All posts by Rodrigo Guerrero

Amplify Grantees Honored at State House

Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez speaking at Amplify reception in the State HouseOn May 3, Mass Cultural Council partnered with 15 organizations across the state to bring youth voice to the Massachusetts State House, and celebrate the young leaders who are recipients of this year’s Amplify grants.

Framed by Andrine Pierre-Saint’s thrilling spoken word piece and introspective chamber music performance by Neighborhood Strings, the day brought Representatives Christine Barber, Paul Donato, and Jeffrey Sánchez to celebrate culture’s capacity to empower, elevate, and connect, magnified tenfold by the young performers, activists,  and leaders present.

Amongst congratulations and applause, Rep. Sánchez said, ”To see you here and to see the power of what Mass Cultural Council is doing with state resources is dramatic to me… I see what it’s doing, it’s giving all of you a voice.”

Información del evento de ‘Amplify’ en Español.

Maestro José Antonio Abreu: A Tribute

Boston String Academy (BSA), a Mass Cultural Council grantee, is inspired by El Sistema. BSA provides after school string programs for inner-city young students, offering high quality string instrument instruction, using standards that will give them the necessary skills to build a strong foundation in their musical growth. Those who believe in the power of music in the lives of children lost a vital voice this week with the death of Maestro José Antonio Abreu. We mark the passing of this visionary, who inspired not only our commitment to his El Sistema model of music education, but to our broader investment in exceptional creative youth development programs serving kids across the Commonwealth.

It may seem odd that the work Maestro Abreu began more than four decades ago in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Caracas, Venezuela, has taken hold so firmly here in Massachusetts, a global education leader. The sad reality, though, is that too many of our own children in poor communities and neighborhoods are denied the joy and inspiration that comes from learning music in the company of excellent teachers and artists.

That is why Mass Cultural Council became of the first public funder of El Sistema-inspired work in the United States. It’s why one of us traveled twice to Venezuela to study this education model in real time, and why the other—a student, friend, and mentee of the Maestro Abreu—relocated from Venezuela to nurture the seeds of El Sistema work here in Massachusetts. We now invest in 18 SerHacer music programs that engage young people in music, and another 60 creative youth development programs that do the same work through other disciplines. In 2014 the Boston Globe wrote that “SerHacer is a model not only for music education, or even arts education, but of an approach to weave underserved kids more tightly into the social fabric and have a lasting impact on everything from educational achievement to future career paths.” And last year, we received further affirmation with the first US grant from a Foundation begun by another Abreu protégé, Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra.

“We hasten towards the encounter with music, not only in concert halls, but in people and things of everyday living, against the perfidious use of leisure, against drugs and violence, promoting at the same time the access of the least fortunate towards aesthetical formation and the life of arts,” Maestro Abreu once wrote. “Material poverty will be ultimately defeated by the sublime wealth that spawns from and within music. Social justice and cultural justice constitute two halves of a single, indivisible dimension…”

That clarion call for art to serve our highest aspirations as a culture rings as true today in Boston, Holyoke, and Lawrence, as it did in Caracas in 1975.

Maestro Abreu has transformed the lives of millions of young people around the world through the power of music. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and the countless artists he has inspired, and take comfort knowing that his legacy lives on in Massachusetts and around the world.

Anita Walker
Executive Director

Rodrigo Guerrero
Creative Youth Development Program Manager

Announcing 2018 Amplify Grants

For the third year in a row, Mass Cultural Council is proud to award 15 Amplify grants totaling $15,000 to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding, furthering the Commonwealth’s investment in youth leadership and empowerment.

This year the Amplify process not only encouraged young people to design and lead their own projects for their communities’ benefit, but also included young people and program alums into the evaluation panel. This unique panel worked with impeccable professionalism to ensure that proposed projects had the right balance of quality, innovation, and youth involvement, and thrived in the opportunity to have a voice in how these funds are helping programs across the state.

