Monday, January 30, 2012

Kiah Abendroth: Reflections on Phase II of the Fellowship

As they neared the completion of Phase II of the Kenan Fellowship, each Fellow was posed three questions by their teaching artist mentor. Here, Kiah responds to the questions from her mentor, Lynn.

Question 1: “Toolkit”
Think about your experience both as an observer and participator within an Imagination-based, Art-Centered unit of study at LCI. What types of teaching and learning tools are unique to this practice? If you were to make your own “Aesthetic Education toolkit”, what teaching-tools would you include, and why?

If you’re trying to accomplish something, where might you begin? Imagination; every action is first preceded by ideation. What’s the ultimate goal of LCI’s practice? Imagination; the ability to think and learn creatively and freely. Something fascinating about imagination is that it’s both a beginning, end, and process. It’s everywhere.

Thus, perhaps the most important tool I’ve gained is “imagination.” It’s not just for learners, it’s for teachers. Now, when I go into the classroom, I will always ask myself: “What can I do to allow the kids to use their imaginations more?” This question is focused on the learner, but also requires the teacher to imagine. To me, imagination is the core of LCI’s practice. After all, we use the 10 Capacities for Imaginative Learning, the whole purpose of which is to cultivate the ultimate mental capacity: imagination. Thus imagination surpasses all the other Capacities, as well as my other tools as an aesthetic educator. It’s my Swiss army knife, and I hope to carry it with me always.

Of course, there are other tools I have gained that are unique to aesthetic education. If I had to summarize, these tools would be:

Questioning. As an aesthetic educator, we lead through questions. We ask the students to think on their own. We cultivate in them the desire to begin questioning themselves. Questioning is at the root of learning; as the students develop this capacity, they connect with their own curiosity and hopefully a renewed passion for learning that they can carry with them in all that they do.

Reflecting. I’ve certainly learned the importance of reflecting in other areas of my studies here at LCI, and I’m excited to see how it will affect me as an educator. After every class, I’d like to protect some time to just reflect on the lesson. I know that through doing this, I will gain the most out of every experience and continue my growth as an educator.

Encouragement. It can be hard to imagine freely when you’ve spent most of your life stuck in boxes of “right” and “wrong.” As I mentioned in my last blog, it can feel uncomfortable to learn in this new way, and the kids seem to thrive in an encouraging environment.

Flexibility. The process of recognizing that every classroom is different, every child is different, every lesson is different, and every day is different. Honoring the present, whatever it may bring. Gauging how to most effectively move forward--day by day, moment by moment.

Freedom. To give myself permission to try new things. To free-associate and reflect. To never be limited by what has come before or what I expect to come in the future.

Open-mindedness. The second I think I know everything, my learning will stop. I always want to keep my mind open and receptive to learning new things.

Question 2: “Music”
Reflect upon the relationship between working as both a Kenan Fellow and full-time musician. How has this experience affected or influenced your playing, whether in performance or practice? Were there any changes, concepts, or discoveries that have been made in your playing since the start of this Fellowship? Were there elements that have stayed the same? Has imagination played a role in your work thus far, and if so, how?

Imagination is again the first thing that comes to mind. In my playing, there has always been an element of imagination. However, the more I’ve learned about my instrument, the more challenging it has become to just let everything else go and imagine. I feel like now is the time to start re-implementing what came naturally in the beginning. It’s a full circle. I know that my imagination will be used differently now, but I think it will be even more powerful. Through my work at LCI, I’ve learned to trust myself and the what the mind and body can do naturally. This trust was also cultivated during my Masters, as my private instructor exposed me to the these same concepts and helped me to respect the complex and amazing nature of the human body. I can see that moving forward, much of my work as a musician is going to be about trusting, letting-go, and freely imagining.

Another element of the Fellowship that has impacted my music is reflection. I’ve found that reflecting is not just about looking backwards, it’s about looking forwards. Through reflecting, I gain a better understanding of every experience and move forward with more efficiency in my learning. The reflection process is actually active. At some point I came up with an analogy. Every experience you have is like a towel full of water. Reflecting is the process of wringing the water out of the towel, or wringing the knowledge out of the experience. It was amazing to me how many times I had let experiences go by without fully reaping their benefits. Yet, sitting down and taking the time to reflect can be challenging. Perhaps this is a result of a society so focused on efficiency. But I have to ask myself, don’t I deserve a moment to be still? Beyond that, wouldn’t letting the same knowledge pass you by a thousand times be the ultimate failure of efficiency? Seems to me it would, but in our attempt to keep moving forward we often miss what’s right in front of us.

