Alden Phelps’ New Assembly Offers Hands-on Writing Experience for Entire School Grade

Alden Phelps residency, Singing, Reading and Writing Songs, an Interactive Assembly
Alden’s custom Word Game Box

Young Audiences of Maryland is excited to offer a new and innovative program from one of our roster artists, Alden Phelps, called Singing, Reading & Writing Songs: an Interactive AssemblyAlden Phelps’ new assembly combines the inspiration and fun of a live concert with an extended hands-on time for students to participate in songwriting.

It’s a show and it’s a workshop: Silly Songster Alden Phelps plays guitar and sings his original children’s songs, then leads students step by step as they design their own musical couplets in teams. This hands-on experience is designed for an entire school grade to enjoy together.

Alden Phelps residency at Frederick Adventist Academy
Interactive Assembly at Frederick Adventist Academy

Why is this program so special?

Not only does this program combine the best aspects of an assembly and a classroom workshop, but it also uses a thoroughly engaging inspiration for writing: magnetic words. By physically manipulating magnetic words, roadblocks that inhibit participation (spelling, handwriting, etc.) are removed; new vocabulary is expanded and stimulated; students at different levels can engage meaningfully and achieve writing success in activities that build language skills. Guided exercises, along with teacher support, help students try their hand at lyric writing. Most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun! The assembly ends as students transform Alden’s opening song into their own original creation. This Interactive Assembly is designed for up to 100 students or one full grade. The assembly is 45 minutes long and is suited for grades 3-5.

How does it work?

Alden sets up 25 magnetic easels in your gym (or suitable space) and 50 of his original boxes of magnetic nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and rhymes. The program begins with Alden singing an original silly song for the students. He then explains his songwriting technique and breaks down the lyrics to the songs’ chorus on two large magnetic boards. Students are invited up to get creative and rewrite Alden’s rhyming couplet.

In the second half of the program, all the students move to the magnetic easels and continue to get creative, rewriting Alden’s lyrics. Alden circulates through the room, helping students and celebrating their successes by singing along with their newly created lyrics.

The differentiation is built in: basic & special needs students succeed by plugging in verbs, nouns, and rhymes, and the supplied dry-erase magnets allow advanced students to push their writing beyond Alden’s selection of words.

Common Core Connections: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L   CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF

100% Participation!

Alden has spent months developing this new Interactive Assembly, and in its initial performances, every single student in the room participated every time! And not just participated, but gleefully dove in to write their own song lyrics!

Alden Phelps at Sandymount Elementary School
Songwriters enjoy the Interactive Assembly at Sandymount Elementary School

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Mr. Phelps did an excellent job getting even my least interested students involved in this program!  Some of my students who hate to sing REALLY enjoyed this program!! The students were singing their song lyrics for the rest of the day. I highly recommend this program at any school!!”   Frederick Adventist Academy, March 2016

Every single kid that participated LOVED IT!”   Sandymount Elementary School


Alden’s rapport with the kids and level of enthusiasm is contagious! It all channels our students’ focus and involvement in the content he delivers.”   Thunder Hill Elementary School

Q: Who is this Interactive Assembly for?

A: Singing, Reading & Writing Songs: an Interactive Assembly is designed for grades: 3-5, up to 100 students, or one whole grade.

 Q: What about K – grade 2?

A: I’m working on adapting this for beginning readers using magnetic rebus. I think it’s a great idea!

 Q: What about a longer version of this like a residency?

A: I’m working on it! I hope very soon this will be a multi-day residency too!

Learn more about Alden Phelps or schedule a program

Meet Our Artists: Scott Patterson

Scott Patterson

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters. We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools.

How did you first hear about Young Audiences? What made you decide to become a roster artist?

A colleague told me about the Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Alliance, and I found information about Young Audiences on the AEMS website. My reasons for deciding to become a roster artist are twofold. First, I have fond memories of the school assemblies I attended as a child. Whether the assembly was about public safety or a performance, the message always stuck with me. Assemblies were presented as something special, a time to get out of the classroom and see information presented in a fun and interesting way. It is my hope that Outer Space Improvisations leaves the same kind of positive impression on students as the assemblies I attended as a child. Second, I place a high value on professional development, and when I learned about the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), I realized that Young Audiences does too.

