Music

Like many artists can probably recall, there have been countless moments of musical transformation in my life as a performer and teacher. But the memory I would like to share is from a special choir trip in seventh grade. The Middle School of the Arts in South Florida was invited to sing at the Heritage Music Festival in Toronto, Canada. It was my first trip out of the United States and I was elated to be singing with new friends! We had been practicing Sing Me to Heaven by Daniel Gawthrop, an a cappella SATB piece that features beautifully haunting text, emotionally gripping harmonies, and a rich musical theme.After performing our piece in traditional rows and sectioned by voice part, we were asked to stand in a circle and mix up. Our conductor was prompted to step aside and we, the choir, were instructed to close our eyes and hold each other’s hands. Sensing the supportive energy of the people beside me, I breathed and began to sing. For a moment, I felt vulnerable and alone, until the warmth of the bass line “wrapped me in song,” as the text suggests.With no direction or order, we sang on. Breathing together as a unit, making music organically, without consultation or approval – singing from our hearts. We created an intimate artistic experience that was completely untouchable. Something so private and incredible that each of us as individuals could not quite explain it. And yet, the fact that it was something we shared made it that much more magical.When we finished singing, we were told that no one opened their eyes or unlocked their hands. The musical energy that circulated among us was too powerful for description. After some time passed, we were asked to “come back” and talk about what happened. We all cried, unable to process what had truly happened in those three minutes. Sing Me to Heaven is a song I will never forget because of how it transformed me. It was then I discovered that music provides a deeper connection to autonomy and unity.My favorite part about being a mentor/teacher is the collaborative process. A musical discovery made together through creativity and courage is life changing. Taking risks and experimenting vocally is what musical growth is all about. Those three minutes in Toronto almost 20 years ago directly inspires how I encourage young singers of today. The greatest reward received as a music educator is developing quality relationships with students and helping them reach their fullest potential as performing artists.Sing Me to HeavenIn my heart’s sequestered chambers lie truths stripped of poet’s gloss. Words alone are vain and vacant, and my heart is mute. In response to aching silence memory summons half-heard voices, and my soul finds primal eloquence and wraps me in song. If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby. If you would win my heart, sing me a love song. If you would mourn me and bring me to God, sing me a requiem. Sing me to Heaven. Touch in me all love and passion, pain and pleasure. Touch in me grief and comfort; love and passion, pain and pleasure. Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem. Love me, comfort me, bring me to God. Sing me a love song, sing me to heaven.  ...

Hello ArtSmart supporters and followers! My name is Heather Phillips and I am an opera singer, voice teacher and mentor with the ArtSmart program. I am so thrilled to be teaching and mentoring with ArtSmart at The Franklin Learning Center in Philadelphia this year. I have been working with these students since the start of the 2017-2018 school year, and they have already shown such growth and improvement, not only in their music and performance skills but in their individual abilities to remain focused, motivated and driven. I am so looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring for their development.I’m sure at some point you will get to hear from the students themselves about their mentorship experience or see their progress via video or writings from our social media channels. However for this blog entry, I want to take the opportunity to share with you all how a musical mentorship experience from my childhood had a profound effect on my life and how that experience continues to influence and inspire me in my current job as a mentor.I grew up in North Canton, Ohio and I started taking piano lessons when I was in 1st grade. I was lucky enough to take lessons with a woman named Carol Singer. Not only was she a piano teacher, but she was also the chair of the outreach department for the McDowell Music Club of Canton, Ohio. After I began developing my piano skills, she offered me my first chance at performing through the music club’s outreach program. Under the guidance of her mentorship, I began to perform not only piano solos, but my other musical disciplines, voice and flute as well. I performed at church’s, assisted living facilities and nursing homes across the county as a volunteer performer. Not only did my performing and music skills grow, but it was the first opportunity for me as a young child to put myself in front of an audience. As a naturally shy kid, this was extremely important to the early development of my confidence and self-esteem. At any given concert I would perform my voice, flute and piano solos as well as duets with my piano teacher, which not only aided in the growth of my self-confidence, but also taught me how to multi-task at an early age. As the years went on, I found myself doing better in school and having more confidence in other areas of my scholastic studies. Mrs. Singer also invited other professional musicians to perform with us from the Canton Symphony Orchestra at these outreach programs, which eventually led to my involvement as a flautist with the Canton Youth Symphony Orchestra. The opportunity to become a member of the youth symphony led to my first exposure to the opera during an annual arts field trip that the youth symphony organized. The opera was Madame Butterfly and after seeing that performance, my love for the art form of opera was born.Mrs. Singer’s mentorship not only led to my eventual career in opera and served as a fundamental building block in the foundation of my confidence, but it also opened my eyes to the power of music at a very young age. The majority of our outreach performances were at assisted living and nursing homes for the elderly, most whom were nearing the end of their lives and suffered many physical ailments that disabled them from leaving their resident buildings. So, we brought the music to them. The amount of joy that live music gave them was extremely evident for me to see, even as a young adolescent. It was my first glimpse of how powerful music can be in someone’s life and it gave me a significant reason to share my musical talents with others.Music gave meaning to my life at such an early age. It taught me self-discipline, confidence, multi-tasking, goal setting and gave me a sense of how I could significantly contribute to my community. The benefits that have come from having a musical mentor early on in my life are endless to list, and that is why I am extremely passionate about my responsibility to pass along these life lessons through my mentorship with ArtSmart. Every time I teach a voice or piano lesson, I think back to when I was that student’s age and how instrumental my musical mentor was in my life. I think about how important it is to inspire my students to be courageous with their talents, just like Mrs. Singer did with me. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity and responsibility to help the ArtSmart students on their developmental journey and to continue to expose them to the wonderful world of the arts. My life has been extremely enriched because of an early exposure to music from a mentor, and it makes me so excited to think how the ArtSmart program will enrich the lives of so many young students....