Question 3: “Future”
Based upon your experience as a Kenan Fellow, where do you imagine yourself going forward? Consider how you would choose to carve out your career path. Who would you contact, what type of work or performance opportunities would you investigate, and why? What valuable skills or learned experiences will you take away with you after the completion of this Fellowship?

I’ve found that teaching enlivens me. During Phase 2 of the fellowship, much of my time was spent focusing on my instrument (since I was taking auditions). However, after observing one of the LCI Teaching Artists in the classroom recently, I noticed how balanced and inspired I felt. Looking back, I realized that this feeling is connected to times of being active as both an educator and performer. I’ve been certain for a while that I had to play my trumpet, but now I’m also equally certain that I must teach.

I’ve been absolutely blown away by LCI’s philosophy. I never thought I’d find an approach to teaching that resonated so deeply with me. It seems to reflect who I am as a person; it cultivates the kind of joy and curiosity that filled my world as a child. To be able to share this experience with others, to connect them with their own natural inspiration and curiosity, that would be one of the greatest gifts I could imagine giving. On top of that, to use music as the primary pathway in this learning … I don’t even know what to say! … it’s fantastic.

Before I can determine exactly what my next steps are, however, I need to spend some time imagining freely, without limits. I’m aware of the core of what I’d like to do, but there are many ways in which this can be done. I’m not sure which of path I’d like to take. Looking forward is exciting, because it is full of uncertainty. This may sound odd, since in the past this would have scared me (and on occasion, it may still), but it all comes down to another one of the Capacities: Living with Ambiguity. A perfect way to end this reflection. I now see that uncertainty is really just possibility in disguise. As I move forward, my fear is replaced by inspiration and suddenly I’m moving beyond “living with” ambiguity. I’m embracing ambiguity. Thank you, LCI.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ryan Layton: Reflections on Phase II of the Fellowship

As they neared the completion of Phase II of the Kenan Fellowship, each Fellow was posed three questions by their teaching artist mentor. Here, Ryan responds to the questions from his mentor, Patrick.

As Phase Two ends I’m left with lots of new impressions, new ideas, new prospects, new skills, and fond memories. It’s been an experience that I never really expected to have. A risk-free opportunity to check out New York while building new skills and beefing up my resume sounds like the stuff of daydreams, but because it actually happened to me, I’ve been able to grow in unforeseeable ways.

I had visited the city a few times before moving up here for the Fellowship. Visiting was always pure fun. There were new sights to see, I was always in the presence of whatever friends I happened to crash with, and I could check out the scene without any pressure to make a living in it. The last time I visited the city as a tourist was a week or so after I submitted my application for the fellowship-- before the interviews took place. I remember trying to experience the city as someone who may soon become a resident. I told myself I could handle it. I imagined myself eating great food, hanging out in cool bars with my ultra hip friends... something that was, by nature, better than my life in a small town in the south.

When I got to the city I saw the perfect allegory for what I (and probably lots of others) had originally felt about New York. I saw two ladies approach a hotdog cart and explain that they were from Atlanta and that they wanted a “real New York City hotdog”.

“Do you know where we can find one?” they asked.

The man working the cart looked like he didn’t know what to say. “Um, I mean, I can sell you a hotdog. Yeah. Sure.” Clearly he didn’t get the point.

“No, no, I mean like a real New York City hotdog, you know. Is there, like, a famous restaurant?”

Clearly they thought an NYC hotdog was something illustrious; a special thing, much more extraordinary than what’s sold on the street by a grouchy old man who speaks little English. But no, the NYC hotdog was right there in front of them. Somehow the pursuit of a hotdog was the perfect parallel to my own disillusionment with the city and subsequent unhappiness. But things are much better now that I’ve gotten a more realistic perspective. The city isn’t really the place of romance movies and shows about real housewives. It’s a gritty place that can really beat you down. But it is also home to so many things I care about and want in my life, particularly art. At the end of the day, I’m glad to be living here.

