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Teaching Arts Outside the Classroom


by Jerome Weeks 17 Jun 2008

Victor Goines KERA radio: Audio excerpts from the interview with Victor Goines: Why he teaches/ What students get out of it/ Building an audience Audio: Paschal student Travis Taback on taking Goines’ master classes Victor Goines, first director of Jazz Studies at Juilliard Tavis Smiley interview on NPR with Victor Goines Expanded online story: Destinee: […]

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Victor Goines

  • KERA radio:
  • Audio excerpts from the interview with Victor Goines: Why he teaches/ What students get out of it/ Building an audience
  • Audio: Paschal student Travis Taback on taking Goines’ master classes
  • Expanded online story:

Destinee: “I have seen Aaron Copland and the Common Man performed by the Fort Worth Symphony, Magic Flute by Mozart, it was a premiere from Broadway, Frog and Toad, also a premiere from Broadway and then we saw …” [fade and continue under]

This is Destinee Hernandez, a fifth-grade student in Fort Worth ISD, reciting all of the events that she and her classmates have seen at Bass Hall. It’s an American commonplace: the school field trip to the concert hall, theater or museum. Yet when Bass Hall opened 10 years ago, it started its Children’s Education Program partly because such visits had nearly vanished.

Jack Davis directs the North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts at the University of North Texas. Through the ‘80s, he says, school art consultants and educators retired or left and weren’t replaced. Then came the budget cuts. By 1990, Plano ISD, for example, didn’t have a single arts specialist in an elementary school. That was not uncommon.

Children’s Education Program director Sue Burato recalls the first class visit to Bass Hall 10 years ago as a step into the unknown. Fort Worth students came to hear Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

Sue Burato: “The kids that came in didn’t know what to expect, and we didn’t know what to expect of them, and after the performance, the kids stood en masse and started cheering. And we were all giving high fives backstage. We didn’t know what to expect, and they loved it.”

Public arts education has certainly improved, Dr. Davis says. Two years ago, Fort Worth committed to having art and music specialists in every school. Dallas and Plano and other districts have made similar commitments.

For their part, many art organizations have outreach programs — from discounted tickets to special in-school performances. The Dallas Summer Musicals offers classes in musical theater and tickets to touring shows, for example. The Dallas Museum of Art just opened a new $27 million learning center. So far, more than 600,000 students have attended Bass Hall’s education program.

But there can be a problem, says Dr. Davis, with such success.

Dr. Jack Davis, UNT

Jack Davis, director of the North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts

Dr. Davis: “I think what these arts organizations are doing is excellent. But I think sometimes school decision makers think that this is a substitute for an arts education program in the schools, and it should be just what it is, an enrichment to those programs.”

Actually, such trips work best, Dr. Davis says, when they’re coordinated with class work. In fact, there’s a lot of preparation, of administrative paperwork for teachers to file for any field trip. Which is why programs generally try to make things easier, more accessible, why organizations like Bass Hall or the Dallas Symphony Orchestra put up study materials online — and why they hold master classes with visiting artists.

Master Class, Victor Goines talking: “I’m sure Mr. Casanova has said if you have a long note, do something with it. So we can swell it or do what they call hairpins, crescendo and diminuendo …” [fades and continues under]

We’re in a basement room under the Van Cliburn Rehearsal Studio. Victor Goines is a celebrated saxophonist and the first director of jazz studies at Juilliard. Here, he’s leading a class for Bass Hall with the saxophone section of the Paschal High School Jazz Band.

For artists, such education programs can be a matter of self-preservation – trying to wrestle away from popular electronic media a future audience for live theater, concerts, museum exhibitions.

But, says Victor Goines: “For me it’s not really that important if they go on to be great jazz musicians or avid listeners. It’s a matter of whether they’re exposed to it and have the opportunity to make a choice.”

A choice about whether this art will matter to them. For these Paschal students, there is an immediate matter. They’ve already made a choice; they want to learn music, learn to play jazz. And so today, they go from sounding like this: clip 1not bad, to this 2nd clip. Softer but the dynamic jumps are crisper.

And that was after just 15 minutes with Goines.

That’s why they’re called ‘master classes.’

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  • Sue Buratto

    What a wonderful article! Written with real understanding, care and professionalism! Thank you, thank you, thank you! It was so nice to have someone do a piece who understands the arts and what we are all trying to do. We hope you will come back soon and often!
    Sue Buratto