Saturday, September 14, 2013

JAMM Featured on CCTV's Americas Now Program

Mike Kirsch poses with Glacier Valley's 2nd grade JAMM students
Mike Kirsch, a veteran television journalist at CCTV, spent over a week here in Juneau filming JAMM for an Americas Now news magazine story. CCTV has an audience of 1.2 billion viewers worldwide, so JAMM was honored to be featured.

Mike beautifully wove together the pivotal role that GuoHua Xia, JAMM's lead violin instructor, plays in the Juneau community, the inspiring teamwork at Glacier Valley Elementary School where JAMM began, and the sustained investment Juneau is making in its youth through music. Thank you, Mike and CCTV for covering a program that shows what community and school partnerships can accomplish!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kindergartners from All JAMM Sites Perform at UAS

Over 80 JAMM kindergarten students from Auke Bay, Glacier Valley and Riverbend Elementary Schools performed together at Juneau Jazz and Classic's Community Day at the University of Alaska Southeast. This was the first time that all three sites had an opportunity to perform together and gave the community an opportunity to celebrate JAMM's expansion to more schools and grades within the Juneau School District.

For the 2013 – 2014 school year, both Auke Bay and Riverbend Elementary Schools will expand their programming to 1st grade, while Glacier Valley will expand to 3rd grade with the addition of a bass section.  Thank you, Juneau Community Foundation, Holland America Line, Ron and Kathy Maas, and Mike and DeeAnn Grummett for helping JAMM match a grant from the Classics for Kids Foundation to purchase 4 basses and 6 larger-sized cellos for our growing 3rd grade orchestra members.  Over 400 students will participate in JAMM next year! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Project Ubuntu Arrives in Juneau

Daniel Becton, creator of Project Ubuntu, visits JAMM
Daniel Becton visited JAMM for one week as part of Project Ubuntu - a national, year-long service project that celebrates and supports organizations dedicated to service throughout the United States.  As part of Project Ubuntu's mission, Daniel will visit one community in every state: 51 communities in 51 weeks. Daniel selected JAMM as the organization to represent the state of Alaska.  We marked the 35th week of his journey.

Becton supports Project Ubuntu's partners by channeling his skills and resources to meet their needs, and by sharing his perspective on service and building positive community.  He dedicates one week to each partner to learn their stories, and broadcasts these stories to a growing international audience as he strives to inspire increased kindness and service.

As part of his week of service in Juneau, Daniel visited all three JAMM sites, videotaped programming and interviewed parents and students to help produce a video about JAMM's expansion to Riverbend and Auke Bay Elementary Schools, as well as 2nd grade at Glacier Valley.  Daniel is a cellist, so he also was a wonderful asset to our beginning cello students.

Thank you, Daniel, for your service and for choosing JAMM as your Alaskan service organization!  For information about Project Ubuntu:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sistema Taiwan Documents JAMM

Derjk Wu, founder of Sistema Taiwan, and Kris Wang, a film documentarian, made the long trip to Juneau to observe, film and interview key people involved with JAMM.  In particular, our guests were interested in documenting effective teaching practices and learning more about developing successful community partnerships.  Over a year ago, Derjk started Sistema Taiwan in ten orphanages throughout Taiwan.  I was honored to visit one of those orphanages last summer and to provide teacher training to the incredibly dedicated teaching staff there.  We hope to create future opportunities that connect our two programs and children! 

Derjk and Kris were kind enough to share the photos they took while visiting JAMM.  Here are some highlights:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kennedy Center Recognizes Juneau and JAMM

Juneau was selected as the 11th city in the United States for the Kennedy Center's Any Given Child program, which helps communities provide access and equity to the arts for all children K - 8th grades.  As part of the final selection process, two representatives from the Kennedy Center flew to Juneau to meet with community and school members and visit Glacier Valley to watch JAMM 2nd graders play on their stringed instruments before performing a Tlingit dance in Alaska native regalia.

In a Juneau Empire article announcing the award, Darrell Ayers, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center, said that he was "excited by the plans for the new Library, Archives and Museum building on Willoughby Avenue, and by the success of the Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) program out at Glacier Valley, Riverbend and Auke Bay Elementary Schools."

