with a shoot-out of some open-ended questions, a glimpse at some of my strands of thought. Here goes: What is inexplicable logic (Gregg Goldston term)? How much clarification of thinking do we do while speaking? Does everyone have an artistic passion as a child? Would they, given the chance? How will Aesthetic Education adapt to different age ranges? How can I get more schools excited and involved in AE? What informs a person’s point of view? Where can I create an opportunity for dialogue and/or audience involvement in dance? How important is empathy? What specifically is it? How important is reality? What is it? Does imagination provide the gateway to other realities? Is everything a choice? Who will drive the cab? What makes an audience member like or dislike a work of art? How important is this? When do you have to take in reality and funding into this whole philosophical picture? Do you?

For now, I’m just putting these questions out into the universe…

Posted by Mari Montoya

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kenan Fellowship Phase I Reflection - Laura Gutierrez

Prior to applying for the Kenan Fellowship I had a very broad understanding of Lincoln Center Institute's philosophy. Throughout the application process I became more aware of what LCI was about and became even more intrigued on how I was going to fit in amongst this unique way of teaching.

Over the past four years at UNCSA, and most of my life, my main focus has been training primarily to become a dancer, performer and choreographer. Being at LCI this summer and meeting with the entire staff was a wonderful start because it not only inspired me immensely to figure out how I can help out in the community and bring about alterations in the way individuals learn and view the world but it immediately became clear to me what my training at LCI was going to be about and how I was going to learn about the Aesthetic Education philosophy.

As a student of the School of Dance I was taking technique classes, creating dance works, rehearsing and performing on a daily basis; even though the main focus of my training was not to become the next public school educator, having been apart of the LCI National Educator Workshop I was able to recognize that both UNCSA and LCI share the common ground of using imagination, questioning vigorously and thinking outside of the box.

In both my dance technique and compositional classes, from day one we were taught to question our work immensely, and find ways we could view our work from several perspectives. For instance; many of my teachers at School of the Arts were always asking me, “How many ways can you do a plie or a tondu differently?”, “How many ways can you do that phrase?”, “How can you go out onstage with a different perspective?” Even though there was no specific format to what my teachers were telling us to do it was the exact same situation as having a Line of Inquiry in the LCI AE process. Just like I exercised my imagination in dance at School of the Arts, I had to imagine a plethora of different ways I viewed works of art at the museum of Art and Design, Bill T. Jones' Ghostcatching, and others' performances. I realized that UNCSA had already planted a seed of allowing me to use my imagination and creativity daily. At UNCSA it was just taught from a slightly different perspective, an artistic point of view. For this reason I believe the collaboration between UNCSA and LCI is such a success for the Kenan Fellows.

Over the past three months I have not only been introduced to a new way of learning and teaching but I have been introduced to a new lifestyle as well, and combining what I’ve learned thus far has made my personal endeavors more meaningful. I find myself paying more attention and learning from all of my surroundings, whether it is sitting on the subway, walking home or observing others in a museum. Ultimately I have been highly aware of the life that goes on around me, and being in the midst of it is a great inspiration that I know will help me in my field as a dancer and a choreographer.

Posted by Laura Gutierrez.

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kenan Fellowship Phase I Reflection - Elisa Friedrich

I am very grateful for the opportunity the fellowship at Lincoln Center Institute offers me. Strongly interested in a peaceful use of language and communication I learned so much during the week of the National Educator workshop. Although giving myself fully to the process of exploring art I also made a conscious effort to observe the teaching artists. Jean´s grace, Barbara´s insightful humor, and Teresa´s buzzing joy inspired me greatly. Their ways of inviting everybody into the space of “everything is possible” gave me wonderful examples of how to be an authentic leader.

The process of discovering art throughout the week helped lift my blinders. As a classically trained violinist the idea of “right” and “wrong” was strongly ingrained throughout my studies. My struggle with these aesthetic concepts helped me improve as a violinist, but at the same time, handicapped my creative abilities as an artist. I am fortunate to say that imagination has always been nurtured by my parents. But somehow it got forgotten over my worrying to be somebody. The experience of art-making throughout the workshop brought this creative pleasure back to life.

Sharing my creation with others worried me because I thought it would not be good enough. Seeing it among all the others made me realize that there is no best, only different view points, all equally valid. A freeing revelation!

At UNSCA my main focus of studies was playing the violin. Trusting my teacher Kevin Lawrence completely, and clearly articulating my needs, I learned more than I ever expected. In addition to studying solo repertoire, and exploring new qualities of sound, I was also part of the Feliks Piano Trio. We dedicated ourselves to performing in rest homes and senior residences to share our music within the community of Winston-Salem.

During my Professional Artist Certificate Training, I was offered to teach violin at the Community Music School. I noticed that many of the students who had played for some time were strongly affected by the idea of “right” and “wrong” when it came to execution and sound production. For some this “ideal” imposed such a struggle that my lessons seemed more related to psychotherapy than teaching violin. Others were strongly affected on a physical level so that my function was to help them relax. All these experiences helped me improve my individual teaching to provide a safe place for students to explore and experience their musical selves.

I decided that a part of my career should always be devoted to work with children and adults. I found that sharing the wonders of sonic beauty and passing on what others have taught me to be very gratifying and fulfilling.

