Last month, members of the Silk Road Ensemble, Cristina Pato and Ko Umezaki, and Steve Seidel, Director of the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, led our META Fellows in a session on exploring cultural competency. Cristina and Ko opened the session with a piece performed on the gaita and shakuhachi:
Happy New Year! Social justice is at the heart of Creative Youth Development work. Join us in celebrating Dr. King and his legacy with YouthReach and Ser Hacer programs’ young artists across the state:
COMMUNITY MUSIC SCHOOL OF SPRINGFIELD
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration
11am-1pm – MassMutual Center
Presented by Community Music School of Springfield, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, DREAM Studios, and Springfield College.
Performances CMSS youth musicians from our ensembles, chorus and Springfield school partnerships.
BOSTON CHILDREN’S CHORUS
Take My Hand: 15th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert
7pm – Symphony Hall
Just before sunset on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with musician Ben Branch in the courtyard of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Branch asked Dr. King what to play at a meeting planned later that evening. Dr. King replied, “You should play Take My Hand, Precious Lord. Play it like you never played it before in your life. Play it real pretty.” The lyrics “lead me on to the light… lead me home” proved prophetic, as Dr. King was assassinated that night. Five days later, Mahalia Jackson performed this same hymn, one of Dr. King’s favorites, at his funeral in Atlanta.
This 15th annual MLK concert reflects the message that a seemingly small gesture – the taking of one’s hand, for example – can lead to enormous change. Small gestures bring us together, unite us, and help us build movements, just as Dr. King’s gestures of love, compassion, tolerance, and hope led to a civil rights movement that transformed the world.
BOSTON YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
MLK Tribute Concert
NEW TIME/PLACE: 10:30am – Metcalf Hall, Boston University
BYSO performs classical music, spirituals, and freedom songs, with a sing-along and a keynote speaker.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Open House
10am-5pm – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Project STEP students will perform at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Open House at the Museum of Fine Arts. Mayor Martin J. Walsh is expected to attend and introduce Project STEP. More detailed information regarding Project STEP’s performance time will be posted on the MFA’s web site.
Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration
5pm – Hibernian Hall
Students playing classical music plus a panel discussion featuring musicians of color in Boston.
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.
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.
This winter Urbano Project youth performed “The Imagined City,” a performance art piece combining choreography and creative writing at the Winter Festival in Jamaica Plain.
“The way one performs something is a creative act in itself. Watching our group grow and push each other as performers is amazing. The piece is about reflection. How do we see others? How do we see ourself in others? We are working out ways to use mirrors as props and tools for to share and explore this idea with the audience during our dance,” said Teaching Artist Mary Teuscher.
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.”
Images by Dave Roback.
Amplify, MCC’s grant program created to support youth led and designed projects, is starting to bear fruit, the first of which was the wonderful Pop-Up Parasol exhibit by Youth Mentor Rachel at Express Yourself (EXYO).
Originally conceived as a smaller project involving 20 hand-painted parasols to be on public display at Cumming Center, the idea took hold and blossomed due to the leadership of Rachel, an EXYO mentor, who empowered by the Amplify grant took it upon herself to fundraise and manage the entire project, recruiting peers and participants from EXYO and eventually more than tripling the original project scope. The parasols were displayed in a 70 foot long installation which opened on April 26, bringing color to a cold spring afternoon in Beverly.
Following the pop-up exhibit, the parasols took center stage at EXYO’s annual showcase “Illuminate”. The parasols were twirled and paraded before a completely packed Wang Theatre in Boston, their intricate mandala-like patterns and joyous brightness carefully choreographed into a dazzling performance by EXYO’s participants.
“The Amplify project helped us to focus on a unique opportunity to create a youth-inspired exhibition that engaged the community at-large”, said Paula Conrad, Co-Executive Director of EXYO. “The grant challenged Express Yourself mentors to define and push forth on an empowering and illuminating art idea, guided by Rachel.”
Amplify grants provide support for projects designed and executed by young people in programs that currently receive YouthReach or SerHacer funding. This year $11,440 was awarded with each grantee receiving up to $1,000.
Four MCC-funded programs have been chosen among the 50 finalists for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Congratulations to BalletRox, Boston City Singers, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, and The Theater Offensive, Inc. for achieving their Finalist Certificate of Excellence – a testament to the outstanding Creative Youth Development work happening in the Commonwealth, and testimony to all of those committed to working with youth to achieve social change through the arts, humanities, and sciences.
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is the nation’s highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. This award recognizes and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Each year, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards recognize 12 outstanding programs in the United States, from a wide range of urban and rural settings.
Maureen Finnerty relishes the moments in which the audience is shocked by what the performers can do. She cites many instances in which audiences gasped when the performers abandoned pairs of crutches or relinquished their wheelchairs during the performance, “You can sense that people wonder if they should get up and help [the performer]. It’s the fact that they can’t, we’re on stage and that shows people just how much anyone can do.”
Maureen remembers parents who could not have imagined their child as a dancer, students who ask her to call their teachers to explain that they can physically do much more, and students who understand that being stared it can be ok.
