Artists visit schools, inspire students
Last week famed jazz and blues violinist Christian Howes visited Chapel Hill High’s orchestra class. Before 52 students he began a lesson on creativity in music.
“I focus around contemporary music styles and improvisation suing technology to bring the cool factor into string playing,” Howes said.
As he played Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” on his electric violin, the students tapped their feet or nodded their heads to the beat while some quietly lip synced the words.
“In sports you have winners and losers but in the arts, students are ranked by their ability, he said, “but when you introduce this aspect of creativity, it makes the point that any student as an artist can contribute.”
Howes’ arrived at CHHS after appearances in Apex and Raleigh that morning and as part of his nationwide educational tour, teaching improvisation and creativity to classical string musicians.
Howes’ visit is a treat in its own right but even more so when monies for new instruments and arts supplies have been cut. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools arts coordinator Theresa Grywalski said that textbooks for the arts and instruments were last ordered in 2006.
“Over the 28 years I have been in the district, I have seen the N.C. Symphony program whittled down so small that only fourth-graders get to go to the symphony presently,” Grywalski said. “My music teachers wanted to build on the symphony experience and they asked the band/orchestra conductors at the high school if there was a willingness to perform for fifth-graders, to build on the symphony experience.”
Even though student interest in the arts remains steady, Grywalski said there is no reason to believe that previous funding levels will be restored.
“The textbook monies from Raleigh have been slashed and teachers are working with old instruments and little funding to replace,” she said. “This is a major cut. We have not yet figured out a way to fix this situation as money from Raleigh for text books will continue, I think, to dwindle.”
The role and impact of the arts is not new but its support in public schools fluctuates, particularly as emphasis continues to grow with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The arts are important for everyone,” said Jacques d’Amboise. “If you get a child involved in it then they continue as adults and they pass it on to their children. The human race developed the arts to express … wonder, beauty and magic.”
An acclaimed acclaimed NYC Ballet principal dancer-choreographer, d’Amboise visited Northside Elementary last week for the school’s N.C. Arts In Action performance of “Coastal Carolina.”
NCAIA is a local affiliate of d’Amboise’s award-winning National Dance Institute program and works weekly with students to help use dance to build focus, self-esteem, teamwork and leadership skills. He was a special guest who took time to work with some students.
Thyra Hartshorn of Oregon worked with d’Amboise’s son, Christopher, when she was a stage manager for the San Francisco Ballet. Her sister, Tiki Gwynne, was one of the main organizers of the event. Hartshorn was at Northside to watch her niece perform.
“He is such a prominent figure in the ballet world,” she said. “It’s such a treat for a community like this to have someone of his stature work with students.”
“Everything is children,” d’Amboise said to the crowd. “And what’s our purpose as parents, adults and teachers? To make sure they have the best of everything. That’s what they deserve.
“Children have not dispelled belief,” he said. “They still have hope. They still have wonder. And most important, they’re our future.”