Category Archives: META Fellows

Nano-Interview with Elissa Johnson-Green of UMass Lowell

Elissa Johnson-GreenName: Elissa Johnson-Green
Organization: University of Massachusetts Lowell
Title: Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education
Genre: General music education focused on composition
Years in the Field: 20

What do you do at University of Massachusetts Lowell?
I teach future music teachers. I also have created and run a program called the EcoSonic Playground Project, which provides open access to musical instrument play for all children. We have brought this program to diverse learning communities in the US, Canada, and Ireland.

Why do you do what you do?
My whole life has revolved around music. After being a classical performer (flute and voice) for many years, I decided to shift my focus to music education. I started out as a music teacher in K-8 education. This experience taught me that children understand music as a powerful and meaningful force in their lives – one that they rely on for so many aspects of their social interactions, emotional development, artistic development, and learning. Now, as a professor who trains music educators, I teach my adult students how to approach teaching music from the perspective that music is at the core of what makes us human. I do this work because I want to influence my students to teach music as a dynamic, living art form and as an essential form of expression.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Teaching! I am fortunate to work with amazing students who are dedicated to music education. They are talented, intelligent, and passionate about bringing music to all children.

What challenges you in this work?
All of the administrative tasks I need to do to make sure my program runs smoothly. Helping my students to navigate the scheduling system – and making sure they are on track to graduate.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
I take seriously my responsibility to provide high quality music educators to my community. Having more great music teachers available and working in the schools, means it’s more likely that the schools will value their music programs. My hope is to graduate students who will contribute to the growth and development of music education for all.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I listen to anything that I consider to be good music. Some of my favorites: Palestrina, J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartok, Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Aretha Franklin, Koko Taylor, Led Zepplin, Rush, Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Alison Krauss, and anything that Yo Yo Ma has ever played.

Seen any good movies lately?
Into the Spider-Verse. I highly recommend it.

Nano-Interview with Betsy Hinkle of musiConnects

Betsy HinkleName: Betsy Hinkle
Organization: musiConnects
Title: Founder, Resident Musician and Curriculum Design
Music Genre: Chamber Music
Years in the Field: 20

What do you do at musiConnects?
After founding the organization in 2007 and being its only director for 8 years, currently I perform as a violinist in our chamber music performances, and I teach private violin lessons, Chamber music and a K2 String instrument readiness class. I design (with a collaborative approach) and help implement all of our private lesson and chamber music curriculum.

Why do you do what you do?
I firmly believe that access to the highest quality music education and performances is a right, not a privilege. I also firmly believe that to fully reap the benefits that music education has to offer, it must be done in a tailored, one-on-one approach, and that chamber music is the best model for young children to learn self-expression, peer leadership, and community development skills.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
It seems that ideas for teaching approaches and solving problems seem to flow out of me. Sometimes my ideas get changed right after I try them, but there are always new ones to take their place. I also love when some ideas stick and continue to work, so I try and find ways to keep these ideas solidified and continued, by helping to make them second nature for teachers. I also love hearing others’ approaches and identifying new approaches that work, and adopting them.

What challenges you in this work?
Going with the flow when the unexpected happens: a student you’ve invested so much in, and whom you communicate so well with, just quits all of a sudden. When an audience or community is completely different than you imagined and your wonderful planning doesn’t get used at that moment.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Students whose previous experience in school or other activities wasn’t positive are suddenly revered, praised, role models. It takes a few years for some community members to trust that what we bring will be positive or lasting or relevant. But when they do, their commitment to the work takes on a new role, as collaborator.

How do you blow off steam?
Watch TV, knit, do yoga, walk or hike, cook and bake.

Whose work in the Creative Youth Development field do you admire and why?
Sebastian Ruth of CMW, he was a pioneer in this work, and who directly inspired musiConnects. Also Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music – a collective and long standing organization where chamber music ideals are really practiced in all aspects of the organization and passed along to all who encounter it.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Carolina Chocolate Drops, Pixies, Crooked Still, AC Newman, and the New Pornographers

Do you live with any animals?
One cat and I’d love to get a dog. Do my two kids and husband count?

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Slowly but Surely: the search for order amongst chaos inside the mind of a creative perfectionist

What’s next?
I’m going to continue to create, test, hone, and eventually publish my curriculum which includes a systematic approach to working with kids (violin, viola, cello) with few home-based supports and a graded chamber music curriculum with original compositions and arrangements for similar students.

“La Mesa” Project

Check out META Fellow Nicolas Perez’s “La Mesa” project:

“La Mesa” is a video series that is inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk series. The goal of this video series is to provide a recording and performance space for rising artist to share their music. There is a brown table (la mesa) in the video that all performer sign at the end of their performance. This table serves as a symbol of community amongst all of the performers who use this space.

The first episode features youth from Hyde Square Task Force’s music program performing an arrangement of a song they learned during band rehearsals.

