08 Oct Equitable Access To Music Education: by Mentor Claire Kuttler
We would like to introduce you to one of our new mentors for the 2018-2019 school year, Claire Kuttler! Claire recently made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and is engaged to perform the roles of Mimi in La Boheme and La Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro this year. Claire resides in New York City and holds degrees with honors from the Mannes College of Music, the University of Maryland, College Park and Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. We know she will have a wonderful impact on our students!
Equitable Access To Music Education: By Mentor Claire Kuttler
Circumstance determines so much about a person’s life (though not all, to be sure). As for me, I happened to be born to a musical mother and church going parents with a passion for service and social justice at a time and place where public schools provided excellent opportunities to learn about and participate in music (Iowa in the late 90’s to early 2000’s). Lucky me. These were the circumstances that have resulted in a life steeped in music and performance.
Music is an intrinsic part of the human brain, a defining characteristic of our species. (A great book on this is “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain” by Oliver Sacks.) Our response to and fascination with music begins in utero. When listening to music, moving along to music, singing or playing music, our brains light up. Multiple areas activate, the synapses fire. Music enlivens us.
So as a lucky young person, my brain was constantly stimulated by the music happening in my home, in my church, in my school and coming from my own body. Many of these opportunities to sing and learn were free of charge or at low cost to my parents, and these opportunities were among the most wonderful parts of my life then, as they continue to be now. Music brought me joy, friendship, fulfillment and eventually a career path. So when I moved to New York City in 2009 in pursuit of a performance career, it made sense to me to actively seek out ways to contribute to the musical life of young people here.
The variety that emerges from the enormity of New York City is one of the city’s great strengths, but also poses the greatest challenge. Solutions to huge questions about equality, access, caring for others, and providing for all the city’s members are ones that this humble musician and teacher’s brain will not even begin to tackle here. But what I do know is this: music has made my own life so rich, so joyful, so if I can, in any small way, help to cultivate this same joy in other people, the time and effort will be well spent and richly rewarding for me and for my students.
These are the circumstances that have led me to ArtSmart. As I get to know my six students at Harlem Village Academy in these early lessons, I know that soon they will feel less nervous around me and about one on one instruction. Soon, they will feel comfortable with our warm ups of lip trills and long tones. Soon they will look at a page of music and understand how that translates into sound and practice. Soon, they will share their voices with other people from a stage. I’m so glad to be here for it, and I’m so grateful for this organization, to keep them from worrying about how much it will all cost. I’m proud to take part in providing equitable access to music education. To me, it feels like the most worthwhile use of my time and talent. And just wait until you hear and see them sing. Their performances will speak for themselves!