Category Archives: META Fellows

Nano-Interview with Sean Elligers of Kids 4 Harmony

Name: Sean Elligers
Organization: Berkshire Children and Families’ Kids 4 Harmony
Title: Teaching Artist
Music Genre: Mostly classical
Years in the field: 9

What do you do at Kids 4 Harmony?
At Kids 4 Harmony, I teach music theory, composition, trumpet, and some string technique to students ranging 3rd to 11th grade. I work with students on various music theory skills (scales, arpeggios, chord structures) and, through collective improvisation or using the notation software, Noteflight, students compose their own music based on those concepts. I also play the role of unofficial photographer for our program.

Why do you do what you do?
My students are incredibly smart, curious, introspective, often (intentionally) hilarious individuals and I feel incredibly fortunate to have developed close connections with them. As someone who thrives on collaborative work, I am instantly swept away and energized by their ideas and am committed to helping them gain access to the tools and knowledge they seek to pursue their compositional and performance ambitions.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Engaging with the students and their families. More specifically, one of my favorite things to do is go to a student’s parent at the end of the program and brag about the new composition that their student has started or how great the student played in orchestra. The students will be the first to tell you that I’m far more excited than they are, but the parents still appreciate it.

What challenges you in this work?
I regret never being able to spend a sufficient amount of time to help each student on their individual compositional projects in class. Despite running around to each student, helping them navigate questions with the software or find that initial spark of inspiration for their piece, it’s frustrating when class ends and there are eight students raising their hands begging you to come listen to their compositions or their revisions. I’m thrilled that they are eager to share but it always burns to tell them they’ll have to wait until next class.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Thanks to Berkshire Children and Families, the social service agency that Kids 4 Harmony is part of, our program is given the support and visibility that has helped us make collaborative relationships with the local schools, colleges, and other arts programs in the Berkshire community. Our families are always generous to share their appreciation for our program and for the opportunities the students are given to perform at these events.

How do you blow off steam?
I chip away at my own compositions, try to make sense of synthesizers, and try to get better at instruments I’m less familiar with, like the violin or accordion.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I drive a lot and I often find myself in a low-stakes crisis of what music I want to listen to. I might pull from a range of artists/genres (Ambrose Akinmusire, Mount Eerie, Bjork) but as of recently, I’ve found myself unexpectedly defaulting to any original soundtrack from SEGA Genesis or Super Nintendo video games.

Do you live with any animals?
I do! Her name is Cammie and she’s a chihuahua mix. True to her breed, she keeps us on our toes: shaking when we come home, shaking when she wants our food and shaking during thunderstorms.

Nano-Interview with Josh Snyder of Sociedad Latina

Josh SnyderName: Josh Snyder
Organization: Sociedad Latina
Title: Manager of Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement
Artistic Genre: Guitar
Years in the field: 5

What do you do at Sociedad Latina?
I oversee all of our arts programming and most recently, am taking on oversight of our health education and civic engagement program. More specifically, we serve 30 high school youth in our after school programming and are aiming to serve 300 students through our in school arts classes and Saturday lessons program.

Why do you do what you do?
Music had been a passion of mine since early middle school, being an adult and able to sustain my life on something I truly love is extremely rewarding. Beyond this, I really enjoy being able to provide tools and resources to young people who are passionate about music as well; having a supportive figure during my early years as an artist was crucial.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
The front line work with students is by far my favorite part of the work I do. When students discover something they enjoy or have never been able to do before, it pushes me to continue to challenge them and provide guidance.

What challenges you in this work?
Admin tasks! I really struggled with sending emails on time, organizing data, and putting together long term plans when I first started. I’ve since remedied this due to the fact that all of these “no fun” pieces allow me to deliver better programming to the youth
we serve.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
To be honest, I can’t speak for what it means to all of the students. My job is to make sure the access is there for them to develop their own artistic vision and ability. Whether its a student on the track for a conservatory, or a weekend living room musician, I treat every student with the same amount of respect and urgency. I hope
they see me, other instructors, and Sociedad Latina as a safe, fun, and challenging space for them to develop.

