Thursday, May 26, 2011

Juneau Jazz & Classics and Community Day

Juneau Jazz & Classics brings Awadagin Pratt to JAMM
Juneau Jazz & Classics is celebrating its 25th year of "encouraging the appreciation of jazz, classical and blues music among people of all ages."  Every May for two weeks, this incredible organization under the leadership of Linda Rosenthal, brings jazz and classical musicians from all over the country to perform in Juneau.  Many of these artists visit schools to perform concerts, coach young musicians and share their enthusiasm for music.

This year, Glacier Valley was honored to host two Jazz & Classics artists:  The Jasper Quartet and Awadagin Pratt.  Both were able to work with our kindergarten violinists.  They encouraged musicality, proper technique and performed right alongside them.  What made Awadagin's visit so special was that he specifically asked to work with the "music teacher in Juneau with the El Sistema nucleo." For the Juneau community, his request confirmed that JAMM is part of a recognized national network and that the work its doing is supported by others thousands of miles away.  Thank you, Awadagin.  Your gentle spirit and ability to connect with our kids made your visit a memorable one!

JAMM performs for Community Day at the University of Alaska Southeast
 JAMM also gave Glacier Valley its first opportunity to participate in Juneau Jazz & Classics' Community Day.  This free all-day event held on the campus of the University of Alaska Southeast offers food, educational programs and musical performances.  Our kindergartners and 4th & 5th grade Morning Musicians performed in the beautiful Egan Library, which made our students' first visit to this college campus a welcoming one.  Again, we had an amazing turn-out by Glacier Valley families whom stayed after the concert to enjoy the rest of the festivities with their kids.

Here's a short clip of them playing E String Concerto and Variations on Boil Them Cabbage Down.

Thank you, Juneau Jazz & Classics, for bringing the community into the school and the school into the community.  Happy 25th Birthday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

HeArt & Sole Ballroom Program Highlighted in DC

 While traveling to Washington, DC, for the National Teacher of the Year event, I had the opportunity to meet with folks from the US Department of Education.  They wanted to hear from teachers about how best to engage students, families, community and strengthen professional development for teachers.

I was excited to share Glacier Valley's HeART & Sole Ballroom program, where P.E. and music teachers collaborate with librarian and counselor to offer all 3rd through 5th grade students two sessions/week of ballroom dancing under the leadership of Pat Belec, Juneau dance instructor.  This 8-week residency culminates in a performance of all 200 students who showcase their moves for the community and school.  Dance steps include meringe, swing, tango, fox trot and electric slide.   Twenty-four of them are selected through an audition process to perform two weeks later for the Juneau Douglas High School Dance Team Show. 

Here's the link to the US Department of Education's blog posting of our program:  Waltzing Students to Fitness, Health and Rhythm.

If you'd like to see them in action, the video of their performance, earning a standing ovation, is posted above.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Delivering Paper Violins to Alaskan Senators in DC

National Teacher of the Year Event at the White House with President Obama
While waiting in line to meet the President of the United States, I wondered how much time I'd have to speak with him and what I would say.  For security reasons, the state teachers of the year could not carry anything with them when they entered the Oval Office for their photo with President Obama.  But if I could, I knew exactly what I'd present:  a paper violin carefully handmade by parents and students of our JAMM program.  It would be the perfect segue into a conversation about the importance of arts education.  In the few seconds that I had to shake the President's hand, I told him what an honor it was to meet him and to thank him personally for making children a national priority.  He thanked me for traveling such a long way.

Here is President Obama's address in the Rose Garden before announcing Michelle Shearer as the 2011 National Teacher of the Year.  Michelle represents teachers' voices so well and tackles tough questions with intelligence, heart and determination. 

I did get to spend a short time with Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and thanked him for keeping the arts on the national education agenda.  With so much focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), I encouraged him to include the arts as an equally important discipline.  Instead of STEM, advocate for STEAM!  He shared this wasn't an easy task, but is still trying.

I am proud to say that both Alaskan Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski publicly support arts education.  They made time in their schedules to meet with me to hear about the arts initiatives happening at Glacier Valley Elementary School and about the effects these programs are having on our children socially, emotionally and academically.  Thank you both for your dedication and commitment to Alaska's children.  It was an honor to meet both of you!

Senator Mark Begich

Senator Lisa Murkowski