Podcast: Out Youth Theater – Revelatory Experience for Performers and Audience

Evelyn Francis. Photo by Joel Benjamin.On the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Evelyn Francis, Interim Artistic Director at The Theater Offensive.

She discusses their youth program – a national model for creative youth development – where young people not only create original work and share it back to the community, but are true partners in developing a range of expanded opportunities within the program.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Legislative Roundtable on Quality ASOST Experiences for Youth

State and local officials speak at Lynn roundtable.

Man speaks at Lynn roundtable.

Earlier this month, RAW Art Works hosted a unique roundtable discussion with Lynn’s Mayor Thomas McGee, State Senator Brendan Crighton, and State Representative Peter Capano, alongside many creative youth development organizations, youth leaders, and other voices from the field, on the role of arts and culture in providing quality afterschool and out-of-school experiences for young people.

With Senator Crighton as the co-chair of the Afterschool and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Coordinating Council it was a fruitful exchange of expertise and ideas, and underscored Mass Cultural Council’s commitment and dedication to improve the lives of young people.

As expressed in the ASOST’s report, ”The research is clear. Children who attend quality afterschool programs do better in school, get better grades, have fewer behavioral issues, have higher graduation rates, and are better equipped for college and career. Yet for every child in an afterschool program, two are waiting to get in. What we must do as a Commonwealth is invest in afterschool and summer learning as part of a full education agenda to give our kids the greatest opportunity for success.”

Sitting at RAW, its walls covered in fantastic artwork expertly made by local youth, these arguments deeply resonated. Thanks to Anita Walker’s facilitation, challenges, opportunities, and impromptu alliances were forged as the assembled crowd rallied for the young people in their communities, and highlighted the potential that lies within creative youth development investments.

We are proud to convene roundtables like these across the state to connect our local and state elected officials with the efforts of the cultural sector for the benefit of our most vulnerable communities.

Woman shares at Lynn roundtable.

Congrats 2019 Commonwealth Award Finalists

Commonwealth Awards logoLast week we announced the finalists for the 2019 Commonwealth Awards, which honor exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The Commonwealth Award winners will be announced at a ceremony for the finalists and their supporters Monday, April 8 at WBUR’s new CitySpace.

Delivering the keynote address at this year’s ceremony will be renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel will be in Massachusetts to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Congratulations to the finalists serving youth:

    • Boston String Academy, for its exceptional creative youth development work inspired by El Sistema – an effective intensive music education philosophy that utilizes classical music as a vehicle for personal transformation and social change.
    • Eileen McCaffery, Community Music School of Springfield, for her dedication to changing lives through music. Community Music School brings together people of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and economic circumstances to make music in an environment that respects diversity and encourages creativity.
    • Elevated Thought, for providing Greater Lawrence’s youth with opportunities that encourage artistic expression as the means for creative solutions to social issues through creative youth development.
    • Provincetown Art Association & Museum, for its unique legacy of groundbreaking exhibitions and programming, passion for removing barriers to participation, and commitment to engaging young people through the visual arts.
    • The Care Center, for bringing the power of education, arts and culture to youth and their families in Holyoke. This creative youth development program is helping to break the cycle of poverty and create an economically vibrant city through a rich, humanities-based curriculum for teen mothers.

See the full list of finalists.

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

Investing in Organizations to Pursue an Artistic Risk

Creative Youth Development is a dynamic field of practice, utilizing the resources of teaching artists and organizations to better serve its target audience. To do this effectively, programming and delivery is in constant evolution to further engagement and impact.

Inevitably, this dynamism makes it difficult for programs to fit certain funding models, leaving gaps that take far too long to be addressed.  On the other side, funders have very specific targets and models that need to be met for organizations to be eligible, which in turn might stunt the advancement of programs and their capacity to reach new audiences and all together experiment with their medium. To address this, Barr Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation shifted the paradigm by establishing an artistic risk fund with the purpose of providing risk capital for projects that would take organizations out of their comfort zones.  The fund supports projects that have the potential to change how organizations work.

To document the journey and impact of their seven funded projects, the two foundations commissioned a series of videos.  With  personal stories from teaching artists and program participants as well as leadership, these documentaries are evidence of how both sides of the equation, program and funder, can work and stimulate each other to find new avenues of impact and growth.

Visualizing ‘What Music Means to Me’

As part of their 2018 Amplify grant, the Boston City Singers Tour Choir created visual art works reflecting on the theme “What Music Means to Me”.

Using various mediums –  paint, chalk, water colors, crayons, glitter and other materials – the choir stepped outside of their musical comfort-zone to showcase their love for their craft. Each member of the choir presented their pieces to the rest of the group and selected their top 12 favorites.

Works were photographed and made into a banner which was displayed at the Dorchester Public Library, local area cafes, and the Strand Theatre throughout the summer.

Bold colors, distinct patterns, and powerful words centered around themes of unity, acceptance, love, and hope made up the final collection of pieces. Here are a few:

Drawing by Meredith, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

“I drew a tree with leaves that are flags, and wind blowing the leaves. The tree represents the world, and the leaves are the countries in it. The wind blowing the leaves represent music, because no matter where we come from, music is something we all have in common. The flags I used for leaves are all the countries I have sung songs from in Boston City Singers. Because of Boston City Singers and the music we sing, I feel more connected to the rest of the world.”
– Meredith, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

 

Drawing by Gita, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

“Music continuously evolves but what was before never disappears. Like the stems and branches of a tree, music is growing from the earliest prehistoric times to modern popular and alternative music. It grows and grows”
– Gita, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

 

Drawing by Kristen, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

“My drawing represents what music means to me because it shows that music is a universal language. I drew the people around the world being connected with lots of colorful music notes. While I was in South Africa, I saw firsthand how music connects people regardless of where they are from. At some of the schools we visited the kids did not speak English very well. One of the schools was for blind children. Despite the differences between us, we were able to bond over our common love of music.”
– Kristen, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

 

Drawing by Brooks, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

“The idea was simple: a heart made of sheet music surrounded by colorful melted wax to show how music can bring love and hope and beauty in this crazy, busy, and intricate world. Few things went as planned. The crayons kept rolling off of the page. The melted wax went everywhere. But as soon as my fellow choir members saw me struggling, they pitched in. They helped me hold the crayons and the hair dryer to keep the wax from spraying everywhere. Music, and all forms of art, help bring people together, and that made my piece stronger than I could have ever hoped.”
– Brooks, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

 

Drawing by Emmie, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

“The Tree of Dreams & Song – I painted this while I was listening to the song “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman, and it is what music means to me. A million opportunities, a million songs, a million dreams. Every song that I listen to or sing holds a special place in my heart. This tree represents all the songs and all the dreams I’ve experienced  and ever will experience. A song is a magical thing. It can trigger so many emotions and hopes and dreams, that it’s almost impossible to comprehend. This is what music means to me.”
– Emmie, Boston City Singers Tour Choir

Creative Youth Development

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