2018 Amplify panelists: (Left to right) Gladys Hidalgo, Raw Art Works; Rachel Cummings, Express Yourself; Corey DePina, Zumix; Raquel Navarro, Sociedad Latina; and Marquis Victor, Elevated Thought. With Shaneez Tyndall, Mass Cultural Council.Thanks to our 2018 Amplify panelists: (Left to right) Gladys Hidalgo, Raw Art Works; Rachel Cummings, Express Yourself; Corey DePina, Zumix; Raquel Navarro, Sociedad Latina; and Marquis Victor, Elevated Thought. With Shaneez Tyndall, Mass Cultural Council.

2018 Amplify Grant Recipients

BALLET ROX
A conceptual dance project demonstrating and addressing social issues present among young teens such as bullying, body image, and cultural differences. The dance will be performed at the Wake up the Earth Festival and Dance for World community.

BIRD STREET COMMUNITY CENTER
Youth will experience a career exploration of the fashion field learning how to create and put on their own photo shoots, design and construct custom made clothing using fabric materials and equipment, and publish a magazine highlighting their efforts and successes throughout the year.

BOOKS OF HOPE
Teen facilitator Andrine will plan the curriculum through 2017-2018 and execute monthly lessons and a series of creative writing workshops for teens and preteens in coordination with Books of Hope and Mystic Learning Center staff and administration.

BOSTON CITY SINGERS
Through music and illustration, the tour choir will compose works of art that visualize ‘what music means to me.’ Members will use various mediums to personalize their work which will be presented to the choir, photographed and made into a banner which will be displayed at local cafes, Boston Public Library Dorchester, and the Strand Theater.

CLUBHOUSE NETWORK
Through a series of hands-on workshops, students will use Vocaloid – a software program which enables users to synthesize “singing” – to learn about vocal synthesis, music production, animation, and creative collaboration through the creation of original songs and music videos.

COMMUNITY ART CENTER
Students will create the Port Art blog to document stories, articles, videos, updates, and personal podcasts focusing on two community needs – the important role of arts in Cambridge and youth voice. The blog plans to engage 150 teen contributors.

ELEVATED THOUGHT
Falling under Elevated Thought’s ‘Nature of Home’ focus, the documentary project ‘Immigrant Narratives’ will capture immigration stories of members of the community. Stories will come to life through camera interviews, photography, and interpretation of these narratives through poetry.

ENCHANTED CIRCLE THEATER
Designed by leaders of the Youth Truth performance ensemble, ‘Sharing our Truth’ is an abbreviated performance of the Youth Truth script. The project will spread awareness of teens experiencing out of home care and teach peers how to support these students.

GROUNDWORK LAWRENCE
Using the Storytelling Project Curriculum created by Columbia University, students will learn about race and racism and consider how diverse stories can make a difference. Each student will share positive personal stories of living in Lawrence and redefine the media’s narrative on the Lawrence community through art, writing, and performance.

HYDE SQUARE TASK FORCE
Ritmo en Accion youth leaders will collaborate with the music and theatre youth teams to adapt Afro-Latin folktales into a public performance to share with the community. Students will work with project scholar Dr. Lorna Rivera and other content specific experts to ensure the authenticity and relevance of the dance to the folktale’s culture of origin.

KIDS 4 HARMONY
Students will perform original compositions along with accompanying visual and written components guided by the theme of “The Berkshires” in which students will explore a location, event, or feeling associated with living in the Berkshires.

NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM
Apprentices will create an exhibition at the Museum focusing on New Bedford’s first black photographer, James E. Reed. Students will explore who James was, learn about the history and business of photography and explore the history of the city of New Bedford through the eyes of the photographer. The final exhibition will showcase original work by the apprentices as well as provide access to materials in the Museum’s collection including the original cameras, backdrops and photographs of James E. Reed.

PROVINCETOWN ART ASSOCIATION & MUSEUM (PAAM)
Five workshops taught by 10 current Art Reach student-artists with focuses on dry point etching, painting, color theory, writing and character development, and life drawing will be presented to the public over the weekend of May 12-13, 2018. This is an intergenerational project allowing Art Reach students to showcase lessons from PAAM and an opportunity for adults to learn from the younger generation. The project will provide income to student teachers for curriculum planning and teaching/co-teaching as well as a platform for creative leadership in the community.