To bring access, balance, and equity to each child's arts education, the Any Given Child initiative will incorporate existing resources of the Juneau School District, along with those of local arts organizations and the Kennedy Center to create a plan for arts education specific to the city.  With the assistance of expert consultation services provided by Kennedy Center staff and other professionals, community leaders develop a long-range plan for arts education that is tailor-made for the school district and community.

Friday, December 14, 2012

PBS Comes to Juneau to Film JAMM

JAMM continues to receive international and national attention as a teacher-training site and inspiration for other in-school El Sistema models cropping up across the country.  PBS in New York City (Thirteen/WNET) in collaboration with the Longy School of Music of Bard College, filmed JAMM as the pilot of an eight-part multimedia professional series on El Sistema-Inspired Music Education in the U.S.

PBS is dedicating an entire episode to Glacier Valley's JAMM program.  Jill Peters, the Executive Producer of the the project, was thrilled by what she saw during the four days of filming.  Jill shared her impressions at a Juneau School Board meeting:  "It has been my privilege to spend this week at Glacier Valley.  I hope you're not sick of the compliments, but every day, I have just seen more and more that has absolutely inspiring."  Here it the Juneau Empire article detailing PBS' visit:

The series will be aired sometime in 2014. Thank you, NorthWind Architects, for hosting a reception for Jill and giving JAMM an opportunity to recognize its contributors and advocates.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

JAMM Receives Support Through Challenge Grant

Glacier Valley Students Unveil Grand Total Raised for JAMM Challenge Grant
Thank you, Juneau community, for helping JAMM reach its $18,000 goal to expand to 2nd grade at Glacier Valley and kindergarten at Riverbend and Auke Bay Elementary Schools next year.  Ron and Kathy Maas provided a $6,000 challenge grant to help place violins in the small hands of next year's kindergartners at Glacier Valley and Riverbend Elementary Schools.  The Juneau community generously responded to the Maas' challenge, including major donations from the Juneau Community Foundation, Sealaska Native Corporation, Skaggs Foundation, the Tupou Family, and Michael and DeeAnn Grummet. 

To celebrate, JAMM 1st graders helped unveil the grand total at their spring concert. In the photo below, Glacier Valley 1st grade violinist, Jazlynne LaChester, helps the audience count by $1,000's to celebrate JAMM reaching its $18,000 goal.

Thank you again, Juneau community, for investing in the intellectual, creative and disciplined minds of our students! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

JAMM Expands in Grade Levels and Programming

2nd grade JAMM students perform at Glacier Valley
JAMM is proud to announce the expansion of its program to Auke Bay and Riverbend Elementary Schools in the Juneau School District.  Both sites will start a kindergarten violin program by providing 90 minutes of instruction during school hours throughout the week.
Both schools will adopt a similar model, which utilizes existing school personnel and partners with the community.  Music teacher and kindergarten teacher help with instruction,while learning from Suzuki instructor, Diane Barnett, who received training at Glacier Valley. With half of the Juneau elementary schools participating, over two hundred students will have access to quality music education, early literacy skills and lifelong habits including focus, teamwork and discipline.

In a Juneau Empire article covering the story, Lori Hoover, the principal at Auke Bay, shared the school's reasons for starting at JAMM program next year: 
My big goal is that learning music and learning to appreciate music just helps in the big picture of we we want kids to develop.  If they can focus and learn to play violin that focus extends to all of their academic subjects.  It can be taught in a fun way.  It helps them socialize.  In the big picture, yes, they're learning music, but it's a skill they can continue the rest of their life in reading music.  That's my main thing, we want them to be great students and this is one way kids learn academic skills is through music.
Here is the link to the entire Juneau Empire article.  Thank you, Auke Bay, Glacier Valley and Riverbend Elementary Schools, for making instrumental music a core part of your students' public education.

Staff from Auke Bay and Riverbend Elementary Schools Attend Glacier Valley's Paper Violin Night

Friday, March 9, 2012

Senator Mark Begich JAMMs at Glacier Valley

Senator Mark Begich Visits Glacier Valley and 1st Graders in JAMM
U.S. Senator Mark Begich visited Glacier Valley while in Juneau for his address to the Alaska Legislature.  During his visit to the school, he played alongside our JAMM violinists and received help from a 1st grader who taught him how to hold the bow.

