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!