As Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts has been celebrating its Tenth Anniversary Performance Season in 2016, it continued its successful Educational ArtReach program, begun in 2009, that brings professional arts and education performances and workshops to students from Pre-K to 12th grade in the Allegheny-Clarion Valley Schools.
On March 3, 2016 ARCA brought the extraordinary brass quintet and seasoned teaching artists, C Street Brass, for a full day residency in the A-C Valley Schools. The theme of their residency was how melodies play a part in telling a story, using examples from two famous American musicals, West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin.
Hailed for radiating the joy of music-making, C Street Brass brought to A-C Valley students not only their imaginative approach to brass quintet performance, superb musicianship, extraordinary technical prowess and seasoned educational skills, but also the ineffable “inspiration factor” of charismatic, young professionals in their twenties who are making a significant career in the music field and receiving accolades their innovative performances. George Vosburgh – Principal Trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony and an ARCA favorite in the annual Christmas Pittsburgh Symphony Brass Concert – has said of the group, “C Street is the new sound, look, and feel of the modern brass quintet. Highly virtuosic playing in a wide variety of styles rolled into an accessible, warm hearted candor which makes for a delightful concert experience. ”
C Street Brass performed three small workshops in the small communal areas outside of classrooms for Pre-K to Grade 6 students, demonstrating their instruments, answering questions and performing for the students. They used examples from musicals by Bernstein and Gershwin to explain the history of each instrument and how their instruments are used differently in classical and jazz settings. In advance of their residency, elementary music teacher, A-C Valley choral director and musical theatre director, Jennifer Lowrey, prepared K-6 students for C Street Brass small workshops, introducing them to songs and melodies from these musicals as well as the brass instrument family.
In the afternoon C Street performed an assembly concert in the Elementary gymnasium before moving to the High School auditorium to perform an assembly for grades 7 – 12. In addition to works by American composers Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, C Street also performed Concerto for Saint Mark, Fly Me to the Moon, and other jazz arrangements for brass quintet.
After School, C Street Brass musicians conducted hands-on workshops with A-C Valley band students, coordinated by Scott DiTullio, High School Band Director.
As it is said, when performing for a “pro” who demonstrates the artistic subtlety and nuances of how the music goes, “a musical phrase is worth a thousand words…”
A-C Valley students had a wonderful time playing for and being coached by members of C Street Brass!
C Street Brass is passionately committed to educating and inspiring the next generation of musicians. In addition to their arts education work in Pittsburgh, the group has done educational residencies in Orcas Island, WA, and at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA, among others. C Street Brass was awarded a Visiting Scholars Grant by the University of South Carolina, spending several one weeks during the 2014-15 school year in Columbia, South Carolina performing concerts, teaching master classes, giving seminars, and working with local community bands and sharing their music with the community in free public outdoor performances.
About ARCA’s ArtReach Program
ARCA’s 2016 program is built of the success of ARCA’s arts educational activities in the A-C Valley Schools since 2009, in partnership with A-C Valley administrators, faculty and music specialists.
ARCA began its educational outreach program in 2009, when former Executive Director, Drew Orient, brought workshops and assembly performances on the music of Mozart to all students from Kindergarten to 12th grade in the Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District. In 2014 the program was expanded to include students in PreKindergarten.
Since its inception the program has been supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. In 2015, Clarion County Community Fund, an affiliate of Bridge Builders Community Foundations, gave a generous grant in support of the Dancing off the Canvas residency of Attack Theatre and the Allegheny-Clarion Valley School student art exhibit in the Red Brick Gallery.
ARCA is grateful for the support of the A-C Valley School Board, Superintendent David McDeavitt, the Principals, and faculty – with special thanks to music/art specialists Jennifer Lowrey, Kathy Larimer, Scott DiTullio, Anita Allen and Gifted and Talented Director Lori Marron Sherman – for their partnership in bringing its sequential arts education program to enrich the education of AC Valley students since its inception in 2009.
ARCA’s arts education program is in fulfillment of its mission as a non-profit organization, demonstrating its commitment to contribute to the future of the Allegheny-Clarion valley community through the arts education of its young people.
ARCA’s Arts Education Sequence
From 2009 to 2012 ARCA’s arts education sequence began with small workshops presented for K-6th grade students in three groups in the common areas (pods) outside their classrooms. These prepared students for a thematically related assembly concert, also performed for 7-12th grades. During this time in-school workshops and assembly concerts were linked programmatically to an ARCA classical music concert in Lincoln Hall in downtown Foxburg, which concluded the sequence. Discounted tickets were offered to AC Valley students.
Presenting teaching artists and performers of the highest artistic quality has been a primary objective. From 2010 to 2012, the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Players performed the final chamber music concert, programing music relevant to the theme of the AC Valley arts education sequence.
Beginning in the 2012 spring semester, ARCA presented workshops for the Gifted and Talented students in grades 7 to 12 both from A-C Valley and 12 regional school districts as part of a Gifted and Talented Consortium, followed by an afternoon assembly performance for all A-C Valley 7-12th grade students in the A-C Valley High School Auditorium.
In May of 2013, ARCA’s Gifted and Talented outreach program brought Slippery Rock University’s touring drama troupe under the direction of Laura C. Smiley to perform a composite version of Romeo and Juliet. The afternoon assembly was preceded by workshops on Shakespeare and theatre techniques. Professor Ronald G. Shafer, a renowned Shakespeare expert and senior member of the doctoral English faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, presented a session on Romeo and Juliet. Ken and Liz Smith of the Hob Nob Theater guided students with improvisation and scene development exercises around the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and presented film clips from various Romeo and Juliet movies, including The Hunger Games.