Senator Begich visited Glacier Valley to experience firsthand how the school integrates the arts to boost core academic skills. He also learned of the school district's budget cuts and that JAMM could be eliminated next year with the reduction in specialist positions.  In a Juneau Empire article covering his visit, Senator Begich said, "Really a program like JAMM is the new core.  To cut it would be a mistake."

Senator Begich advocates for a well-rounded education that produces informed and engaged citizens, which is why he would like to see the acronym STEM replaced by STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math).

Thank you, Senator Begich, for visiting our school and supporting the right of every child to receive a public education that develops their intellectual, social and emotional well-being.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

JAMM is in the News and in Bookstores

Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music Juneau, Alaska Music Matters is in a newly published book by Tricia Tunstall.  Changing Lives:  Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music tells the story of El Sistema and chronicles the work of the first class of Abreu Fellows of which I was a part.

Although JAMM is physically remote from other El Sistema-inspired initiatives throughout the country, it continues to receive international and national attention as a teacher-training site and as an inspiration for other in-school models cropping up across the country.

At the beginning of this month, I participated in the Take a Stand Symposium in Los Angeles where I served on a panel to discuss the benefits and challenges of an in-school model.  The consensus among the panelists: the benefits of an in-school model far outweigh the challenges, especially if access and equity are a program's top priorities.

In an effort to make privatized opportunities public, the Glacier Valley Parent Group partners with the community and the Juneau School District to bring 90 minutes of violin instruction to all of its kindergarten and first grade students as part of their school schedule.   Since the start of the program in September of 2011,  JAMM has received over $80,000 in funds and in-kind donations from organizations as far away as China.  The school district's contribution:  4.5 hours/wk of the music teacher's time to work with the kindergarten classes.   JAMM is bringing more resources and expertise to the school district at very little cost.

The Association of Alaska School Boards recently published JAMM's successes in its January/February newsletter.  JAMM continues to bring international and local recognition to the Juneau School District. Through a school, parent and community partnership, JAMM is helping the school district reach its goals of access and equity, academic success, and student, parent and community engagement. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Best Brain Training

How to Build a Better Learner, Scientific American, August 2011

Here's just another reason why Glacier Valley Elementary School provides violin instruction for all of its kindergartners and 1st graders.  According to the August 2011 Scientific American article, "How to Build a Better Learner," playing an instrument is "the best brain training" you can give children to help with "language comprehension and promote cognitive skills:  attention, working memory and self-regulation" (Stix, p. 57).

It's gratifying to know that even though JAMM is a unique program among most public schools, it is firmly grounded in research recognized by the scientific community, dispelling the notion that music is an "extra" or just fluff.  Instead, music serves as a foundation for developing school readiness skills, social-emotional learning and working memory.

While attending a gathering of the 2011 Teachers of the Year in Princeton, I had the honor of hearing Richard Varn speak.  He is the Distinguished Presidential Appointee for Educational Testing Serivce (ETS) in the Center for Advanced Technologies and Neuroscience.  He shared new developments in neuroscience and reiterated the same message highlighted in the Scientific American article for helping children succeed in school and life:  put an instrument in a child's hand and do it early. 

Mr. Varn particularly referenced the work of Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University.  Her work is referenced in the Scientific American article, "How to Build a Better Learner" and can be downloaded from her Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory website under the heading Music in the News.  Also, the slideshow she has posted under Neural Encoding of Music summarizes some of her findings in a friendlier format.

Other experts are sharing similar insights.  Samuel Abrams, a national expert on why schools in Finland are so successful and scholar at Columbia University, had this to say when asked by a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News how he would improve Alaskan schools.  His first recommendation: "integrate more arts and crafts to make school more enticing, to give math and science more concrete meaning, and to foster greater collaboration among students."