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

When composing music I utilize basic math concepts. Additionally, I rely on my skills as a writer to create song lyrics and devise hypotheses. As I experiment with new sounds, I recall historical events and scan my current environment for inspiration.

Through music, I encourage students to see the convergence of academic disciplines, rather than single out one in particular. In using improvisation activities, I invite students to pull from what they know about math, literature, science, and history to create something entirely new and unique.

Scott Patterson

We love your concept of connecting live, improvisational music with the theme of space exploration. Can you tell us more about your program “Outer Space Improvisations”?

Outer Space Improvisations” is a program designed to stoke students’ imaginations. The students and I take a musical space journey, leaving our day-to-day existence on Earth to travel to far and distant places, both charted and uncharted. It is the uncharted place that most excites me because students have to use their imagination to create what these places look, feel, sound, taste, and smell like; this is where the improvisational aspect of the program comes into play.

Through sound design, I welcome students into the performance with the sounds of space. When I play, students are immersed in original space-themed compositions inspired by composers and musicians like Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Thundercat. Facts about space are woven into the program to deepen their intergalactic experience, and improvisation activities connect students to the infiniteness of their imagination.

How do the lessons/skills you teach students about or through your art form apply to and affect their everyday life outside of the classroom?

An important aspect of my work as a composer is improvisation; however, it is through my imagination that I can improvise. The ability to create something that has never existed before is an essential skill that all people must have. Without it, the ability to solve the simple and complex problems that pop up in everyday life would be impossible.
It is important to me that students feel confident in their capacity to think through and learn how to present a new idea. The problems children are solving today and those they will address in the future require a strong imagination, critical thinking, and courage.

Scott Patterson

Why do you believe it is important for every student to have access to the arts?

I am committed to arts education. It was through the arts that I learned how to improvise, communicate, and imagine. The arts education I received as a child helped shape the person I am today. Seeing that I had a passion for music, my parents enrolled me in arts programs. In high school, I attended a performing arts magnet program where I had the opportunity to interact daily with teaching artists. They challenged me to think creatively and critically about how to contribute to the world around me through my art.

What is the most rewarding aspect of becoming a Young Audiences roster artist?

Performing in front of students who at first don’t know what to expect when they see me, and then seeing the impact my music has on them as their imaginations light up is exciting. I believe the ability to use imagination, to see beyond one’s circumstance or everyday reality is not a privilege, but a necessity. To see students grasp this concept, and then watch them use it to do something that has never been done before is my greatest joy.

Learn more about Scott Patterson’s assembly “Outer Space Improvisations”

Uncle Devin

Meet Our Artists: Uncle Devin

Uncle Devin

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. 

How did you first hear about Young Audiences?  What made you decide to become a roster artist?

I first heard about Young Audiences at a children’s artist conference in Brooklyn, New York. Someone had mentioned the opportunities that the arts-in-education network provides for teaching artists. What attracted me to Young Audiences was the opportunity to learn how to apply and incorporate my music into educational settings for children. Learning about Young Audiences stood out to me because it brought me back to my own childhood memories. I can still distinctly remember performing artists coming into my elementary school when I was child. If you could believe it, to this day, I can still recite many of the concepts I learned from the artistic educators then.

When you were young and those artistic experiences influenced your educational development, did you know that you would pursue a similar career?

I knew that music would be in my future, but I have to admit, I did not think about it from the standpoint of becoming a children’s artist just yet. The idea did not come to me until about 8 or 9 years ago as I told my young nephews and nieces bedtime stories. If you recite the same stories often enough, you have to come up with creative ways to keep children engaged. That’s when I started to recite the storybooks to music and this sparked the idea of recording it. My niece took those recordings into her school so she could share them with friends and classmates. Her friends loved it so much and they began to pick up on the name “Uncle Devin.” Soon enough, people began to refer to me with that title and that’s how the name came about. So really, it was my nieces, nephews, and family who helped me come up with the idea to work with children’s music!