WORCESTER YOUTH CENTER
Students will work with an artist to explore social justice issues and design a mural for the WYC building in a 7-week creative expression program. A culminating event will be held in which youth and the community will paint the mural over a recently demolished portion of the WYC building.

WORCESTER CHAMBER MUSIC
Students will have the opportunity to work in a studio to record chamber music which can be streamed online and visit WCATV to talk about the program and perform live on television. This project will bring classical music to populations who don’t normally hear or have access to it (i.e. nursing homes).

Mass Cultural Council Convenes International CYD Leaders

International CYD Leaders at Boston ConveningIn July, as part of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership’s stakeholders’ meeting, Mass Cultural Council took the opportunity to host a cohort of international guests to spark a conversation on how the field of practice looks around the world.

With a varied roster of national and local agencies, educators, artists, and academia from South Korea, Scotland, India, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand, our guests participated actively in the first two days of the national meeting, getting to know their colleagues and their programs but most importantly our young people, their needs, and their capacity.

After the national convening was over, our international cohort met to distill the findings of the previous days. Led by veteran teaching artist Eric Booth, we engaged in an incredibly fertile conversation, in which different models and approaches were presented, all unified by the importance of empowering young people and nurturing creativity as an integral part of our communities. The richness and diversity helped us prove that the work of Creative Youth Development occurs in a myriad ways, and opened up a larger conversation in finding opportunities to better support it.

We are grateful to have connected with these distinguished guests and thank them  for their outstanding participation and contribution to this gathering:

Mass Cultural Council is committed to continuing these conversations, and in them, we are hoping to bring in as many of our grantees as possible, showcasing them as examples of excellent practice, and always looking for ways to improve our capacity in this exciting field of practice.

Hyde Square Task Force Youth Writes Musical for Boston’s Latin Quarter

A young woman and young man sing and hold hands facing one another outside on a sunny day. Image by Mark Saperstein.

Couple is singing and holding hands to the left of the frame, while a crowd of mostly standing onlookers watches their performance on the right side of the frame. Image by Jessica Guzman.This year for the first time ever, and with support from Mass Cultural Council’s Amplify grant, Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) youth and staff undertook the immense challenge of co-writing and co-producing an original musical.

What came out of that process was El Barrio: Boston’s Latin Quarter, an interactive show featuring the stories of countless immigrants and hard working families that have contributed to the fabric of the community in the Hyde/Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.

 

“My name is Orlando and I’ll try to say it slow

Puerto Rican boy and my flow runs this show

Raised without a father, just me and my brother and my mother

who every day just keep getting stronger.”

Orlando is a is one of the lead character  and was played by Victor, one of HSTF’s youth dancers.

In a true show of Amplify’s  spirit, Victor and his peers from HSTF’s Ritmo en Acción Afro-Latin dance team co-choreographed original pieces for the musical, derived from bachata, merengue, salsa, and Latin-infused hip-hop. For the first time, Ritmo dancers collaborated extensively with their peers on the Music and Theater teams to produce this musical, using their neighborhood as a moving stage. Ritmo dancers, working with Program Coordinator Audrey Guerrero and Resident Artist Angeline Egea, choreographed steps to original songs written and performed by youth musicians, and followed stage direction and cues from youth on the Theater team.

Young man singing in Hyde Square Task Force's El Barrio! musical. Photo by Jessica Guzman.Hundreds of community members took part in matinee and evening performances, traveling through the show with performers. Through dance and through the arts, this young group shared the history of their community, while growing outside of their primary artistic disciplines and leading this exuberant demonstration of the power of creative youth development. HSTF youth and staff eagerly await the next opportunity to showcase the stories, values, and potential that defines their community.

See more photos from El Barrio: Boston’s Latin Quarter Musical.

Youth Voice Amplified at State House Celebration

Last month, we gathered young people, educators, and leaders from creative youth development programs, and their legislators at the State House to celebrate our Amplify grant recipients.

