Spotted in Manila, 2014

Why arts education?

2001:  I am 9 years old and my fourth grade class takes a field trip to see the Oregon Symphony. There I hear Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for the first time. I become absolutely obsessed with the drama and whimsy of the exhilarating work and listen to a CD recording of it ad nauseam. In listening, I memorize all the sounds and shapes of the piece. I am so moved by the work that I compose a finger puppet ballet to the music, which I perform for my parents week after week. This sparks my fascination for orchestral music and begins my journey as a bassoonist.
            Art inspires.

2007:  I am 15 years old and have been studying the bassoon for four years. I perform on tour in South Korea with the Portland Youth Philharmonic and this is the first time I travel internationally to play music, as well as to a country where I do not speak the language. During a side-by-side rehearsal with the Seoul Youth Orchestra, the bassoonist and I struggle to communicate, halted by our very limited knowledge of each other’s language. However, we bond over playing Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra’s featured bassoon duet together and despite our cultural differences, are able to communicate ideas and stories in a musical language that transcends spoken word.
            Art connects.

2011:  I have just finished my first year of college at Juilliard and begin my summer by traveling to Guatemala with Rayos de Cancion to explore the healing potential music has in orphaned children with cerebral palsy. I meet a patient, Rosy, who is 3 years old, blind, deaf, and wheel chair bound. In an effort to musically connect with her, I lean close enough so that my bassoon touches her leg and play a low and slow bassoon etude. As I play, I watch her usually vacant eyes immediately light up, her previously motionless body shake with laughter, and her typical silence crescendo into song.  We continue to make music together the rest of the day.
           Art stimulates.

2012:   I am in Manila teaching with Project Philippines. Following a collaborative performance between music and dance students at the Philippine High School for the Arts, a performer explains the incredible feeling she feels on stage, which I have also experienced but could never put into words. I effortlessly relate to her description of being a performing artist: “When I dance, it feels like there are fireworks in my body.”
            Art empowers.

2013:   I am in Kenya with Trade Winds teaching at the Rise and Shine Academy, which is in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum. My lesson plans focus on composition and expression through music and every lesson closes with a self-reflection journal activity about the day. Then, as teachers we look at the students’ journals every day and respond to their writing. One student, Manoah who is 16 years old, chooses to discuss why he loves making music. He explains, “I love music because it slows down my temper when I have hunger.”
           Art nourishes.

2014:  I am a senior at Juilliard and once a week I teach music at PS 11 in Manhattan. One of my lessons teaches the role of the orchestra conductor and how to execute conducting patterns which show repeating rhythmic phrases. In learning the patterns and note values which fit into them, the students observe that the way musical phrases add up remind them of the fractions they are currently learning in math class. Then when asked to create their own ways of notating music they use equations, fractions, and diagrams that make sense in both musical and mathematical ways.
Art educates.

Art inspires. Art connects. Art stimulates. Art empowers. Art nourishes. Art educates. 

As I work to create my own definition of art and its importance, I realize that all of these stories can be put into just two words:
        
Art transforms.

Ideas inspired by my friend and mentor at Artists Striving to End Poverty, Mauricio Salgado--a constant source for creativity and beauty. 

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