Uncle Devin

You are already a professional artists. What specifically made you choose to join Young Audiences as a roster artist?

I needed professional development in certain areas of my work. I wanted to grasp Young Audiences’ process of curriculum development, arts integration, and I needed to learn how to run a workshop or assembly properly. After hearing other roster artists speak about their experiences with Young Audiences, I began to realize that the organization was a top-notch educational network that not only provides artistic services to schools, but also trains artists to provide these opportunities for the schools. A lot of artists may want to take on this process themselves, but I did not have the desire to establish relationships with schools on my own time when I knew could do it through Young Audiences! It’s a win-win situation for everyone and Young Audiences is the perfect environment for me to learn and share my artistry.

Did you feel like the training you completed with Young Audiences made a big difference in your work?

Absolutely! Without a doubt. It was like I was a little kid back in school again at Young Audiences’ Teaching Artist Institute (TAI). I had to re-learn concepts and the curriculum. Through training at TAI, I walked away having learned that when you give school presentations and assemblies, it’s all about the artist, but when you create a school residency, it’s all about the students. I could not hide behind my artistry when it came to working with children–I had to know the curriculum and the standards as well. It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn how to teach and give back by sharing my passion for music.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you have brought to students with Young Audiences? Do you have a favorite memory from a program?

I have so many, but I’ll share two great ones. One day as I was packing up my equipment after a great program in a Baltimore school, a little girl came up to me and hugged my leg. She said “Uncle Devin, I don’t want you to leave!” The teacher walked up to us and said “That’s what makes this worth it.” I smiled back and responded, “Yes, it does.”

Another great moment that stands out to me is when I performed at another school in Baltimore. This situation was unique because I didn’t know that my good friend’s daughter attended this school and I didn’t find out until afterward with a surprise. Later that evening, my friend, the young girl’s daughter called me, and over the speaker phone her daughter began to recite some of the concepts she had learned earlier that day during the program. I thought, she’s got it! That was a wonderful moment because I realized I wasn’t just there to perform music, I was there to teach.

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

One: Communication. Percussion was one of the first forms of communication that human beings utilized. To be able to show children how to use drums as a communication tool is a very unique way to relate to what they’re learning in school.

Two: Mathematics. I have a song I do called “Count Our Numbers” where we count to five using four different languages. It blends different areas of their studies involving language, mathematics, and music.

Three: Working together. I help children figure out their role in a collaborative team while building musical pieces. It takes a family to build a piece of music together collectively.

Why do you believe percussion specifically is important for every student to have access to?

The heart beat. Everyone has their own beat. It’s about understanding that everyone is unique. Drumming is something that you do every day and many don’t even realize it. It’s in the pace of our walk, the number of times we blink our eyes, or the way we tap our fingers on a table. People naturally make rhythms everyday and it’s an ongoing process. I believe that percussion is so important to society because it is directly connected to our natural rhythms of life. Once we understand it, drumming can enhance our quality of life individually and with one another. I have a new book coming out called ABCs of Percussion,that describes one percussion instrument per letter of the alphabet and includes a music CD that will allow the reader to hear each instrument.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students about or through your art form apply to and affect their everyday life outside of the classroom? 

Outside of the classroom, music helps connects people to culture. Music enriches children’s lives. If we never spoke a word, we could communicate through music. Music brings people together and it never sets us apart. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audience roster artist?

I wish that everyone could experience the feeling of standing before 100 to 200 young people and knowing that you have their undivided attention. Being able to see the smiles that your art form brings to their faces is an indescribable feeling. Knowing that I am touching the next generation and providing children with a positive experience is far more fulfilling than I could ever have expected or describe. Being a children’s artist is essential to developing the type of peaceful world we want to live in. We need more resources and we need more artists. You can never have too many artists. We really need more people to consider carrying on this tradition of teaching through the arts with their skills. The world continues to create a cultural change through music and I am so happy to be a part of it.