But as glad as I am to be here for now, I realize I might not want to make this the last stop. I recently visited my friends back home and spent a day with a friend who teaches guitar in Charlotte. For a city of its size, Charlotte has a very vibrant art scene. Though the North Carolina Dance Theater isn’t the New York City Ballet and the Charlotte Symphony is no New York Phil, the performances are of a very high caliber, and the patrons are just as enthusiastic as they are up here. But what I was really struck by was how easily my friend has gotten himself going down the path to success in music. He teaches in a variety of styles, performs, and collaborates as much as he wants to and earns enough money in the process. Plus, his place is way nicer than mine, and he pays half as much. Since graduating and immediately moving to the city I had been stuck in the “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere” mindset, but after that day in Charlotte I’m thinking the opposite may be true. After months of applying to jobs and looking for students with no luck, I’m thinking that if I really want to make it, I should turn my sights south.

There are things that I know I’ll miss and won’t ever see in the South, though. Every single concert I’ve seen here has made a deep impression on me that does affirm one thing that I had always heard about the city: it is, perhaps, the arts capital of the world. Working on the same campus as the NY Phil, hearing music at Birdland and the Vanguard-- venues that my idols played and recorded at-- has made me feel alive in a new way. Sitting but a few feet away from some of my favorite musicians as they do their thing and knowing that I’m in one of the few places on Earth where I could have such an experience has left me very inspiring memories. Even when dealing with the crap that often comes with city life, I can think back on these concerts and remember why I came up here and why it has all been worth it.

Having a mentor to experience all of this with has been phenomenal, and following him into schools to study his craft has been invaluable. The flamenco music lessons were a chance to see the non-private side of teaching and discover what it takes to engage a room full of kids instead of just one. It also prepared me to develop chops as a disciplinarian and order-keeper. Plus, I got to engage people with my guitar in a new way by demonstrating flamenco techniques for wide-eyed second-graders.

Patrick reaffirmed what I had learned over Phase One: that a work of art is an inexhaustible resource for discovery. No point of view is more correct than another; no answer is enough to put an end to more questioning. Whether visiting second-graders or college students, Patrick knew how deep the classes were capable of going into a unit of study and created activities to draw them out of their shells and create their own art to share with the class.

Everything he did started on the smallest level. Before diving into an activity where students clapped rhythms, he had them simply look at their hands. Then they felt their pulses. Then they finally started to clap, keeping time with their own heartbeats. When it came time to lead noticings, Patrick knew exactly which questions to ask. Sometimes he knew that he was waiting to hear a specific answer that would lead him into the next activity, but he never gave it away. He just invited the students to explore more deeply until the found the answer themselves. This is what I’ll remember as the core of what a teaching artist is about. While they do lots of straightforward teaching, they are more interested in what they can lead the students to discover for themselves.

That is a big way that I can see LCI’s philosophy affecting my own teaching. My teacher in college was always especially good at not giving students the answers but using questions to see if we had actually retained anything. LCI takes questioning to a whole new level. As tactfully as questions were used in my lessons with my teacher, they were used to arrive at an answer that would be right or wrong. Aesthetic Education isn’t interested in right or wrong. The student’s engagement with the subject and his or her willingness to explore all possibilities contained within the subject without fear of being wrong is the goal.

I hope to lead my own students down a similar road when I teach private guitar lessons, and I hope to adopt a similar mindset in my practice. There have been plenty of times when I’ve thought about an unconventional way to interpret something in a piece. Maybe I want to slow down unexpectedly or suddenly change the quality of my tone. But even if I get so far as to actually play these ideas in the practice room and not just hear them in my head, I very rarely play them in performances. I’m too worried about the audience or my teacher deciding my ideas are wrong. I need to realize what is really at stake, though: opportunities to learn. What’s worse: that a small section in a piece strikes people as unusual, or missing an opportunity to make discoveries? Bringing a spirit of exploration to my practice, learning to see the potential in even the smallest aspects of a big picture-- I want that to be my new default setting as I move forward. I feel like if I never get to be a teaching artist or otherwise apply the educational tools I’ve picked up here, I will still have come away with something remarkable if I can just hold on to that mindset.