Now in its second year, Amplify has funded 27 projects designed and executed by young people in programs currently supported by our YouthReach and SerHacer programs. The grants support the creation of work by young people in the arts, sciences, or humanities that demonstrates the capacity they have to be visible and audible participants in developing safe and thriving communities throughout the Commonwealth.​

A young filmmaker from the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Xavier Harvey, described the experience of being an Amplify grantee as “innovation, inspiration, and motivation”:

Amplify grant recipient Boston City Singers shared their voice:

And Marquis Victor, President and Executive Director of Elevated Thought in Lawrence, spoke with passion and poetry.

Legislators were on hand to congratulate the youth leaders, including Senator Adam Hinds, Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

“I’m so glad that you are stepping up in helping your communities, and I want you to know that in this building you’ve got a bunch of people who are going to get your back, and make sure that you can keep doing that,” he said.

Gustavo Dudamel Lectures at Harvard University

In November, as part of a series of Lectures at Harvard University called “the Creative Class”, students from both the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and the Longy Sistema Side-by-Side orchestra had the opportunity to work with the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel.

In a sit-down conversation with LA Phil CEO Deborah Borda, Dudamel spoke at length of his experience as young Venezuelan musician in El Sistema (Venezuela’s Youth Orchestras and Choirs Program), and his commitment to support music education as an opportunity to develop creative potential, and develop the critical learning and life skills young people need to become active contributors to their communities.

To this end, besides his continued engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel has championed the creation of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) with the LA Phil and its community partners to provide free instruments and intensive music training to students from underserved neighborhoods, empowering them to become vital citizens, leaders, and agents of change.

Dudamel pointed out the proliferation of Sistema inspired initiatives in the United States, specifically the high concentration of them in Massachusetts, where eighteen programs like these receive support from the MCC through its SerHacer grants.

In recognition of his artistic conscience and commitment as a music educator,  the young Venezuelan Maestro was awarded Harvard’s Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award at the end of the lecture.

Sonido Musica Performance Honors MLK Day

Boy from Sonido Musica playing the drums This past Monday the MassMutual Center in Springfield resonated with music and dance to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a ceremony framed by tremendous community participation, local and regional dignitaries, and the moving eloquence of Dr. King, 700 young artists took to the stage in a dazzling and colorful celebration.

Performers included members of the Sonido Musica School Partnership programs, which features students from 16 public schools in the city that which receive funding from MCC’s STARS Residencies. Sonido Musica is a program of Community Music School of Springfield, a nonprofit organization that unifies youth of different ages and backgrounds through performing arts education and is the recipient of MCC’s SerHacer funding.

“In light of the uncertainties around race relations and the polarization of various groups who feel marginalized, this celebration reminds us we have the opportunity to engage in simple acts – at school, at work, and in our families – that strengthen our community in the spirit of unity that defines the legacy of Dr. King,” said Ronn Johnson CEO of Martin Luther King, Jr Family Services. “We must all open our ears and open our hearts. When someone says something demeaning, we all have the opportunity to be change agents. The MLK Day Celebration inspires us to celebrate the resiliency of our community.”

Girl from Sonido Musica plays the violin

Images by Dave Roback.

Amplify Grants Awarded to 15 Youth-Led Community Projects

Youth leaders with Elevated Thought in Lawrence, MA

 

 

 

 

This year, 15 Amplify grants totaling $15,000 have been awarded to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding. (See last year’s recipients, too.)

Amplify shines a spotlight on the contributions these young people make to their communities by supporting them directly in creating and publicly sharing their work.

Amplify projects include:

ACTORS’ SHAKESPEARE PROJECT, Boston
To present a documentary film showcasing Massachusetts Department of Youth Services youth artists and the creative process behind their work.

BIRD STREET, Boston
To offer a glass blowing arts program exclusively to teenage boys ages 13 – 18 which will provide the opportunity to design, construct, market, and sell hand-blown glass art.

BOSTON CITY SINGERS, Boston
The Tour Choir Youth Leadership Team will host and perform a concert dedicated to raising funds and awareness to the ongoing refugee crisis and immigration policy reform as it relates to Dorchester while celebrating the diversity of the community.

ELEVATED THOUGHT, Lawrence
To present “This is Where I’m From”, a second installment of short films focused on promoting a positive narrative of Lawrence, MA. A panel discussion aims to change views on the city, highlighting the beauty of a community often overshadowed by tales of crime and poverty.

