Saturday, September 04, 2010

Arts in Education: Got a Moment?

(Written for the Walker School's 2010-2011 fine arts brochure, to be handed out for performances all year long, by yours truly, as Middle School Fine Arts Chair,)

Before the performance, please take a moment to wonder at the time our students took to prepare for it.  

For you, it’ll be over in the next hour or two.  For the young artists, each minute took nearly an hour of practice.     Ten minutes or so was enough to memorize a minute of dialogue, more than enough to learn a tune; so what did they do with the remainder of each hour?  

For instrumentalists and singers, the notes are just raw material to be shaped.   Learning how to color the tone, to connect notes as a phrase, to move a phrase towards the next turning point in the piece – learning how music does make turns and climaxes –  that all takes time, first for discovery, then for practice.   When every musician has done that much, it remains for their teacher to blend their tones and phrasing with everyone else’s.     Thank you, Sonya Peebles, Erik Kofoed, Todd Motter, Samantha Walker, and Chris Johnson!

A play is, to a script, what a visit to the Grand Canyon is to the map of Arizona.   The script prints what characters say, but actors have to make us know what characters think.  We drama teachers – Regena Simpson, Patty Mozley, Katie Arjona, and I – won’t settle for imitations and stereotypes.  We keep our actors digging into the script and their own life experience until characters look, sound, and respond as real people.  Besides all that, there are dozens more hours of work done backstage to create the looks and sounds of an imaginary world, thanks to Bill Schreiner, Matt Eisenman, and Richard Gibson, and the students who help with design and production.    

Coming here today, you passed by students’ art work, pieces that took hours to make.   An artist who tries to depict an object, or to use a certain medium in a certain way, has so many questions to answer.  Where will I focus the viewer’s gaze?  How?  What color, shade, texture, position, or angle will convey the feeling I choose?  All of our art teachers from Pre-K to A.P.  – Kimberly Nasca, Sherry Walker-Taylor, Philippa Anderson, and Laura Stewart -- use their time to help each student discover a distinctive personal approach.

Finally, as I finish this note, I know that it will fit into an elegant publication produced at great expense of time by a group of parents who support young artists and their teachers in all the work I’ve described.    These Patrons of the Arts know that hours deeply engaged in the arts can lead to a moment of clarity and discovery, remembered for a lifetime. 

Enjoy such moments of your next hour, and come back again for more!

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