See all 3 episodes of “La Mesa” on YouTube

Findings from META Fellowship’s First Cycle

META Showcase

META Fellows share their projects at the 2018 META Showcase

From September 2016 to August 2018, The Mass Cultural Council (MCC) and The Klarman Family Foundation (KFF) piloted a two-year program focused on music educators and teaching artists from across Massachusetts. Both funders are committed to supporting music programs that provide low-income youth with access to high-quality sequential music training. The majority of Fellows worked at organizations funded by MCC and/or KFF. The goal of the META Fellowship Pilot Program was to strengthen the youth music training pathway by:

  • Enhancing the practice of music educators/teaching artists and their impact on youth, and
  • Developing stronger connections between music educators/teaching artists and greater awareness of the resources available to benefit the youth they serve

Core components of the META Fellowship Pilot Program included:

  • Four learning sessions per year for entire cohort of Fellows
  • Two site visits by Fellows to the programs of other Fellows
  • Professional/Artistic development grants of up to $3,000 per Fellow
  • Group projects presented at a final showcase event
  • Annual stipends of $800 per Fellow for participation in the Pilot

 META Fellows

52 individuals participated over the course of the two-year fellowship and 43 completed the full two years. The composite of the cohort included the following characteristics:

  • The vast majority of Fellows had formal music education, either holding a Bachelor’s of Music or Master’s degree, most often in performance with a small number in music education. Only two Fellows had no formal post-secondary education and two had non-music degrees.
  • The Fellows were employed by 25 non-profit organizations and five schools (public, parochial, and charter). The Fellows offered a broad range of music instruction (e.g. classical, jazz, pop, vocal) at a range of levels from introductory to mastery.
  • The cohort was diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, age, and level of experience.

Evaluation of the META Fellowship Pilot Program

According to an external evaluation of the META Fellowship Pilot, the most significant areas of impact for the Fellows as a result of participating in META were:

  • Increased connections to peers and the music educator community
  • Improved skills related to student voice and engagement, classroom management, and lesson and curriculum planning
  • Stronger sense of, and appreciation for, themselves as music educators and as artists
  • Greater motivation and engagement with their teaching

Read more about the META Fellows and Program

Nano-Interview with Paul Pitts of Boston Latin School

Paul J. PittsName: Paul J. Pitts
Organization: Boston Latin School
Title: Director of Fine Arts
Music Genre: Band, Jazz, Orchestra and Vocal
Years in the field: 38

What do you do at Boston Latin?
I organize and coordinate a large arts department consisting of 1,100 music students, 900 visual art students, and 300 drama students. We have 11 full time arts faculty as well an additional eight adjunct faculty. I also conduct the Wind Ensemble, the Symphonic Band, the Big Band, and the Dues Band.

Why do you do what you do?
For a few reasons. I really love music, all kinds, some more than others but it is all really cool. The idea is if you love what you do most days it is not like work but more like a great way to spend a day. The groups that I teach are really quite good and we are able to play music that I find quite challenging to conduct and it is awesome to get to study and conduct this great music. Last year we played lots of Bernstein’s music, it was great. Great music and the students played it really well, a joy to work on with my groups. In jazz band we do a lot of Mingus and Ellington and other more contemporary charts but the charts that they are able to play has really gotten better every year so it is great to work on this music at such a high level. The other reason I do it is because I really like kids, I guess it keeps me young, talking to young people, I tend to think about what they are thinking about instead of my feet hurt and I need to sit down.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
The music, the passion for the music.  I spend a lot of time searching for music, at times it can be tough but I have been able to find music that is great, and once the students get to a certain level that can appreciate great music as well.

What challenges you in this work?
The daily grind is demanding, it is relentless, there is always something to do. So many students, events, festivals, auditions, concerts,  etc etc. I am concerned for younger teachers, it seems like they keep asking for more and more from teachers that is not related to student instruction, but things that require more and more time. It seems to be getting even tougher to do a great job teaching with all of the non-teaching requirements.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
That is sort of difficult to answer, they seem to enjoy the concerts, the auditorium is pretty well packed for most all of our major concert throughout the year. I get many positive comments from alumni when we perform for them several times throughout the year. I know the students enjoy it otherwise they would not take the elective classes.

Whose work in the Creative Youth Development field do you admire and why?
Some band directors in Massachusetts who have been role models for me and had outstanding programs. Paul Alberta from Norwood, Steve Massey from Foxboro,  Jeff Leonard from Lexington and Vinney Macrina from Brockton. They have all had fantastic programs for many years, unfortunately all but one is retired but I still use them for questions about musical and administrative details.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Jazz all the time, in the last two years I have become a big fan of Dudamel in LA I love the music he selects, lots of classical music from Latin America that is so rhythmic and groove oriented. I always love to go to the Boston Symphony when I can, it is such a fantastic orchestra and a beautiful hall. Sixties rock and roll, I saw Led Zepplin live at the garden back in ’72 when I was 15 and it blew me away, they were incredible. I saw the Eagles last summer and they were also great.

What are you currently reading?
Mostly magazine articles, the last book I finished was Miles Davis’ autobiography. I am reading Mingus’ now, Beneath the Underdog. A friend gave me John Coltrane’s book but I have not started it yet.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Mistakes in music, learn from mine.

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.”