EXPRESS YOURSELF, Beverly
Assisted by youth participants, Nick Bennett will create two 5’ x 5′ panels to reflect Express Yourself’s 2017 “SOUL” theme based on character brainstorming sessions.

EXPRESS YOURSELF, Beverly
Express Yourself youth will learn basic origami folding technique to create modular pieces for a large outdoor installation bringing art to the public and business community while highlighting their artistic voices.

HYDE SQUARE TASK FORCE, Boston
Ritmo en Acción’s Afro-Latin Music and Theatre Arts mastery teams will collaborate to create an original musical about the unique Boston Latin Quarter community.

MULTI-ARTS, INC., Hadley
Musica Franklin’s Project Helpful will create bus signs for six routes in Greenfield, Sunderland, Montague, Northampton, and Charlemont to raise awareness about bullying, how to respond, and how to prevent it.

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE, Boston
Youth-led, bi-weekly science themed workshops will offer hands-on activities, a short talk from a guest speaker and a visit to relevant exhibits within the Museum. Post activities, participants will draw and interpret what they saw during their experiments.

MYSTIC LEARNING CENTER, Somerville
Published youth author Andrine Pierresaint will host a monthly series of creative writing workshops for a group of pre-teens at the Mystic Learning Center. Workshops will culminate with an anthology of the participants’ work.

PERFORMANCE PROJECT, Springfield
To create an information pamphlet about mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline in support of the stories and scenes in the show “Tenderness”. The hope is for the pamphlet to be a study guide for high school groups who’ve seen the show and serve as a catalyst for conversations around the topic of mass incarceration.

PERFORMANCE PROJECT, Springfield
An hour long performance about the artistic struggle of female artists from India, Cuba, South Africa, and West Africa and the historical and cultural contexts of their lives. Performances will incorporate interviews, creative writing, music, and dance from each culture.

SOCIEDAD LATINA, Boston
Multidisciplinary art projects (short videos, poems, animations, art) will be used to raise awareness about student-centered learning and its benefits to Latino youth and families in Boston.

WORCESTER CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY, Worcester
Teens from the Neighborhood Strings Club will perform chamber music in three community locations (a women & children’s shelter, a senior center, and Union Station) and create a documentary of their experience and that of their audience.

WORCESTER YOUTH CENTER, Worcester
YouthSpeaks! spoken word café series combines writing workshops (showcasing different themes and styles) with performances. The series encourages youth to explore social justice fundamentals through response to global, local, and individual events.

Mass. Youth Represent at 1st National Take a Stand Festival

Boston String Academy youth concert. Photo courtesy Marielisa and Mariesther Alvarez.Last week,  in New York’s Hudson valley, Bard College hosted the first National Take a Stand Festival, bringing together student-musicians participating in El Sistema-inspired programs from across the country for a 5-day music camp.

The National Take a Stand Festival is provided to students free of charge through a partnership between the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Venezuela’s FundaMusical, Longy School of Music, Aspen Music Festival and School, and Bard College.  For some students, the Festival was their first experience traveling out of state, and gave them the opportunity to collaborate with peers from different parts of the country as they work with exceptional master teachers and musicians on challenging musical repertoire.

Approximately 80 participants, ages 11-17, were selected for the Eastern Festival. (The western states’ Festival was held in Aspen in June.) Twenty-five participants were from Massachusetts, making it the largest delegation from any single state. Most of the Massachusetts students (including 13 from Boston String Academy, whose program is pictured above) also participate in programs supported by MCC’s SerHacer Program.

In addition to its large student contingent, Boston String Academy’s excellence was recognized with the selection of Co-Director Mariesther Alvarez to join the Festival’s roster of 10 Master Teachers who ground both the Western and Eastern Festivals. Co-Director Marielisa Alvarez was also invited to teach at the Eastern Festival.

The El Sistema model originated in Venezuela with the goal of promoting social change and citizenship through music, primarily by providing orchestral music experiences universally.  In its 40 years, El Sistema has inspired thousands of music educators around the world.