We’re back to continue our conversation with the ArtSmart Co-Founders for our second installment of our blog series. This time we’ll explore how our Co-Founders discovered music and how it continues to play an instrumental (see what we did there?) role in their lives.  We have Michael Fabiano, John Viscardi, and Brian Levor for this conversation.What is your first memory of music?Michael: My mother and father loved the Dvorak New World Symphony and played it on the record player several times when I was three and I still listen to it today.John: Sitting on the couch at my grandparent’s house in Queens listening to Oklahoma! with my grandmother.Brian: Good question. I remember taking piano lessons at a very young age, but the more poetic answer is listening to my dad play The Beatles on the piano while he was waiting for my mom to be ready to leave the house. It’s a good thing they wrote so many songs.What role, if any, did music play in your childhood?John: Music was an enormous part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Neither of my parents were musicians but there was always a soundtrack for each action: Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin for weekend dinners; Led Zeppelin while working on my dad’s 1969 GTO; Earth, Wind and Fire or The Bee Gees on a crazy winter night with the extended family.Brian: No role at all <laughs>...

10 Reasons Why Giving Students Access to the Arts MattersRecent data from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the Arts contributed a whopping $704.2 Billion to the US economy in 2013 and a 32.5% growth in GDP from 1998 and 2013.  Additionally, over that 15-year period, consumer spending on the performing arts grew 10% annually.  These trends demonstrate the Arts are an important commodity for U.S. consumers.  While Americans place a value on the arts, funding for the arts in schools continues to disappear at a dramatic rate.  Now, more than ever, it’s important to advocate for the arts and fight to give students access.  Here are 10 Reasons why giving students access to the arts matters:The Arts make important economic contributionsAs the data from the NEA shows, the Arts make important contributions to the U.S. economy and provide jobs for millions of Americans.  If the arts and culture in the U.S. were a state, its $704.2 billion would be larger than the Gross State Product for 45 of 50 states.  Removing arts education from students robs them of the opportunity to learn about career paths for the future and significant ways to feed the economy.Teachers benefit from arts educationWhat is good for students is often good for educators.  While most studies demonstrate the positive influence that arts education has on students, the “Learning In and Through the Arts” study found that teachers in high-arts schools were more open, flexible, knowledgeable, and engaged in their own ongoing learning compared to teachers in low-arts schools.  Further, art teachers must learn to balance teaching across disciplines, which ultimately gives them the same benefits the students receive from taking arts classes.Art increases critical thinking skillsIn a randomized controlled trial involving 3,811 students who were assigned by lottery to participate in a school-sponsored visit to an Art Museum in Arkansas, students who participated in the School Visit Program demonstrated significantly stronger critical thinking skills when analyzing a new painting after the trip.  Results were even stronger for students who had underprivileged backgrounds.Exposure to art affects values and makes kids more empatheticThe same study also demonstrated that exposure to art made kids more empathetic by gaining awareness of different people, places, and ideas.  Working in conjunction with critical thinking skills, this encourages kids to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world and relate to other people.Art is an inclusive universal languageThe arts are the first official language of young children everywhere.  Babies coo and smile to the sound of a parental lullaby; children scribble as a part of development.  Most sought after toys feature bright colors and make a variety of sounds.  Access to the arts in schools creates this same type of inclusive environment where all students, regardless of background and skill can participate and engage.The arts improve social cohesionStudents from lower income families often get little exposure to the arts if they are not provided at school.  A 2005 report from the Rand Corporation argues that arts education does far more than provide a “creative outlet,” but rather helps all students connect to a larger world thereby improving community cohesion.  By providing access to the arts, this levels the playing field so that all students regardless of background have enrichment experiences.Students learn how to collaborate through art and apply skills to other areasData suggests skills students gain through participating in operas can be applied more broadly.  Operas force students to collaborate often and effectively especially pertaining to understanding the multiple layers of meaning.  This in turn, as a researcher for the Harvard Graduate School of Education found through observation, leads to higher quality of work and deeper comprehension of complex subject material.Art teaches unique habits not taught by other subjectsA 2007 study by Winner and Hetland revealed a spectrum of mental habits that students learn in the art classroom that are not typically acquired by other parts of school curricula.  These include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from their mistakes.  The kinds of thinking are intrinsically important, but not the same type of skills a student might learn from math or science.Art is an important complement to test preparationThe majority of public schools emphasize test preparation and classes are often lecture style.  The arts are a much-needed reprieve for students that foster creativity and help sustain engagement in other subjects.  Other countries like Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, and Finland, who all consistently outperform the U.S. in math and reading standardized tests, all require extensive education in the arts.The arts make students smarterIn 2008, the Dana Foundation released a series of studies lead by neuroscientists that found a tight correlation between exposure to the arts and improved skills in cognition, attention to learning, and memory.  This is because an interest in performing art leads to a high state of motivation that produces the sustained attention necessary to improve cognitive performance.ArtSmart is a nonprofit that gives students access to the arts.  For more information on ArtSmart or how to donate, please visit www.artsmart.org....

