Students share knowledge of biomes with creative songs

Alden Westbrook

The following is reposted content from Young Audiences roster musician Alden Phelps’ blog.

Westbrook Elementary School shines again!

Such a great time, as expected, at Westbrook. One of the best schools ever for me: great students, teachers, parents, and administration. A pleasure in every way, except…for the drive. Last week my power steering failed in one car and my fuel pump failed in the other car, on the DC beltway and on 95 South. A nightmare alleviated only by AAA and the anticipation of where I was driving to!

I again visited the school for a Preposterous Parodies residency program. This year’s songs focused on different biomes: desert, grassland, ocean, rainforest, tundra, and forest. Each class tackled two of them.

Alden Westbrook 2

See more photos from this residency here!

Once again the creative students at Westbrook Elementary have written some great parodies of recent hits. Great work, and many thanks to the fantastic teachers, parents, and administration, who made this residency such a pleasure to do! Below is just one example of a song written by the students. Click here to see the lyrics to all the parodies.

Desert (parody of “Treasure” by Bruno Mars)

Verse 1:

Really hot, burning hot, scorching hot in the desert
Dying for icy cold water in these places
Coyotes and gila monsters you could get so hurt
But you’re fainting out here so you want to find an oasis

Pre-chorus 1:

I’m dy-y-ing
I know that I’m complaining but it’s hot out here (hot out here)
I’m dy-y-ing
A scorpion just stung me now and I got tears (I got tears)

Chorus 1:

Desert, you may not survive
It’s so hot there you could die
There are barely any trees
I need some water please
The wolves are after me, me, me

Verse 2:

Grassland, grassland, grassland it’s so green here
I look around and I see no waving trees
Once in a while, there’s a flaming fire
I’m freaking out it is going past my knees

Pre-chorus 2:

Oh graaaaass lands
I know you’re unaware that cheetahs hunt their prey (everyday)
Oh graaaaass lands
Boy I’m gonna show you how it’s cold all night (hot all day)

Chorus 2:

Grasslands, that is where we are
The grass is huge and tall
Wildebeests graze on their cuisine
African plains are clearly seen
The lions get a lot of pro-tein, tein


A spiny cactus, it’s in the desert
If there’s a sandstorm you’d better close your eyes
The grass is so tall, that you should measure
The bobcats stalk here, they paw at butterflies

Chorus 3:

Treasures, that’s what these places are
Finding water’s just too hard
Hottest and flattest lands I’ve seen
They are mostly brown and green
The conditions are hard and mean oh oh

Read more posts by Alden on his blog. Learn more about Alden’s programs for schools offered through Young Audiences. 

More than Movement


Illstyle and Peace Productions, a Young Audiences roster ensemble, is a multicultural dance company that delivers a positive message of individual expression. They’ve performed for audiences young and old across the world. Last year, they were chosen by the U.S. State Department’s DanceMotion USA program as cultural ambassadors in Belarus, Russia, and the Ukraine. No matter where they perform, their work focuses on a specific theme: the spirit and movement of Hip Hop.

The spring edition of Philadelphia’s JUMP, a magazine that promotes the city’s music scene, featured an interview with this talented group. In the article, Illstyle and Peace Productions discuss what movement means to them.

“Movement can make a difference,” said founder and artistic director Brandon “Peace” Albright. “Movement can make a change. Movement can make a career out of somebody. Movement can bring forth peace, love, and respect for everyone.”

The article also praises Albright for his high-energy workshops and educational programs, such as No Bullying, STOP Bullying: Let’s Be Friends, an assembly that teaches positivity, fairness, working together, acceptance, and communication, and The History of Hip Hop, which brings the history of Hip Hop dance to life. Both programs are offered through Young Audiences.

Read the full JUMP article on page 27 here.

Learn more about Illstyle and Peace Productions and their assembly programs for schools here.

Students re-envision their neighborhood through illustration


By Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences illustrator and Artist Associate

During my recent mural residency program at Hamilton Elementary/Middle, students celebrated their community by remodeling Main Street and adding their own businesses. Social awareness symbols are sprinkled throughout their fantasy blueprint which now proudly covers their lunchroom wall.

I began by taking photos of well-known businesses in the area so that students could work on designs to upgrade their neighborhood. They decided what businesses they would like to add and represented those with related symbols. In class, we listened to a socially-conscious soundtrack and used some of the lyrics as inspiration to include messages that would uplift the community.

