Category Archives: META Fellows

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.

Nano-Interview with Ashleigh Gordon of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra

Ashleigh Gordon. Image by MBSchroederPhotography

Name: Ashleigh Gordon
Organization: BYSO Intensive Community Program
Title: Viola faculty
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program?
I teach viola to beginner students, both privately and in groups, and even find myself teaching Kindergarteners violin as well.

Why do you do what you do?
My goals as an educator are to spark curiosity in the arts, foster necessary life skills through music, and serve as a mentor to each child. With each one of my students, I focus on establishing strong and healthy foundations while supporting them in their musical and life developments. Viewing education as an active process, I encourage all my students to learn how to be their own problem-solvers in and beyond the realm of music. I’m a firm believer in educating the entire person and view myself as a holistic mentor in my student’s growth as a musician and person.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Being silly and being honest. Teaching allows me to tap into my inner child where I’m not afraid to embarrass myself to make a point, sing, dance, or even pretend to act to show a musical phrase, or think up silly analogies to make my students think and connect to the music they’re making.

What do you do in your free time?
In my “free” time I’m running a concert and educational series dedicated to celebrating Black culture, history, and classical music. As Artistic/Executive Director and violist of Castle of our Skins, I’m either designing concert programs, writing grants, performing viola in an “edu-tainment” program or educational workshop, or doing any of the other myriad things involved with the leadership. I’m also an active freelance chamber music with a passion for contemporary music and play with my own string trio that specializes in new music (called Sound Energy) or other groups in town including BMOP, Callithumpian Consort, and ECCE Ensemble.

Seen any good movies lately?
I’m usually not a big movie goer but I’ve been floored on my most recent trips to see Moonlight, Fences, and I am Not Your Negro. Still itching to see Hidden Figures.

What are you currently reading?
The news. Lots of it.

Nano-Interview with Jane Money of Boston City Singers

Jane MoneyName: Jane Money
Organization: Boston City Singers
Title: Founding Artistic Director
Years in the Field: 30

What do you do at Boston City Singers?
I do pretty much everything! I conduct several of our choirs, including the most advanced, Tour Choir. I enjoy meeting with our donors, creating new arrangements of music with our outstanding staff (often based on folk songs or spirituals). I work on our grantwriting team, and conduct 5 of our 15 programs. And recommendations! Last year I wrote over 100 for our graduating seniors. We were delighted that they earned over $300,000 in scholarships.

Why do you do what you do?
At Boston City Singers we believe in supporting the upward trajectory of each of our singers.  There is nothing more rewarding than supporting the growth of a young person all the way through to college and beyond.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I am passionate about excellent repertoire which speaks to the diversity of our singers and audiences.

What challenges you in this work?
As our work has continued to grow, we have been challenged to find rehearsal and performance space that is both safe and accessible in the communities we serve.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
We have always been based in Dorchester, MA. In our earliest years, potential partners, funders, and Board members would be turned off by that. Few would visit, and it was not always easy to be taken seriously. More than once we heard “You are from Dorchester? You can’t be any good…” Over time,  Dorchester has changed and continues to evolve into something far more positive. We like to think that we have been a part of that process.

How do you blow off steam?
Once a year, I go back home to New Zealand for a couple of weeks, where I walk the length of one local beach each day and cook for my brother and his family.

What do you create in your free time?
I am an avid knitter, home cook, and co-restorer of our Victorian home.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
We have had a long relationship with the Corrymeela Centre in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. We led a choir project in Ireland in 2005 aimed at bringing children from both sides of the border together in song. One of the highlights was a residency at the Centre where I experienced first hand the power of creative youth development. We have worked closely with one of their volunteers ever since crafting leadership and youth development  programs across the organization.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
The Brazilian singers Marisa Monte, anything Ella Fitzgerald and the Canadian choir Elektra.

Do you live with any animals?
I am a foster parent for New England Brittany Rescue. We adopted our first dog, Brady, three years ago. He is 12 now, but very active and an awesome host dog to our fosters.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Let’s find a way to make this happen!

What’s next?
My husband and I are visiting Cuba in February, meeting with local choirs, musicians and teachers, then off to South Africa with 40 members of the Tour Choir in the summer.

Nano-Interview with Corey DePina of ZUMIX

Corey DePinaName: Corey DePina
Organization: ZUMIX
Title: Youth Development and Performance Manager
Genre: Hip Hop
Years in the Field: 17

What do you do at Zumix?
I plan and run creative writing and performance programs for teens. I also teach literature through creative writing for the 9th grade class at East Boston High School. I manage, support, and train ZUMIX performance instructors to be their best, so that they can offer the best learning experience for their students.