How do you blow off steam?
Other than playing music with friends, I like to get rid of stress rock climbing. When the weather is good, I’m often in New Hampshire or Western Mass with friends camping and climbing for the weekend. I’ve also has the opportunity to climb in New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Utah.

What do you create in your free time?
I’ve been really inspired lately by solo acoustic guitar pieces. One of my favorite players, Julian Lage, has really pushed me to work harder in this style. I’m trying to get together a full set of repertoire to record a CD of original pieces.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
My supervisor, Juan Maldonado, is someone I’m very inspired by both professionally and musically. His approach to teaching and working with young people commands respect and challenges students to really utilize the time they have in program. Musically, he is a fantastic bass player (among many other instruments) and
composer.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I listen to a lot of jazz, both contemporary and classic, hip hop, R&B, folk, indie, really all styles besides country.

Join Us – META Fellows Showcase on April 4

The Klarman Family Foundation and Mass Cultural Council invite you to the Final Showcase of the Music Educator and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship Program Pilot on Wednesday, April 4. Over the past two years, 46 Fellows from more than 30 schools and non-profit organizations throughout Massachusetts have come together to build a community of practice to enhance the impact of music programs on young people.

At this culminating Showcase, Fellows will share tools and knowledge they have developed to address key challenges and opportunities in the field of music education. These projects build on the group learning the Fellows have done through formal sessions, site visits, and artistic/professional development grants.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 4, 4-6PM
WHERE: Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston
WHO: Teaching artists and music educators, higher education leaders, other key stakeholders involved in youth music training or at local music institutions
PROGRAM:

  • 4-5pm: Reception, Poster Sessions, musical performances by youth
  • 5-6pm: Speaking program

Please RSVP and share this invitation with other educators in your community.

Nano-Interview with Rebecca Frost of Margarita Muñiz Academy

Rebecca FrostName: Rebecca Frost
Organization: Margarita Muñiz Academy
Title: Lead Teacher of El Sistema-Inspired Music Program
Music Genre: Varied Genres – Wind Ensemble
Years in the Field: 9

What do you do at Margarita Muñiz Academy?
I teach instrumental music (wind ensemble) to high school students ranging from beginners to students with 3-4 years of experience.  On a typical day, I coach students in sectionals and/or direct full ensembles.  When in sectionals, I work mostly with woodwind players, while our faculty who specialize in brass and percussion typically work with those sections accordingly.

Why do you do what you do?
Since I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to go into music, and then I fell in love with teaching when I was in college.  I love watching students grow as people and as musicians; their excitement fuels my motivation on a daily basis!  I am also passionate about providing quality music education to students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Teaching beginners.  They are eager to learn and their enthusiasm at every accomplishment fuels their motivation to continue learning more and improving.

What challenges you in this work?
Supporting students through many challenging situations that happen outside of school.  It is hard for me to imagine what many of my students live with on a daily basis – violence, interrupted schooling, language barriers, living in a shelter, or being the primary caretaker at home.  I am constantly wondering how we can better support our students not only as musicians, but as people.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
There is a need for high quality music programs in Boston Public Schools, and the Margarita Muñiz Academy attracts students not only for its dual-language curriculum, but also for its music program.  We also provide opportunities for teaching artists at local universities and music organizations to come in and work with our students, in addition to accepting student teachers from Boston Conservatory/Berklee.  Our students participate in collaborative community events with the El Sistema community, Boston Public Schools community, Charles River Wind Ensemble, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra through their residency program in Jamaica Plain.

What do you create in your free time?
I try to “create” space to relax in and focus on life.  I practice flute regularly and I fill-in as a flautist with various local ensembles.  I also enjoy making modern needlepoint artwork.  I have many of them framed in my apartment, and I make them for friends sometimes too.  I also “create” time to volunteer.  In the past, I have volunteered weekly at a soup kitchen and a senior home; I am currently volunteering at Daily Table in Dorchester – a non-for-profit grocery store that provides high quality healthy food at affordable prices.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I like a wide variety of music, and what I listen to depends on my mood.  I like classical music, especially Shostakovich, Copland, and Mahler.  I also really like a lot of international music – lots of Latin music and sometimes Irish music.  I am a huge fan of Broadway shows, so I often shuffle some Broadway soundtracks into my listening.  Right now, I’m listening to a lot of “Hamilton”, “Les Miserables”, and “Book of Mormon.”