ARCA Educational ArtReach Autumn 2013
In 2013, ARCA Board Member Kathy Erlandson Soroka, an experienced arts education professional, worked with A-C Valley music special specialist Jennifer Lowrey to enhance ARCA’s traditional sequence – small workshops preparing students for an assembly concert of classical music – in several ways: Presenting Cello Fury, a nationally celebrated crossover classical/rock group, to connect classical music with rock music – the students’ music vernacular – see youtube video; Providing teacher resource materials utilized by Elementary Music specialist, Jennifer Lowrey, to prepare students for Cello Fury’s small workshops and assembly concerts; Changing the sequence’s final public concert to one featuring Cello Fury, i.e. the artists who performed in-school workshops and assemblies; Moving the location of the final concert from Lincoln Hall in downtown Foxburg to A-C Valley High School Auditorium, offering deeply discounted family pricing.
In the small workshops for K-6 students, Cello Fury cellists (noted and experienced teaching artists) utilized the melody “Twinkle, Twinkle” to contrast what makes music ‘rock’ or ‘classical’, demonstrating the special sounds that create their distinctive style. Prepared by Elementary music teacher, Jennifer Lowrey, students imitated the sounds of ‘glissando’, ‘col legno’, and “pizzicato” and clapped rhythms to understand how changing rhythmic accents distinguishes a rock beat from a classical tempo. At the end of each session, students had the opportunity to “try the cello” themselves.
In the afternoon Cello Fury cellists and drummer (who was featured in a drum solo) performed two assembly concerts in the elementary and high school auditoriums which were a huge success.
Cello Fury’s evening performance in the high school auditorium was promoted to K-6 students and parents via individual take-home handbills. At the end of the K-6 Assembly, Elementary Principal, Joshua Tabor, invited the students to return that evening for the Cello Fury concert and to bring their parents – and so they did! Standing in line to buy tickets were elementary students with their mother and father in tow.
Of the people attending the evening community concert at 7:00 PM at the A-C Valley High School Auditorium, more than 80% of the audience was comprised of elementary children and their parents. At the intermission of the evening concert, once again K-6th grade music specialist, Jennifer Lowrey, guided more than 20 children and some adults as they tried out the cello.
ARCA Educational ArtReach 2014-15
In 2014-15 , under the direction of Board member Kathy Erlandson Soroka, ARCA expanded its Educational ArtReach Partnership Program in the A-C Valley Schools. Utilizing a dance-based theme, A-C Valley students from pre-K to 12th grade participated in The Music That Makes Us Dance (2014 Fall) and Dancing Off the Canvas (2015 Spring),
Dance was chosen to extend the artistic genres brought to A-C Valley students because some of the most joyous, uplifting and effecting music ever written has been created for the dance. The impulse to move and respond to rhythm is deeply imbedded in our cultural DNA. ARCA’s program was designed to utilize the universal language of dance, engaging students in the wonder of music and the dance – an expression of the impulse of life – and involving their hearts, minds and bodies in learning through the arts.
New initiatives introduced in The Music That Makes Us Dance sequence in the 2014 Fall semester included:
- Performances for the first time by musicians and dancers – internationally acclaimed clarinetist and saxophonist, Suzanne Ortner, and composer, classical guitar virtuoso, and Carnegie Mellon faculty member, John Marcinizyn (The Suzanne Ortner Duo) with dancers from the Pittsburgh-based Murphy-Smith Dance Collective, Renee Danielle Smith and Joe Nickel;
- Adding Pre-K students to the program;
- Movement workshops for pre-K-4th grade conducted by a Dance Teaching Artist and early childhood education specialist, Laurie Tarter;
- A printed Teacher Resource Guide with resources and lesson plans for classroom teachers and arts specialists (download the PDF below);
- Discounted family tickets to encourage A-C Valley students and parents to attend Fall ARCA classical concerts featuring music written for the dance – performed by The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and internationally acclaimed pianist, Gayle Martin;
- Two dance-related concerts featuring young musicians – a concert featuring Pittsburgh Concert Society Young Artists Winners from age 12 to 20 in Lincoln Hall and the eighty member Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra at A-C Valley High School Auditorium with orchestra members from age 12 to 22.
In the 2015 Spring semester, ARCA continued its dance related ArtReach Program with Dancing Off The Canvas. On Tuesday, March 24, Pittsburgh’s celebrated dance company and experienced arts educator, Attack Theatre, presented morning workshops for AC Valley Gifted & Talented 5-12 grade students and students in the Gifted and Talented consortium from 12 Schools and six counties: Clarion, Venango, Jefferson, Elk, Forest, Clearfield. In addition AC Valley students in the visual arts, drama, band and chorus in 7-12 participated in the workshops, coordinated by Lori Marron Sherman, A-C Valley Gifted and Talented Director.
On Thursday, March 26, at 7:00 PM the Attack ensemble returned to perform an “Informance” of Leap Into Action – A Look Behind the Curtain – for a community audience in the A-C Valley High School Auditorium.
As part of this initiative, A-C Valley students performed a dance inspired by the 2014-15 dance education program in a spring choir concert conducted by A-C Valley Choral Conductor Jennifer Lowrey.
Another goal of ARCA’s ArtReach program is to bring attention to arts instruction already flourishing at A-C Valley and provide new public opportunities to showcase students’ talents. As part of Dancing off the Canvas, an exhibit of art works by A-C Valley art students inspired by the dance was displayed in the second floor exhibit space of The Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop in downtown Foxburg on weekends, Friday through Sunday from April 10 – 19. Working with Donna Edmonds, Red Brick Gallery Director, Anita Allen, A-C Valley Art teacher and Director of the Art Club, guided the students in creating and preparing art works for display in the exhibit.