Category Archives: Music

Podcast: Why is a Social Service Agency Running a Classical Music Program?

Carolyn Mower BurnsOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Carolyn Mower Burns, President and CEO of Berkshire Children & Families (BCF).

Berkshire Children & Families is a social service agency serving Western Massachusetts that believes that partnering with families is the best way to promote healthy, happy children to make strong families and better communities.  Burns shared how through Kids 4 Harmony, an intensive classical music program for social change, BCF uses musical excellence as a vehicle for developing whole children and whole families.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Express Yourself Youth Have SOUL

Express Yourself SOUL 2017 Showcase. Photo is the property of Express Yourself. Image by Mike Dean Photography.Year round, Express Yourself introduces and immerses young people into the world of music, dance, theater, and visual art with transformative results. Through artistic expression, youth move from a place of isolation to one of belonging and learn to use a variety of creative means to express themselves in positive and healthy ways. In the process, young people discover and develop inner strengths and gain a greater sense of connection with others. All of this work culminates in the annual Express Yourself showcase presented in collaboration with the Department of Mental Health.

At this year’s 23rd annual showcase, over 200 young people performed at Boston’s Boch Center – Wang Theater.  They entertained an enthusiastic audience sporting festive glow stick necklaces and bracelets. Celebrating this year’s “SOUL” theme, the program featured set pieces designed by youth as well as a medley of singing, drumming, and dance performances.

The showcase also featured guest performances by Afro-Brazilian percussionist Marcus Santos, Cammie Griffin and John Angeles of “STOMP”, funk soul, reggae singer Toussaint Liberator, Boston Children’s Chorus, Joyspring Community Chorus (directed by Jonathan Singleton) and West African Master Drummer Joh Camara.

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.

Announcing a New Investment in Creative Youth Development and Music Education

Community Music School of Springfield performs at the announcement of the Dudamel Foundation's investment in creative youth development in Massachusetts.The Mass Cultural Council is pleased to announce a $10,000 gift from the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation to deepen its support of creative youth development and music education.

Elected officials and cultural leaders from the Springfield region joined Mass Cultural Council and Springfield Public Schools students, teachers, and administrators at the Community Music School of Springfield today to announce the grant. The Schools’ partnership program, Sonido Música uses intensive, ensemble music to strengthen academic and social-emotional learning, and empowers a new generation of young people to work for social justice. Inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema model, the program is funded through Mass Cultural Council’s SerHacer Program.

“Music and the arts are central to a complete education,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who also serves as Chair of the School Committee. “The Community Music School brings together students and families of all backgrounds to learn and grow through music making. We’re delighted to be a showcase for the work that the Mass Cultural Council and the Dudamel Foundation support.”

Established by Venezuelan-born conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation is dedicated to supporting the arts and music education as catalysts in promoting a more compassionate and just society. “Music is unique in its power to unite and inspire,” said Dudamel. “By playing and listening together, music teaches discipline, cooperation, and an appreciation for beauty that enriches lives and binds communities. I am very pleased to collaborate with the Mass Cultural Council in expanding opportunities for children from diverse communities to be empowered through music.”

The Foundation’s grant to Mass Cultural Council will supplement the state agency’s support of 18 El Sistema-inspired youth music ensembles across Massachusetts, and helped to underwrite a student performance supported by the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston this past Saturday. SerHacer provides three-year, $15,000 annual grants to each of these programs, provides an instrument library through the Johnson String Project so all youth have quality instruments, and funds a three-year research study that seeks to document the impact of the El Sistema model on the lives of young people.

Mass Cultural Council Program Manager Rodrigo Guerrero said the Dudamel grant is another sign that Massachusetts is leading the way in creative youth development, an intentional practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences, while developing core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. Creative youth development approaches young people as active agents in their own growth, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The overall goal is for culture to play a major role in supporting the growth of creative, productive, and independent citizens and thriving communities.

Read the Full Release.

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.

Springfield’s SciTech Band Receives 2017 Commonwealth Award

Last month, the MCC proudly presented Springfield’s SciTech High School Band with the 2017 Commonwealth Award in Creative Youth Development, for providing Springfield’s youth with opportunities to experience music and to give back to their community by sharing their joy in its creation.

Their energetic performance kicked-off the State House ceremony:

MCC’s biennial Commonwealth Awards celebrate exceptional achievements in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The creative youth development category recognizes an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully helped young people develop their creative potential, foster critical learning and life skills, & become active contributors to their communities.

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.

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.