The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture where in the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. Minimalist design has been highly influenced by Japanese traditional design and architecture. In addition, the work of De Stijl artists is a major source of reference for this kind of work....

Ask a musician if music education is important for our children and you’ll invariably get a resounding “YES!” You know it, I know it, my co-founders know it, and most of the people we associate with know it. We have first hand experience – studying music shaped the core of our beings from a young age. We wouldn’t know ourselves without it!Now as ArtSmart has grown from idea into reality, I’ve found myself explaining the program to just about anyone who will listen. This includes plenty of non-musicians. These well-intentioned folk are school administrators, parents, educators, office workers, even friends and family, and they grew up with limited musical experience. In the process of explaining what exactly ArtSmart does, I often start with how many schools are slashing budgets for Arts programs, and how terrible that is for our children, which makes a great lead-in for what ArtSmart plans to do about it. And most people agree: Arts education is good. But occasionally I’ll get some push-back. Someone for whom arts degrees are a waste of time, and music lessons a diversion. So for these people I had to go about proving what I already know- music education provides benefits far beyond the music room. And what I found in the studies and facts is direct scientific evidence which brings to light why our mission is so important:Studying music increases cognitive ability in other subject areas. A 2010 study by B.H. Helmrich published in the Journal of Adolescent Research shows a positive correlation between music instruction and performance in algebra. Musical students show a stronger sense of cooperation and community. Caterall demonstrated in 2009 that students studying music show increased participation in community service, civic engagement and collaborative probem solving. Arts Participation increases school attendance and slashes drop-out rates. A number of studies (Catterall, 1998; Horn, 1992; Heath et al., 1998; Mahoney, & Cairns, 1997; Barry, 2010) have shown that students participating in Arts programs are more likely to attend school, less likely to drop out, and more likely to graduate.None of these findings were surprising to me. What was surprising (and exciting!) was the sheer ­amount of research I uncovered to confirm the importance of music education. One great resource is http://www.artsedsearch.org, a site wholly dedicated to compiling research on arts education. Another comes from NAMM, which has put together a ton of research in the field. I particularly like their Facts and Quotes PDF, with over 50 pages of information supporting arts education!Finding all of this scientific evidence for our mission here at ArtSmart has been a huge confidence builder for our team. Knowing that our instincts are backed by tons of research has helped shape our program and our message to donors, schools and partners.There can be no denying it: Arts education is vital for our children!...

The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture where in the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. Minimalist design has been highly influenced by Japanese traditional design and architecture. In addition, the work of De Stijl artists is a major source of reference for this kind of work....