When I heard about the fellowship at LCI I knew I had to be a part of it. Having no experience in classroom teaching I saw a great chance to learn and grow as an instructor. Observing the teaching artists during summer session heightened this realization. I felt that LCI would offer me the theoretical and practical knowledge to liberate my own imagination. I cannot wait to work with Jessica Meyer, my mentor, to develop a line of inquiry, design lesson units, promote a harmonious classroom environment.

I am very grateful for all the help and support I received throughout my visa application process and I feel very welcomed and appreciated as a musician and human being. Thank you very much!

Posted by Elisa Friedrich

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2009-10 Kenan Fellowship at Lincoln Center Institute Phase I Reflection Paper - Gregory Hoffman

My experience at the Lincoln Center Institute thus far has been a non-stop frenzy of frothy goodness. Iʼm not exactly sure what that means, but it seems to capture the frenetic loops that my mind has been whipping around in, like some rickety Coney Island amusement.

In the past month Iʼve been inspired by the sheer enthusiasm and shared commitment of the LCI team; waded through dense snippets of Dr. Maxine Greeneʼs philosophy; put my self-consciousness to the test at the National Educatorʼs Workshop, where I had a conversation in a made-up language and stared down a glue stick, a pair a scissors, and two sheets of construction paper in a full-throttle return to third grade.

Each morning I took a boat from a distant land (I had a sublet on Staten Island, much to the amusement of the mainlanders, or technically, the main-islanders) to discover more about this strange new world of aesthetic education.

On the surface, my experience as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and as a Fellow at Lincoln Center Institute are vastly different, and not just because of the boat. The philosophy of aesthetic education, which I make no claim to understand fully at this point, is centered around a deliberate process that involves repeated viewings of a live work of art, bookended by various activities that are meant to personalize, enrich, and expand a studentʼs understanding of key concepts, revealed in a line of inquiry, that pertain to that particular work of art, but which aim to create a broader comprehension of the stated concepts beyond the work of art. In addition to introducing a student to a new artwork, this journey is also meant, perhaps more importantly, to develop critical thinking, observation, problem solving, and
self-confidence.

This sort of holistic methodology is simply not practiced at very many institutions, UNCSA included. But I do think both students and teachers alike could benefit from adapting the LCIʼs approach into their curriculum. It would be valuable on two levels.

First, it would give the students a chance to be led though this process and extract from it a deeper understanding of a particular work. This would be an excellent way for a professor to explore a performance with the class throughout the term.

Second, students could be introduced to teaching using LCIʼs method, therebyreinforcing the underlying skills embedded in the process, such as developing a line of inquiry, and understanding the Capacities for Imaginative Learning. It could introducing a new pedagogical framework that could be very useful post-graduation, since many conservatory students rely on teaching to supplement their income. In fact, aesthetic education makes the process of teaching itself a creative endeavor, which may be a paradigm shift, since many students consider teaching something of a compromise, rather than a way to deepen their own creativity.

While I am enthusiastic about all I have learned so far, several things still remain unanswered. As a student, I especially wonder what it would be like to be exposed to an aesthetic education unit over an extended period, rather than just at a five day workshop. I think this would give me a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, and would be a very rewarding experience.

As an educator (or prospective educator), I have this looming question: given the enormity of social inequality, poverty, and crime, can this approach really make a difference? This isnʼt pessimism, just an acknowledgement of fear. Fear that the things that inspire many of us to engage with the world around us may not be a match for the demands of an environment in which daily survival is a full-time job.

I realize that it is not the goal of aesthetic education to directly solve world hunger or create everlasting peace, but considering that I may end up in schools that are in impoverished districts, I wonder about my ability to connect with students in a
meaningful way.

To close, Iʼd like to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank everyone at the Lincoln Center Institute for what has been so far an amazing experience. I also want to send a shout out to my fellow Fellows who are really cool. Even if they donʼt take a boat to Staten Island.

Posted by Gregory Hoffman

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kenan Fellows are back at LCI!

The Kenan Fellows are back from their summer hiatus to resume their Fellowship at Lincoln Center Institute. The Fellowship is structured in three different Phases:

Phase I: Began on June 24, 2009 and ran through July 22, 2009. Fellows participated in LCI's Summer Session workshops and attended meetings with LCI Staff.

Phase II: Begins on September 1, 2009 and runs through December 15, 2009. Fellows shadow their Phase II Mentors at schools, meet other professionals through networking, attend meetings with LCI Staff and Constituents, and participate in LCI TA professional development workshops.

Phase III: (Optional) Artistic Project: December 15, 2009 through January 25, 2010. Four slots are available for Kenan Fellows to produce an artistic project. Fellows must submit an application and project proposal. Should a Kenan Fellow apply to produce an artistic project and is granted one of the four slots available, his fellowship will be extended through January 25, 2010.

We look forward to their full immersion in the fellowship this fall.

posted by Jose Velez, Assistant Director of Teaching Artists at LCI and Kenan Fellowship Co-coordinator

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For more information about Lincoln Center Institute please click here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Welcome to the Kenan Fellowship at LCI blog!

One of the projects in which the Kenan Fellows at LCI will be involved this fall is the creation of this blog. This blog will give them an opportunity to share with you their journey and stories as they experience aesthetic education as approached by LCI and as they develop their artistic careers in New York. The six Fellows will be periodically posting their thoughts and reflections on different aspects of their fellowship along with video clips and pictures.

Posted by Melissa Gawlowski, Education Assistant at LCI