As this Fellowship nears its end and I strongly consider the possibility of leaving the city, I think about all that I’ve gained through this Fellowship. I think about my upcoming artistic project and what an exciting opportunity that is. And as I think that a lot of opportunities that exist for me up here could also be found in a city I’m more fond of, I do know for sure that I won’t find anything quite like the Kenan experience again. My most sincere thanks go out to the Kenan Trust, Jose and Melissa, Patrick, and my fellow Fellows for making the past six months what they have been and for what they’ll bring to Phase Three. While I’m not sure where I’m going to end up once this is all over with, I know that this experience is something I’ll be carrying with me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hannah Emerson: Reflections on Phase II of the Fellowship

As they neared the completion of Phase II of the Kenan Fellowship, each Fellow was posed three questions by their teaching artist mentor. Here, Hannah responds to the questions from her mentor, Lynn.

How has your understanding of Aesthetic Education changed from your first introduction to the Lincoln Center Institute’s methodologies during Summer Season, through the planning processes and observing teaching in the classroom in a variety of settings, to leading activities in the classroom? How has this impacted your understanding of arts education?

Before the Fellowship, if terribly persistent, I could speak, with a bit of hesitation, as you might expect, a probable maximum of five minutes about Aesthetic Education, and that’s only due to my awfully proficient researching skills. However, at the same time, I did speak with confident ease on the subject of learning about Aesthetic Education, specifically my thriving curiosity in the practices of Lincoln Center Institute.

I distinctly remember my introduction to the Capacities for Imaginative Learning, all ten of them. The words were familiar; although, at the moment, comprehending how to create the concepts of Questioning, Living with Ambiguity, and Creating Meaning into active forms appeared foreign. Each Capacity is intricate on its own, and when attempted as a group, I found myself up a creek with many paddles to keep track of. Needing to swim a few strokes back and direct my focus on a couple at a time, I realized I already practiced numerous, if not all, Capacities in some form or another.

While assisting and observing Lynn, both in the planning sessions and classroom lessons, I began formulating a clearer idea of why Lincoln Center Institute is confident in their methodology. I never saw LCI’s philosophy as fabricated; nonetheless, while reflecting I find a bit of under-confidence in its affluence. Spending time in the classrooms, watching the students and the teachers unfasten their imaginations, I experienced the benefits first-hand and grew an affection for this practice.

Just last week, I took my first stab at facilitating parts of the classroom lesson. I appreciated jumping into the mix, steering the wagon for a bit. The control was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time, and when I itched for a bit of guidance, I managed to send visual cues in Lynn’s direction. Needless to say, she was consistently there to give support.

Do I feel leading parts of the activities increases my understanding of Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophy? Undoubtedly. Actively involved, with an emphasis on active, is where my learning thrives. Would I say I completely understand every element of the Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophy on aesthetic education? No, I would not. But I will and can say I am a work-in-understanding-process. I am in-process of meditating over the means of LCI-land, watching my knowledge and understanding bloom. Captivated by just how captivating the experience can be impacts my understanding of arts education. Overall, I am noticing how much I yearn to understand education, how much I want to absorb, how many inquiries I continue to have. I understand my understanding of arts education is minimal and I understand I never want to stop growing the minimal until it reaches its absolute maximum.

What are you discovering about your own artistic process, the collaborative process, and the business of producing your own work through your sponsored artistic project?

At this point in time, my sponsored artistic project has more than graciously provided me with newfangled information. Not only re-acknowledging my ever-present particular appreciation for the “process”, I managed to conveniently uncover what I am currently referring to as, my formidable fear of the “product”.

Smashingly impassioned, the rehearsals are always a merriment. I am constantly re-learning how to trust myself, to let things unfold, and accept the reason behind not staying bound to unhealthy forecasts of predefined products. I am noticing how instantaneously I embody stress due to distorted perceptions of expectations. Even if it’s relatively different from my initial hypothesis, I’m learning to discern what is not working so I can take action and move in a more satisfying direction. I also find it interesting how very much I benefit from the constant support available when collaborating. Instead of feeling hindered, frustrated, bound, or restrained by my inability to control all aspects of the piece, I’m surprising myself and am actually finding more breath, recognizing I have the pleasure of another equally invested and intrigued artist beside me. Incessantly sharing my excitement with Lizzy is fulfilling and when I am having a down day; she provides the support I need, and I am always more than willing to return the solace.