The students created all of the drawings and then I collaged their individual efforts together to create the scene. Together, we painted for days on end! During the course of six more workshops with me, and several additional sessions led by my teacher partner Ms. Friedman, this mural came to life. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade art classes all contributed to the piece.

Ms. Friedman worked tirelessly on the mural panels outside of our workshops in the classroom. Since Ms. Friedman is retiring at the end of this school year, we included a student drawing of her in the finished mural.


Click here to see the full mural and see if you can spot Ms. Friedman!
Ms. Friedman’s first name is Charlotte, like in “Charlotte’s Web,” so look for the spider web as a clue to where she is located.

Ms. Freidman shared: “I love, love, love the mural! Everywhere I look, I see something new! Students and parents went down to see the finished piece after a recent school concert and the building’s custodians finally had to chase them out because they were so caught up in it.”

It was an awesome experience!

This residency was made possible through a Maryland State Arts Council Arts in Education Artist-in-Residence Grant. Learn more about how Young Audiences can assist your school or community organization in applying for this and other grant funding opportunities online.

Learn more about this residency program and Danyett Tucker’s other program offerings.

Keeping the art of screen painting alive with Baltimore students


By John Iampieri, Young Audiences visual artist and screen painter

There is a magical feeling that happens when you are painting a screen. Everywhere I go, I always ask, “Has anybody ever seen a painted screen?” and hardly anyone ever raises a hand. It is such a functional, unique art form, and yet there are only a handful of us left that are associated with the Baltimore Painted Screen Society. Screen painting is like any other practice or custom that becomes extinct: it can become too late to embrace it.

I make it my mission to try to keep the art alive by sharing my passion with others. When I’m working with students during a screen painting residency program, I’m planting the seeds of knowledge about an art form specific to Baltimore. This is why the opportunity to bring a residency to Baltimore Design School students was so exciting for me.

There are so many talented young people at the Baltimore Design School. Early on in the residency, I realized that I was working with a special group of individuals with a lot of possibilities ahead of them. The task at hand was to work with an unusual art form that was born and bred in Baltimore, and the students rose to the occasion.

I had the opportunity to collaborate with the teachers before our first workshop to create the curriculum that would work best for students. We decided to focus the designs of the screens on four categories: fashion design, architecture, graphic design, and visual arts. The students went online to research artists in three of these fields, and then voted on the artists they wanted to feature. Students sketched designs of the three selected individuals which would be transferred to the screens. The teachers also got involved, collaborating with me to create the design for the fourth and final screen, featuring visual artist Romare Bearden.

During the residency, students had the opportunity to meet with folklorist and author Elaine Eff for a tour through her exhibit, “Picture Windows: The Painted Screens of Baltimore and Beyond,” at MICA in January. Throughout the tour, the students were interested and focused, and they got a great experience out of it.

In the classroom, my goal is always to keep the kids engaged. One way I do this is by giving control to the students. I brought the materials, but the students constructed the frames and stretched the screens. I constantly reminded them after each workshop, “Remember when we started this project? There was nothing! Remember when the screens were black? Remember when we primed them? Remember when we painted?” I wanted to reiterate to them that everything was their doing.


See more photos from this residency here!

Teacher Ms. Cafaro developed the idea of a screen painting quiz. Working together, we made a list of questions on screen painting, incorporating what students had learned in class about the history of the art form, the figures they were painting, and other famous historical designers. This exercise regularly grounded our project in history, connecting the construction of the screens to what was being learned in the classroom.

What was most challenging for the students during the residency was working in groups. Creating painted screens in the classroom is really team-oriented, and each workshop is an organized chaos as students work next to each other and make decisions together. After collaborating on the design of the screen, decisions also need to be made about color and the application of the paint.

It’s very exciting to see those types of engagements among students. When everybody–students and teachers–saw the completed screens, they genuinely reacted with “Wow, these are really cool!” I encouraged the students to try screen painting at home now that they are trained professionals.

Projects like this residency are important because through the arts, students can learn a different way to better understand curricular concepts that may be more challenging when taught with a more conventional learning path.

I’m very fortunate to be able to get into the classroom, and I never could have done it if it weren’t for what I’ve learned through Young Audiences and the Maryland State Arts Council. I’m fortunate to be involved with Young Audiences because it gives me the chance to do what I love.

Read Elaine Eff’s reflection on the residency.

Learn more about John Iampieri and his visual arts residency program.