Why do you do what you do?
I feel like this is my calling. Through my love of hip hop, I was able to learn how to read and write. I help empower so many others though understanding their voice and expressing themselves.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Taking a boring subject or topic and finding a fun, engaging, and exciting way to introduce it to students.

What challenges you in this work?
Not being paid enough.  I wonder if we will have donors and the money to keep doing this work in the future. I also find it a challenge to continue to prove to the academic world that my spiritual and artistic approach is important, and in a lot of cases, is what’s missing.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
It means the world to me and to my community for everyone to have access to arts and education. In a city where our public schools have no music programs and youth are told to memorize facts like computer programming, it means so much to provide a creative outlet for expression – one that incorporates critical thinking, reflection and growth along with theory and practice.

How do you blow off steam?
Going on long drives.  Getting lost, either physically or with the paper, pen and a hip hop track.

What do you create in your free time?
In my free time I like to evolve my curriculum and create unique, fun approaches to writing and music making.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
My homie, Eric Booth, and my big homie, Mo Barbosa. Eric is wicked smart and has a way with words. He takes this profession and validates it. Mo is super thoughtful and smart in his approach in youth work. It’s comforting every time to talk to these guys about the work. They are so confident in the field and it rubs off.

What music do you like to listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
No shame, I have been feeling the new Bruno Mars track 24KRT. I think I like it, because it’s pretty funky, and I’m sure I can bust like 95% of the dance moves I have to it.

Seen any good movies lately?
Movies, no. But that Netflix though… Black Mirror…

What are you currently reading?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

What’s next?
I want to write my own book and tell my story about how hip hop helped this young man go from being illiterate to becoming one of the best educators this city has.

Check out Corey’s tracks on SoundCloud.

New META Fellowships Provide Professional Development for Teaching Artists

Eric Booth leads learning session for more than 40 teaching artists on October 13, 2016 at the META Fellowship launch at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) and Klarman Family Foundation have launched a new program to help teaching artists improve the quality of their work with youth in schools and community settings across Massachusetts.

The Music Educators and Teaching Artists (META) Fellowship Pilot Program meets a growing need for high-quality, professional teaching in programs that employ the principles of creative youth development. With an initial focus on music, this two-year fellowship will help teaching artists develop the skills, relationships, and experiences they need to improve their practice. In turn, these artist educators will be better equipped to help their students grow as musicians and develop the cognitive and life skills they will need to thrive as adults.

“This project is a game changer. It is powerful and unique in a number of ways,” says Eric Booth, author and international authority on teaching artistry. “This can serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

Booth led learning sessions for more than 40 teaching artists on October 13 at the program’s launch at Boston’s Symphony Hall. They were joined by state Representative Alice Peisch of Wellesley, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, and leaders of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Public Schools, and others.

MCC and Klarman will provide META Fellows with professional development in instructional practice, site visits, and access to a support network of more than 30 creative youth development organizations statewide. Fellows will also receive stipends of $800 annually for participating, and are eligible for grants up to $3,000 to further develop as teachers and artists. For their part, the META Fellows, with the support of their organizations, will participate in up to eight group learning sessions and visit two programs of other participating organizations each year. Finally they will develop and present projects that document new knowledge for broader dissemination within the represented organizations.

This pilot project builds on MCC’s 20-plus-year support of creative youth development, an intentional, holistic practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences alongside core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. In supportive spaces, with guidance from skilled and compassionate teachers, children and adolescents immerse themselves in creative endeavors: composing and making music, producing and directing films and journalism, writing and staging new dramas, creating and interpreting visual art. Programs take place in public, private and charter schools; nonprofit arts, science and history institutions; YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, and many other settings.

Youth in these programs achieve high levels of artistic skill and a deeper knowledge of themselves and their cultural heritage. They build self-esteem, resilience, and civic agency. They create works of art and culture, and in doing so create meaning in their lives. The programs share an overarching goal to help them reach their full potential as individuals and as contributors to their communities.

MCC has been a national leader in this work for more than two decades. Its YouthReach Initiative integrates substantive out-of-school arts learning opportunities into a collaborative community response to the needs of young people – especially at-risk youth. More than 40 YouthReach programs have been honored over the years with National Arts & Humanities Youth Program awards from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. In 2014, MCC hosted the National Summit on Creative Youth Development, which shone a national spotlight on the work of YouthReach and generated an ongoing national partnership between the MCC, the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and Americans for the Arts. Later that year Massachusetts became the first state in nation to create a public support system for El Sistema-inspired work. SerHacer is an innovative program that provides grant support to programs, supports an instrument library through the Johnson String Project so that young people have access to high quality instruments with insurance and maintenance included, and includes a three year research study that seeks to establish the impact of the El Sistema model on the lives of young people.