In terms of producing my own work, I am realizing how I do adore it. Overall, this experience is a first on many levels. First co-production, first artistic proposal, first press release, first postcard, first scheduling, first budget, first piece much longer than 6 minutes. Other than unceasingly familiarizing myself with the grounds I need to cover when producing work, I’m re-recognizing my love for creating which managed to slither away so quickly after turning my head for just a moment in a different direction. Thank goodness my internal compass re-calibrated without delay.

During the Fellowship, you’ve been exploring and learning about the dance community in New York City through attending performances in a wide array of venues, attending The Bessie Awards, taking classes at various studios, connecting with other UNCSA alumnae and meeting new people. What is your current view of yourself within this community, and how do you envision yourself within this community in several years? If you decide to remain in New York, what would you like to achieve in, say, 5 years, and what steps might you need to take to do so?

When I look at my relationship to the dance community of New York City, I tend to visualize myself in shoes very similar to the new kid’s at school. Still learning my way around, I am unsure where everything is, who the teachers are and how they teach. I’m observing the cliques, seeing who supports who, who I want to work with and who can help me with my work. If the dance community was a small city, I find myself currently located on the outskirts. I am habitually meeting new people, running into faces I’ve met before and re-introducing myself while engaged in a small chat about how things are going. Even though I’m constantly roaming around, I feel, possibly, until I perform and present work in February, I will still be a complete mystery in the eyes of my new comrades. After February, I hope a layer or two of abstruse will peel its way off my skin.

What do I esteem to achieve in 5 years? Personally, I think that’s a heavy question. Until recently, I found it nearly impossible to tell anyone my desired accomplishments in 5 years’ time. I was, and at times still can be, the girl who always revoked five-year plans. I saw them as unrealistic; how can I possibly know where I will be in five years?, I remarked. I change my mind daily just by gaining small doses of new knowledge; therefore, how can I say what I want to do in the coming year is what I will want to do in five years. For me, to answer this question, I am first going to notate the difference I see between five-year plans and five-year intentions. In my mind, the word plan carries more absolute in its definition when compared to intention. If I intend to do something, try my hardest, and failure comes, I have a more suitable time dealing with the emotional aftermath. Lucky for me, as I write this reflection, I’m finding the true reason why I am against five-year plans; very much related to my fear of product is my fear of not meeting expectations. I always thought, once I put my plan out there, unrolled it on the table, I set up expectations and opened possibilities of disappointing not just myself but also my companions. As I start to let go of my need to please, I am going to share my five-year intention, or at least a piece of it. I, Hannah, see myself as an active member of the dance community in New York City in the next 5 years and, among many other thrilling activities, I will be performing, choreographing, and striving to make art a more indispensable component of education. In five years, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Elizabeth Moore: Reflections on Phase II of the Fellowship

As they neared the completion of Phase II of the Kenan Fellowship, each Fellow was posed three questions by their teaching artist mentor. Here, Elizabeth responds to the questions from her mentor, Lisa.

1. Describe your LCI in-school classroom presentations. Explain the challenges you faced and how you overcame some of your personal obstacles. How did your experience affect your perspective on teaching artist work, and its relation to your own future career plans?

2. In what ways has your AE experience as a Kenan Fellow changed or affected your final project and your artistic perspective? In what ways has it affected your practice as a teacher and your practice as a violist?

3. Revisit the following resources: Maxine Greene’s Variations on a Blue Guitar, John Dewey’s Art as Experience and Eric Booth’s The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible. Choose some excerpts that are meaningful as you near the completion of your LCI Fellowship and explain why they resonate with you.

