Friday, December 17, 2010

Community Partnerships and Marimba!

Betsy, Tasha and Sarah from The Canvas teach Zimbabwean Marimba
to Glacier Valley 3rd and 4th graders

El Sistema utilizes the power of community partnerships and networks to help run its centers throughout the country.  It has successfully struck a balance between local autonomy to reflect the needs of each community, while at the same time creating a national program that gives students from even the remotest areas opportunities to grow and challenge themselves musically.

Our Art is Elementary program at Glacier Valley also partners with community organizations to provide our students with rich arts experiences.  One of those partners is The Canvas, Juneau's community arts studio, which offers classes in an inclusive environment for adults, youth and individuals with disabilities.  Last year the Canvas provided expert potters for an after-school Clay Studio.  This year, their teaching artists taught a marimba workshop to our 3rd and 4th grade students as part of a two-week artist residency. The Artist in the Schools program is made possible through a partnership between the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Rasmusson Foundation and the Glacier Valley Parent Group.

Vaipuna plays the bass or the "elder" of the Marimba family who speaks little, but whose voice carries much weight
The Canvas purchased this 7-piece Zimbabwean Marimba set for its clients because of its accessibility and community building potential.  After offering Marimba classes to the community, they wanted to offer these beautiful instruments to local schools through the artist-in the-schools program and hoped Glacier Valley would help pilot it.  We were happy to work with The Canvas again, particularly on this project because it exposed our students to a new musical experience grounded in ensemble.  Thanks to Auke Bay Elementary School, who loaned us several of their Orff xylophones, our music room was fully equipped so that every child could play a mallet instrument.

Betsy Sims, Sarah Newsham and Tasha Walen are Canvas teaching artists who offer marimba as part of the Canvas' community class offerings for children and adults. This residency has been beneficial to both organizations.  The Canvas hopes to expose our Glacier Valley families to the kinds of arts programs they offer downtown, while Glacier Valley students experience ensemble playing with a beautiful instrument unaffordable to the school.  Glacier Valley has also offered to loan its African drums to the Canvas so that they can offer youth workshops during the summer months.  Together, Glacier Valley and Canvas are sharing resources, reaching more students and building a larger audience interested in community arts opportunities.

Here is a short video documenting the rehearsal process.  Enjoy!

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