His second recommendation:  "integrate more physical education and more time between subjects for play."  Here is the link to the entire article, Education expert offers views after visiting Alaska schools.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:
Thank you, Glacier Valley and the Juneau Community, for providing our students music - "the best brain training" - as a core part of their public education.  What would cost $3,150 per school year per child in private lessons is accessible to all students free of charge.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Parents, Students & Teachers Share Thoughts on JAMM

While the Abreu Fellows were here for their internship, they helped complete a very important project:  they collected testimony from JAMM students, parents and staff.  This video is a result from the hours of interviews that Stephanie Hsu and Julie Davis conducted. Thank you, parents and teachers, for finding time in your busy schedules to meet with them.

Stephanie and Julie collected so many powerful and positive messages from families and teachers that we could not possibly include all of them in this short video.  Many parents talked about the changes in focus and discipline that they've seen in their children since the start of the program.  Others shared how their children feel proud, talk about violin at home all of the time, and like to teach or perform for their families.   The performances and program have helped connect parents with the school.  For the students, "Happy" was a common response.

Here is the video I put together to represent their voices:

Kaye Peters, one of Glacier Valley's kindergarten teachers wrote this:
"Thank you for bringing this incredible experience to GV.  The violin program has definitely made a positive impact on my kindergarten students.  I see such wonder and pride in their faces as they handle their violins.  I hear from many of my parents that their children talk endlessly about the program and are so excited to share their experiences.  Today one of my parents shared that her daughter carries her violin everywhere with her, and "teaches" anyone who will listen about how to appropriately take care of it.  The love and pride that our students have for music carries over into their school work as well.  It helps build confidence and great listening skills!  Again, thank you for all of your work and for caring so much about our children." 
Thank you, Glacier Valley and the Juneau community, for supporting JAMM.  Together, we are making a difference!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

JAMM Expands with Sustainability in Mind

Kiara Ziengenfuss will continue to have violin instruction as JAMM expands to 1st grade
This year, JAMM expanded it programming to include all kindergartners and 1st graders.  120 students will receive 90 min/wk of violin instruction, during the school day.

JAMM is an in-school model for a reason.  As a school music teacher, I hoped to promote a model that utilizes existing resources, addresses the needs of public schools, provides access to all students at an early age and is sustainable over time.  Consider these figures:
  • JAMM's 1st year:  the cost for one kindergarten student to receiver 90 min/wk of violin instruction was $213 for the school year.
  • JAMM's 2nd year: the cost dropped to $60 per kindergartner for the same delivery of instruction.  $60 per student for the entire school year!  That's sustainable.
JAMM kindergartners and 1st graders at Glacier Valley Elementary School

This is how JAMM does it:
  • Utilizes existing school personnel:  music teacher and kindergarten teacher help with instruction, including paraeducators assigned to work with students with special needs.
  • Professional development is embedded:  Suzuki instructor, Mr. Xia, teams alongside music and classroom teachers.  Each provides a different strength while learning from one another.  The next year, Mr. Xia moves up with the 1st grade classes, while music and classroom teachers deliver the kindergarten program on their own with help from a volunteer or intern. This approach also frees up Mr. Xia so that he can help other schools start-up similar programs.
  • Students double, not instruments:  Even though the number of students grew from 60 to 120 in one year, instruments are still be shared among the six 1st grade and kindergarten classes during the school day.
  • Effective use of time:  children at this young age can tire out early.  By providing violin instruction as part of their school day, students are more alert, attentive and benefit from having their music teacher and classroom teacher present to manage the class, provide developmentally appropriate instruction and maintain consistent routines.  Behavior issues are minimal so that when JAMM moves to an after-school program for 2nd graders, behavior expectations and consistent school culture are already in place. 
  • Provides access for all students:  An after-school program still might not reach every student.  JAMM ensures that all kindergartners and 1st graders receive instrumental instruction as part of their school day for those first two years at Glacier Valley.
  • Expands the role of the music teacher who not only provides general music classes, but also instrumental music classes in the primary grades that help school readiness skills, like focus, discipline, teamwork and impulse control.
  • Increases the number of advocates:  JAMM is more visible because it occurs during the school day, allowing teachers and other school staff see its success in action. 
  • Glacier Valley Parent Group: is our sponsoring organization with a phenomenal parent volunteer, Katrina Laneville, who helps with finances.  
    Kindergarten teacher, Kaye Peters, models alongside her students, just like the other Glacier Valley teachers photographed above