I have always liked lists and always felt best with a clear plan. Life does not generally comply with my desire for order, and I find myself faced more often with options than answers. Possibilities rather than a plan. Yes, these things do have a positive ring to them, but it has taken time for them to incite hope rather than a fear of the unknown in me. What I am beginning to realize is that in every aspect of my life, planning and improvisation go hand in hand. The one supports the other. Careful planning and preparation lead to opportunities, and in the wake of opportunity come options and the necessity to think on your feet. This may seem like an observation of the obvious, but as we rush through our daily lives we often times overlook such things. It is only when taking time to reflect that we connect the dots and become conscious of certain truths. The Kenan Fellowship at LCI has not only taught me the importance of reflection but has given me the tools and opportunity to do just that.

There is a tremendous amount of planning and preparation that goes into teaching. There is also a great deal of improvisation that will inevitably occur when plans are put into action. As I began the Kenan Fellowship at LCI I was aware of both of these aspects. I was comfortable with only one. As I began working with my Teaching Artist mentor Lisa in preparation for our school visits, I learned new strategies and methods of preparing and organizing before teaching. Lisa took a hands-on approach to initiating me in the ways of lesson plan writing, and before I knew quite what I was doing I found myself creating one. There was much revision necessary. Lisa provided constant feedback and collaboration, but much faster than I anticipated, I had a good idea of what goes into planning for an in-school lesson. One way to look at it is that if you are over-planning, you are on the right track. By this I mean that you probably will not end up using the entirety of your lesson plan as inevitably things take longer than planned. As each group of students is different, this leaves room for adjustments while still remaining true to the overarching goals of the lesson plan. This has already impacted the way I think about and plan for my private students’ lessons. A great deal of learning took place for me in this first area, but it was when putting these plans into action in the classroom that I truly stepped out of my comfort zone.

Having the opportunity to observe TAs in action has been a tremendously valuable learning experience for me. My experiences with Lisa in the classroom and leading activities myself are already affecting the way I teach my private music students and will surely continue to do so. Even though I came to LCI with previous experience in teaching, most of that was one on one with private students. Teaching to a room full of children was a new and daunting challenge for me. What I began to realize is that as I led the same activity with each different group of students, the particulars of the activity seemed naturally to invite change. What I needed to do was tune into what was particular about the group at hand and guide the activity in a direction that would be personally meaningful to them. Sometimes it was as straightforward as picking up on a connection a student made themselves and building on the link, and other times more delicate, as when students seemed disengaged. A connection to them had to be found to regain their attention. I cannot say that I mastered the art of this in out few in-school visits, but I am becoming more aware of these moments of personal connection, excitement or disengagement, and am becoming better equipped to respond to them.

Developing a rapport with the classroom teachers was something I had given little thought to before our first school visit, but the importance of this became immediately evident. With often much time between visits, it is extremely helpful if the teacher can keep the momentum going. It also eases the burden of keeping a class in line and engaged when the teacher shows enthusiasm and commitment to what is being explored. Having seen extremes in this area while working with Lisa this fall, I can say with out doubt that the level of commitment shown by the classroom teacher has a serious impact on the students’ experience as a whole. In my private teaching I can easily translate this to developing a rapport with my student’s parent(s). Just as with a TA’s school visits, there is generally a week’s time between lessons when the the student is expected to practice what we have been working on in our lessons. Especially for children of a young age, it is important to have the commitment of the parent as well as the student and to communicate with them about how to aid in their child’s practicing. This is an example of one of the many parts of teaching that are becoming clearer and more intentional due in large part to my experiences at LCI over the course of the Fellowship.

I have to admit that before I started at Lincoln Center Institute my understanding of Teaching Artistry as a field was rather fuzzy. I was aware that various arts programs around the country employed these Teaching Artists in varying numbers and were active in bringing arts awareness to students. That was about it. I had never considered it as a career option, mainly because it had never been presented as such. As becoming a Teaching Artist as a profession is still a recent development, this is not surprising. It is however unfortunate that more young musicians, and artists in general, are not aware of the field. Now that I have been exposed to what the TAs at LCI do and have an idea of the field’s potential, I definitely consider becoming a Teaching Artist an option I may explore in the future. I say this in such vague terms only because I consider it something that requires more experience than I yet have. It is, however, something I am very interested in and believe to be a powerful way of promoting the arts to future generations; something I feel is the concern of all artists.