META Fellowship Kicks-Off Year 2

Our Music Educators and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship Pilot Program is a two-year program focused on enhancing the quality of music teaching and learning in school and community based organizations throughout Massachusetts.  Through work with nearly 50 Fellows from more than 30 schools and non-profits,  this program provides four learning sessions per year, site visits, grants, and stipends for participating.  Year One brought a rich set of learning experiences to both the Fellows and the Mass Cultural Council.

META Fellows (Top (l-r): Nick Tetrault and Carol Cubberley; Bottom (l-r): Taide Prieto and Adam Sickler)

What we learned in Year One:

  • Fellows recognized one another as the most valuable assets in developing their practice and impact as Music Educators and Teaching Artists.
  • Fellows want more time to learn from one another.
  • There were two main topics the group identified as useful to explore in Year Two: Child Development/Psychology and Cultural Competence.

In Year Two, we have decided build on the greatest asset of the Fellowship and the one that will endure beyond the pilot program – the Fellows. We will continue building the Fellowship around the assets of the group, host a session with the Silk Road Ensemble around cultural competency and another session to focus on child and cognitive development. Year Two will culminate in a showcase and convening for Fellows, other educators in their schools and organizations, principals, executive and artistic directors, and higher education institutions on April 4, 2018.

Nano-Interview with Bithyah Israel of City Strings United

BITHYAH ISRAELName: Bithyah Israel
Organization: City Strings United
Title: Founder and Executive Director
Music Genre: Cello! Varied styles
Years in the Field: 20

What do you do at City Strings United?
At City Strings United (CSU) I run all operations from recruiting teachers and students, teaching classes, replacing instruments, recruiting volunteers, and donor relations.

Why do you do what you do?
I do this work because when I was a child, I received free cello lessons, since my family could not afford them. A symphony cellist took it upon himself to do this, which gave me opportunities to perform in youth and civic orchestras. That experience lifted my heart and made my spirit soar. I want more children to experience such overwhelming joy. Having been blessed with such support growing up, I had hope even during trying times. I wish the same for today’s children.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest part of this work is dealing with children.  They show that they feel valued and they reciprocate. Kids are just fun. One day, as I was rushing down the aisle of the church we teach out of, probably to locate rosin or a cello pin holder for a student, I heard a little voice: “Lady, lady!” a high-pitched voice said. I noticed a 3-year old little girl looking up at me. She had been observing our cello class – probably a student’s little cousin. I stopped in my tracks. She looked up at me and confidently said, “I need a violin.” This took the cake. She saw that all the other children there had an instrument, and she knew she deserved one, too. Moments like that refresh me and push me forward, reiterating to me the vision for which I strive.

What challenges you in this work?
What challenges me is operating amidst a lack of adequate financial support for our grassroots organization. I must work long hours freelancing, so that I can pay my bills in addition to running CSU. I have many projects within CSU just waiting to be completed, when funds provide a staffer’s hours to do them. It’s scary every year when our resources become scarce, and grant applications, on top of all else I’m doing for the kids, are time consuming and not promised. Every year, I find I am able to accomplish more and more – this year, 4 grant apps have gone out…improving!!

What does it mean to do this work in this community?
The community tells me we give them hope, and that our program is providing our students a great platform. In the five years we’ve been running, we’ve appeared in The Boston Globe twice, on New England Cable News, at the Museum of Fine Arts, and been invited to collaborate in shared performances with a Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble and Celebrity Series of Boston. We’ve also performed with a Grammy-awarded drummer Terri Lynn Carrington and saxophonist Walter Beasley. So, the community is inspired with the great accomplishments and recognition our students have received in a relatively short amount of time. I have countless inspiring stories.