    JAMM's in-school model is spreading!  At the local level, Riverbend Elementary School, another Title I school in the Juneau School District, plans to start a violin program for their kindergartners next year.  And nationally, El Sistema Colorado is basing its first program at Garden Place Elementary School in Denver on JAMM's in-school model.  I traveled there in November to provide teacher training and share the work that we've been doing here in Juneau.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Glacier Valley's Tlingit Dance and Drum Group

    Proud members of Glacier Valley's Tlingit Dance and Drum Group
    Last week, over seventy Glacier Valley students in 1st through 5th grades proudly entered the gymnasium to share with the school community what they've been learning in Tlingit Dance and Drum Group.  Thanks to funding from the Association of Alaska School Board's Initiative for Community Engagement (Alaska ICE) and the Juneau School District At-Risk Music grant, Glacier Valley teachers were able to sponsor this after-school group for an hour, each week.

    The Tlingit Dance and Drum group is the newest addition to JAMM whose mission is to "develop neighborhood programs that create community pride, partnership and active participation."  JAMM also supports the growth of culturally relevant music and is thrilled that Hans Chester and Glenda Lindley can share their Alaska Native heritage as the club's sponsors.  As the number of students in the club grew, Janalynn Ferguson jumped in to help. 

    These Glacier Valley teachers have kindly written a summary sharing the club's semester highlights:

    The original plan was to build a dance group at Glacier Valley of about 25 or so students; two months later we have 72 members who meet every Tuesday after school to drum, (sing) and dance.  These students feel content to be in a place that is familiar, doing something they love to do, to the beat of the drum.  The drum being a source of power that draws students, in a nurturing way. 
    Our members are currently putting together their lineage so that the songs we sing represent the member's rightful ownership.  Students are learning who they are by looking at where they came from.
    Starting in January, we plan to meet twice a week and begin to put together a more formal performance presentation.  Members will learn how to introduce themselves, the songs they sing in Tlingit, as well as the history of the songs we are using.  We will also look at regalia needs and figure out how to fill the gaps for all members.
    On January 14th, 9:00 - 1:00 p.m., we have invited the dance group families and Glacier Valley staff to help make 25 drums for the dance group and Glacier Valley.  This is a tall order for members so we are counting on family, friends and community to get the drums made.
    The Tlingit Drum and Dance group has already grown past our initial expectation!  That suggests an opportunity to recognize the need and to provide for a larger membership.  How exciting.
    Hans Chester, Glenda Lindley, and Janalynn Ferguson 
    More members prepare for their entrance into the Glacier Valley gym

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    JAMM's Winter Concert: Make Room for 120 Young Musicians

    Mr. Xia, JAMM's violin instructor, leads his ever-growing orchestra (Photo: Michael Penn, Juneau Empire)

    A sea of blue JAMM t-shirts filled the Glacier Valley Elementary School gymnasium, as 120 kindergarten and 1st grade students stood proudly, ready to share with families and friends what they've learned.  One year ago, the first kindergarten class of JAMM violinists graduated from their Paper Violins.  It was an exciting moment for these young musicians because this performance represented a rite of passage: one that acknowledged them as responsible and skilled violinists ready to play the real violin.   

    Now, as 1st graders, they not only had the thrill of performing in front of a packed audience, but also the honor of giving the next class of kindergartners a glimpse of where they might be a year from now. 

    Here are highlights from their two performances:

    JAMM would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their generous support of this fledgling program.  In just over a year's time,  you have ensured that all kindergarten and 1st grade students receive access to quality musical instruction during school hours.  From the entire Glacier Valley community, thank you!

    Association of Alaska School Boards
    Great Blue Heron Fund 
    Greg Burger and Mary DeSmet
    Classics for Kids
    Douglas-Dornan Foundation
    Glacier Valley Parent Group
    Juneau Community Foundation
    Juneau School District 
    Stan and Amy Lujan
    Kim Poole
    Rasmuson Foundation