There is no doubt in my mind that a single aspect of either my musical or personal life have escaped my experience at LCI unchanged. As I continue to mention, my teaching has been forever altered by LCI’s philosophy of aesthetic education and my experiences working with a TA. I am also beginning to notice changes in my playing. Although barely apparent in my day-to-day practicing, as I rehearse in preparation for an upcoming recital I am starting to notice a looseness and freedom in my playing that was previously missing. I believe it to be mainly a result of the changed way in which I listen to my own playing. I think the biggest change is that I am atempting to listen outside myself. I ask myself more, “What is it I want to share with my audience through this piece?” In asking and attempting to answer questions such as this, I have begun to bring a playfulness to my playing that was previously absent. This is an exciting development to me and one that I imagine will continue growing with the employment of the 10 Capacities for Imaginative Learning as well as other LCI practices in my professional and personal life.

"'Education,' as I view it, is a process of enabling persons to become different, to enter the multiple provinces of meaning that create perspectives on the works (of art)."  - Maxine Greene, Variations On A Blue Guitar

Within moments of beginning to revisit Maxine Greens’s Variations on a Blue Guitar, I came across this sentence, and as I continued to read it stuck with me. It made me think back to my school visits on Long Island with Lisa, and in particular to the moments of difficulty. It is in those instances of difficulty when attempting to connect with students, those times of struggle when the material you are presenting seems just too strange or foreign for your students to open up to, that I am assured that TAs, and artists in general, are needed in our schools and the extracurricular activities of young people more than ever. For as funding for arts programs in this country is cut, so is the breadth of the next generation’s education. To my mind there is a frightening amount of homogenization occurring in public schools. Teachers are expected to teach to the test and for the most part ask questions that require nothing more than regurgitated information. With this as the extent of education in our country, to what extent are students able to come forth with their own developed individual identities? There are many classroom teachers and community arts teachers that go above and beyond, making all the difference in expanding many young people’s world views. Having myself been gifted with an education rich with inspiring role models who have constantly expanded my range of experience, I feel almost as if I owe it to them to aid in the perpetuation of true curiosity and joy in learning. Perhaps the most important thing I will take away from working with LCI’s TAs is that being a good teacher is much more than passing on information. It is also about inspiring your students to ask questions about the world around them, and to greet new information and experiences with an open and inquisitive mind.

“The understanding of art and of its role in civilization is not furthered by setting out with eulogies of it nor by occupying ourselves exclusively at the outset with great works of art recognized as such. The comprehension which theory essays will be arrived at by detour; by going back to experience of common or mill run of things to discover the esthetic quality such experience possesses.”  - John Dewey, Art As Experience

What is the point at which it becomes a hindrance rather than help to artists and their fields to put their work on a pedestal? With the gentrification of an art form there are certain perils. As one audience is developed, another is lost as the price of performances rise out of their reach. Over time, as access becomes limited, experiences with certain music, dance, theatre, etc. are not had, and before long, if even presented with the opportunity to attend a performance, the experience no longer seems relevant. The concert hall is a foreign and uncomfortable world, with etiquette unknown. The solution to this problem is no simple one, but at its most fundamental level, it is again with education and broadened experience at a young age that the biggest difference can be made. No matter what turns my professional life takes, I intend to always keep teaching in some form as part of my life.

“Art happens outside of what you already know. Inherent in the artistic experience is the capacity to expand your sense of the way the world is or might be.”  - Eric Booth, The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible

Reading Eric Booth’s book, The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible at the end of the Fellowship is wonderful. It is both insightful and inspiring in its view of the Teaching Artist’s role in promoting and teaching the arts in 21st century America. It has helped me make connections as I reflect on my own experiences at LCI and in working with Teaching Artists. Even though practically everyone finds some form of art an enjoyable part of their life, there is still an overwhelming opinion that the arts do not meaningfully contribute to society. Arts programs and organizations find themselves time and again having to justify themselves when the evidence of their worth surrounds us. What else takes our existence and turns it into civilization to such an extent? Art in all its creative, imaginative glory has an irreplaceable power that I have never believed stronger than I do now as I reflect on my learning experience over the course of the Fellowship at LCI.