How do you blow off steam?
Let’s see… I talk it out with my friends or executive coach, drive to the beach, watch a movie, say a prayer, listen to gospel music, play my cello, laugh, exercise, and just take a nap (it took me 2-3 years to understand part of survival is to just STOP and REST.)

What do you create in your free time?
I enjoy writing music, cooking, and reaching out to loved ones and also community members who have been exceptionally supportive. I also like telling about my experiences or self in a comedic way, making others laugh. I get pleasure out of making others chuckle, even at my own expense. Being transparent seems to have a cathartic effect on others.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I listen to gospel, jazz, classical, pop (I have a ‘Road Tripping’ station on Pandora) and classic rock “Dream On…”

Seen any good movies lately?
I recently saw Hidden Figures. Once again, I am inspired by stories of triumph despite initial conditions of little support or appreciation. Integrity always wins.

What are you currently reading?
The autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

What’s next?
Hopefully succeeding in fulfilling our modest $50,000/year budget, then heading to the $100,000 level.

Besides writing music for CSU students to perform, I’ve begun writing music and acting in theatrical productions, usually historical plays. I hope to continue building my professional composing portfolio.

Nano-Interview with Silas de Oliveira of El Sistema Somerville

Silas de Oliveira of El Sistema SomervilleName: Silas de Oliveira
Organization: El Sistema Somerville
Title: Assistant Artistic Director
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 16

What do you do at El Sistema Somerville?
I’m responsible for curriculum planning, staff schedule, students engagement activities, parents integration, and etc. …

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because is a calling to serve my community and my peers. As an immigrant to the USA, I know firsthand the struggles immigrants go through. As a musician, I know how important it is to have exposure to high quality music lessons and instruments. I grew up in Brazil where I was unable to study cello. The only way I had access to music was in a church band learning alto sax and trumpet.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I would say my connection with the students. I try everyday to make sure that they understand that I’m one of them and no matter how old you are, or how much education you’ve received or any other label society might put on us, we are one. We are humans beings that should respect and be respected. I strive to provide an environment where expressive creativity reigns free.

What challenges you in this work?
My constant awareness of the students’ cultural links, from video games, music hits, movies, lingo, books, etc… I feel that awareness of these factors can have a profound impact in your connectivity with them and their world.

What does it mean to do this work in this community?
I feel that the great Somerville community always has been very welcoming and accepting, and respects and invests in their citizens. Somerville was my first home in the USA, Somerville High School was my first school in the USA, and Somerville String Camp was where I met my beloved music teacher, Rita Ranucci, who inspired me not only to become a cellist, but also a teacher.  I’m honored to be working in the field and continuing her legacy in Somerville.

How do you blow off steam?
There are different things I like to do from skydiving, to sometimes just playing mini golf, or driving to North Conway, NH.

What do you create in your free time?
I love doing research on world cultures, practicing my cello or another instrument to better guide a student.

Whose work in the creative youth development field do you admire and why?
Eric Booth, he inspires me to always rethink, rearrange, and reshape my views, my teaching, and my planning.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Currently I’m addicted to Anitta and  Antonio Meneses.

Do you live with any animals?
Yes, my husband and I just got a puppy – a Chow Chow named Bach.

Seen any good movies lately?
Despicable Me 3

What are you currently reading?
Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Did He Really?

What’s next?
Having a baby, and hopefully getting my masters in Conducting.

Connect with Silas:
Silasdeoliveira.com
Facebook.com/silas.deoliveira
https://www.linkedin.com/in/silas-de-oliveira-87880145

Nano-Interview with Marielisa Alvarez of Boston String Academy

Marielisa AlvarezName: Marielisa Alvarez
Organization: Boston String Academy
Title: Co-Director
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston String Academy?
I am Co-Director and Co-Founder of the organization along with my twin sister, Mariesther, and my friend and colleague Taide Prieto. I teach violin and viola in individual and group settings, and lead string ensembles for about 110 children ages 6 – 15 in three different sites around the city –  Chinatown, Allston, and Roxbury. Aside from my teaching duties, I also spend part of the day doing administrative work, class and event planning, fund-raising, marketing, etc.

