Corey Smith: It Matters

Two Memories

Memory #1: I was on the Speech and Drama team in middle school and I competed with a friend in duo improv. We would walk into a competition room, be given a one sentence prompt, and have two minutes to come up with a scenario to act out together. I was so petrified of competing in this event each time that I felt physically ill beforehand. Our performances themselves were a blur, but the pride and strength I felt after having made it through those performances carried through to my relationships at school, my confidence in the classroom, and I believe, to my public speaking skills now in my work at a law firm.

Memory #2: My interest in the middle school band started to wane as I entered 8th grade. I wanted to spend more time participating in activities seen as popular and “cool” than practicing my saxophone and performing in band concerts. I think my band instructor started to detect this change in my attitude toward band and my instrument, and he decided to enter me and a few other students in an ensemble competition. The music we got to play for the competition was more challenging, and to my ears, more beautiful, than any music I had been able to play in the regular course of participation in band. I enjoyed practicing and preparing for this event, and our ensemble’s performance went so well that we were awarded the highest distinction given to participants in the competition. Needless to say, I did not continue with band into high school, since marching band was much more of a time consuming commitment than middle school band had been, but I still look back fondly on that ensemble accomplishment, and on my time as a saxophonist, and I’m very grateful to that instructor for challenging me and renewing my appreciation for my instrument and for performance. I know now as an adult, having gained some distance from the superficiality of many of my priorities as a middle schooler, that I would not trade my experience or accomplishments in band for participation in any activity I would have thought of as “cooler” at that age.

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Corey Smith

Corey Smith
YPT Supporter

Can Glee Save Arts Education?

James Sims of the Huffington Post thinks so! He makes a great argument for it in his recent article. Here’s an excerpt. To read the full article click here.

With increasing educational budget cuts sweeping the nation, arts education is often one of the first programs to get slashed. Just as Glee was airing on Fox Tuesday night, the community of Fowlerville, Michigan announced it would be cutting band and art programs due to budget reductions.

In steps Glee.

“I actually heard from a guy who worked I think in the public school system somewhere in Washington state and he was like yes, we’re having tons of problems,” Brennan said. “He was like the one thing no one is touching now is Glee Club, which is such a fascinating blow back from this show.”

Interview with Katherine Latterner

Theater Educates interviews a different arts educator each month, to get his or her take on our field. This month we talk to Katherine Latterner of Fillmore Arts Center.

What is your current position?

Katherine: I am currently Principal of the Fillmore Arts Center, a District of Columbia Public School.  Fillmore provides the arts education to 12 DCPS elementary schools and serves 2,600 students at two sites.  Artist teachers provide visual arts, music (including strings and band), dance and drama instruction.

How did you become an arts educator?

Katherine: I began studying piano and voice at an early age and began my college career as a music performance major.  I realized that I would not become a concert pianist and switched my major to English.  After college I worked at a non-profit but continued my involvement in music.  When my children were very young, I discovered they had minimal music instruction in school and I began volunteering as a music teacher.  I studied Orff and Kodaly and became a music teacher at Fillmore where I taught music (and creative writing for 14 years).  I obtained a masters in educational leadership and became the Director of Education for the Musical Theater Center, returning to Fillmore as the principal five years ago.

Did you have any mentors in the field? If so, how did they influence you?

Katherine: My family was always involved in music (mother and grandmothers).  My first real mentor was my piano and voice teacher, Lewis Grubb.  We lived in a small town in Delaware, but he had performed in Philadelphia and New York and exposed me to a wealth of literature and experiences (singing with adult groups in Wilmington and Philadelphia).

There is a lot of debate among educators, administrators and policymakers about arts integration vs. art for arts sake. What is your opinion of this debate? Do you favor one side over the other?

Katherine: I think it makes perfect sense to make connections between the arts and other disciplines.  Using the arts to teach numeracy, literacy, social and physical sciences allows children with varying learning styles to more easily access this information and to use both right and left brain modalities.  However, the push has been to have arts education focus in Arts Integration to the exclusion of the arts as important disciplines.  I am a strong proponent of having a high quality arts education for arts sake.

What advice do you give young people who want to make a career in the arts?

Katherine: Pursuing the arts as a career may not be the most financially rewarding choice (except for a very few people), but it is certainly a personally rewarding choice.  If you have a passion for the arts,  you should pursue it.  Examine the multiple ways you can work in the arts (performer, teacher, production, etc.) .

What advice do you give early-career arts educators?

Katherine: Do not neglect the impact of technology on the students of today.  Explore ways you can incorporate technology and please keep your activities interesting and “fun” for your young students.  You job is to foster a love of the arts in your students so they can not only be participants, but also arts audience members and supporters.

Every educator has a different definition of success. Can you tell us about a time when you felt successful as an arts educator?

Katherine: I have had students go on to great commercial success, but it is the everyday successes (the shy child who performs a dance or sings a solo on stage, the class cut-up who really shines as the “king” in the drama performance, the beautiful ceramic bowl made by a child who said he was “no good” in art) that make me feel most successful as an arts educator.