“People [are] looking at them, but now it’s for the right reasons.” Indeed, for Maureen the real reward is seeing how the attitudes of the performers change about themselves. The audience’s misinterpretation of the performance’s intent is negligible. “[The students] come away with a different idea about what the pathways for people with disabilities are,” she explains, “the audience will have their own perspective on the performance, and they will have their own perspective on my disability.”
According to performer and movement educator Maureen Finnerty, the audience often misunderstands the performers.
“I’ve had people come up to me after a show and say, ‘Wow. I really loved what that piece said about disability.’ But the piece had nothing to do with disability.” When asked if the audience’s misinterpretation of her students’ performance bothers her, Maureen is quick to explain that, “… we’re giving a present to the audience. Everyone will unwrap it differently.”
For Maureen, the beauty and power the ensemble members bring to their performance stems from their personal investment in the roles they craft. She says the investment happens because the students at Access to Theater are never told their characters. “We choose [our character] and through rehearsals [we learn] the impact of our words and movement before we’ve even performed it.”
And the end result? “The parents always cry. I don’t get it,” she laughs.
Despite her self-assured way of talking about her experience as a performer and an educator, Maureen was not always comfortable in the realm of creative movement. Only after joining Access to Theater at a friend’s suggestion did Maureen begin to explore movement as a form of self-expression.
“My only idea about movement came from my physical therapy,” she explains, recalling her initial hesitation to learn movement techniques. “When I started [at Access to Theater] I realized [movement] was no longer a painful thing I did for physical therapy. It could be beautiful.”
Through many years as a student, an intern, and now a staff member at Access to Theater, Maureen has come to see movement as a tool for self-discovery. “It helps people accept who they are. [Access to Theater] gave them confidence.”
As the Movement Director for Partners’ for Youth with Disabilities’ Access to Theater Program, Maureen Finnerty teaches children and adults with and without disabilities that “everyone has a place in theater and that each person enriches the creative process when he/she keeps an opened mind.” She has been a resident artist for VSA Massachusetts for seven years and has assisted with workshops that focus on teaching the elements of improvisational theater to participants of all ages and abilities; included in these workshops has been the concept of access for all through universal design. She also performs in community movement productions.
The ZUMIX Jazz Allstars are headed to Panama to perform in the 2014 Panama Jazz Festival, one of the preeminent Jazz festivals in the world, January 14-19, 2014. Enjoy this clip, “The Chicken,” from their newly released album:
To help these musicians realize this dream, join as one of their backers.
Luis Sanchez, then (2008, age 14) and now (age 23). Luis danced with Ritmo en Accíon, a dance troupe sponsored by Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain, MA, for 3 years beginning in 2005. Recently, Harvard Graduate School of Education student Lisa Yolansky had an opportunity to sit with Luis as he reflected on his years with Ritmo “back in the day.”
Lisa: How did you get so involved in Ritmo en Accíon?
Luis: I used to take classes at the Brookline Community Center, and one of the people I loved taking classes with was the Ritmo en Accíon choreographer, Burju Hurturk. She asked me to join Ritmo, which was just around the corner from my house. Over time my involvement got bigger. I actually got to perform at the White House and at a Red Sox game.
How did the opportunities to dance at the White House and at Fenway impact you?
We were like, “Wow, we are actually important. We are really doing something huge.” I think that really made me feel like I could accomplish anything, and that I could accomplish something with dance even though not everyone felt like dance was that important.
Wasn’t the work at Ritmo viewed as important?
Yes and no. A lot of people undervalue the arts and the aid the arts give. Specifically to teenagers, you know? During my teenage years, everything was awkward, and I don’t think people realized how much stability the dancing gave me.
What have you been doing since graduating high school and leaving Ritmo?
I have a lot of projects going on, but my work at Charlestown Community Center is what I am most excited about. It brings back memories of what I got as a high school student out of Ritmo en Accíon and what I can have the teenagers I’m working with get out of my program. I am one of the dance coordinators and I’m working with other young people to establish a range of arts programs. That way we can build the students’ skills and tell the community, “This is what your young people can do.”
You said you want your students to get similar things out of your program as you got out of Ritmo en Accíon. What things did you get from your work in the arts?
The thing that Ritmo en Accíon did very well was providing us with an art that we loved, but also showing us that we had to work hard, have discipline and be responsible—that we can get good results for the effort that we’re putting in. And that carries over to school because if you put in that same kind of effort you’ll get good grades, get scholarships, etc. It was also really great to be a youth member of Hyde Square Task Force and to go out and do something for the community—teach classes, paint peace signs, and just being able to use my passion to help other people.
Do you have any advice for people working with youth in the arts?
Always take the opinions of the youth members seriously. Even though [the program leaders] have the broader prospective, the youth have the inside scoop on how to make it better and on what they want to get out of it.
What do you want policy makers and funders in the arts to know?
I want them to know that in arts programs in general, there are so many benefits. The United States in particular is really missing out on using the arts. All these other countries are using the arts to prevent crime, increase motivation, and so on. We are missing out because in the U.S. people say, “oh, it’s just an arts program” instead of looking at the powerful good the arts do.