Why do you do what you do?
I had the life changing experience of growing up in El Sistema in my home country of Venezuela and I would like many children to have similar experiences of growing and learning through music. I want to help them open their eyes to a world of possibilities and opportunities.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I love what I am doing, and it comes very easy and natural to teach my students. I feel I can easily communicate and transmit my passion and excitement to them and they respond very well.

What challenges you in this work?
Not having enough time to do everything I would like to do. Finding resources to support  our vision and being able to offer this opportunity to many more children.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Many children are having access to top quality classical music training that they otherwise would not be able to. The children are being exposed to sublime artistic impressions, they will become more sensitive, they will appreciate art, they will be able to interact and work well with others, they will be more confident and have the courage to reach higher in life, they will become well rounded human beings, and the best ambassadors and advocates for their families and communities.

How do you blow off steam?
Outdoor activities and dancing!

What do you create in your free time?
Tasty dishes

Seen any good movies lately?
Hidden Figures

What’s next?
Europe! Will be going to Finland this summer to the second phase of the amazing Colourstrings pedagogy workshop, and will visit some El Sistema-inspired programs in Europe as well.

Nano-Interview with Ian Gollub of Global Learning Charter Public School

Ian GollubName: Ian Gollub
Organization: Global Learning Charter Public School and Jazz Initiative
Title: Music Director
Music Genre: Trained in Jazz
Years in the Field: 13

What do you do at Global Learning Charter Public School and the Jazz Initiative?
I am the Music Director and General Music Educator for the entire program 5-12. I teach Middle School and High School Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, and general music grades 5-8. Four years ago we had a non-existent performance program. Now nearly 1/3 of the entire school participates in a performing ensemble, band, chorus, or orchestra.

I built the Global Learning Charter Jazz Initiative (GLCJI) based on a similar model program I began in Newport, RI, and it was my hope the GLCJI would be the perfect space for young people to begin their musical journeys without worry about cost or instruments.

The GLCJI offers a safe space, instruments, tools, and serious instruction to young musicians who want to learn, explore, create, and promote jazz music and beyond. We offer ensemble and performance based curriculum free to students grades 3-12 in New Bedford, MA and the surrounding communities.

Why do you do what you do?
Having the opportunity to play music all day – all night – everyday is not a job, it’s a gift. I am grateful that I earn a living doing what I love. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have the means and support to pursue my dreams of performing. I was able to study privately and attend great music workshops and programs. I also grew up knowing that, although I was fortunate enough to have such an opportunity, not everyone was as lucky.

I knew from the second I began teaching that, as often as possible, I wanted to create and promote music education opportunities at little or no cost to students. Many young people have a great desire to study and perform, and the only thing keeping them from sharing their musical energy and ideas is financial burden, distance to programming, and lack of resources (mainly instruments).

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Generating excitement for being musical comes easiest. I think this is only because I am so genuinely excited myself. I like to think my passion and excitement is infectious to my students and rubs off a bit.

What challenges you in this work?
Scheduling, time, and space are the main challenges. Currently our facility is a very charming and beautiful, but 100-year old former Catholic school building. Not much has changed in 100 years. Classrooms are small and definitely not designed for rehearsing ensembles. Sharing this space with other programming in the Global Learning Charter Public School community gets tricky. Fortunately, our program is respected and supported by administration, staff, and community therefore we don’t run into much trouble. Never having enough time is something there doesn’t seem to be a cure for!

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
There is an incredible amount of musical energy, musical ideas, and genuine enthusiastic creativity found in our neighborhoods of Greater New Bedford. For that reason, the intent is to create a safe space and the means and tools for these young people to learn, create, and promote their music. It is not the lack of desire, but largely the lack of financial resources that discourages youth from learning to play a musical instrument and participating in a music program. Having opportunities like this in our community has been embraced.

How do you blow off steam?
I love playing and being silly with my 4 year-old and 2 year-old. Who doesn’t wish they could go back in time to when there wasn’t a care in the world and playing make-believe was some serious work?!

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Steely Dan, Coltrane, Miles and Bird are my regular rotation.