Learn more about Uncle Devin’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Visit Uncle Devin’s website.

Quest Visual Theatre

Meet Our Artists: Quest Visual Theatre

Quest Visual Theatre

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. We recently sat down with Tim McCarthy of Quest Visual Theatre

Why did you decide to become a Young Audiences roster ensemble and how does it align with Quest Visual Theatre’s larger mission?

I had known several artists in Maryland who were with Young Audiences and I began to investigate what the organization was about. It made me think about where Quest Visual Theatre was heading and I thought it was something worth pursuing because we have so much experience working with children.

We are an inclusive company. Deaf people are a part of everything we do everyday and we wish to celebrate the people who are in this world. That’s the world we want to live in and we wish to bring those experiences it into children’s lives.

Quest also uses visual theatre to cut across language and cultural barriers. All of our work is inclusive and accessible. Everything that Quest does reflects the company’s commitment to welcoming to all people. One program that reflects that is QuestFest, which is a biennial international visual theatre festival. Quest partners with area theaters, universities, and agencies to present performances, conduct approximately 20 residencies, and provide training in visual theatre. The QuestFest Community Showcase enables students who have participated in QuestFest residencies to share work that they created.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you have brought to the students with Young Audiences?

I love what I’m bringing into the schools and seeing how engaged the students are. Quest does little warm-ups before each performance. We play a game like charades with the audience. We have the audience begin to guess what the actors are doing; playing baseball, football, or golf. That really gets the kids involved and excited.

Do you have a memory of when you felt that you has an impact upon a student or class?

Students usually don’t know how to approach our actors because they are deaf, but after a performance or residency, we intentionally spend time and stick around to interact with the children. That’s when the hugs begin to happen. Things really change at that point. They see our artists as people they want to interact with. The communication barrier goes away.

Quest Visual Theatre

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school ?

Our goal is to integrate theatre into the curriculum. We do this by focusing upon two primary areas, including learning readiness and literacy.

How do the lessons that you teach students apply to and affect their everyday lives outside of the classroom?

In addition to learning the art form, the developmental skills we are focus on are communication and interpersonal skills. When you’re creating something and working in collaboration with others, especially if you’re not able to speak, you’re going to have to be clear about what your intentions are. Our lessons teach children how to send and receive information clearly with engagement.

Learn more about Quest Visual Theatre‘s offerings through Young Audiences.

Visit the Quest Visual Theatre website. 

Meet Our Artists NRITYA 5

Meet Our Artists: NRITYA

Meet Our Artists NRITYA 5

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. We recently sat down with Lakshmi Swaminathan of NRITYA.

How did you first hear about Young Audiences? What made you decide to become a roster artist?

During the 1990s, I lived in New York City where I was working as a dance teacher for Young Indian Culture Group. During that time, I connected with another New York City dance organization called Battery Dance Company when I was introduced to the executive director Jonathan Hollander. He invited me to his studio to attend a workshop where I met another classical Indian dancer, Janaki Patrik, who was a roster artist with the New York chapter of Young Audiences.

Janaki asked if I would be interested in becoming a Young Audiences artist and of course I said absolutely! So I joined her group, Caravan, an Indian dance ensemble. Later on in life, I moved to Maryland and took a few years to be a stay-at-home mom with my daughter. When I decided to get back into dance, I checked to see if the Maryland chapter of Young Audiences had showcased any Indian dancers or artists before. I shot an email to the former executive director asking if Young Audiences would be interested in having me as a new roster artist. Immediately following a positive response from the executive director, I completed a 45-minute assembly audition and that was it! I have been a member of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Maryland since 2002.

Meet Our Artists NRITYA Thank You
Thank you note from a Tench Tilghman Elementary student in Talbot County, one rural Maryland county.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you have brought to students with Young Audiences? Do you have a favorite memory from a program?

So many! What NRITYA does is so different that I have seen evidence of it affecting children in so many positive ways. We have gone to many different parts of Maryland, including some very rural towns where experiences have stood out to me.

In these specific instances, I realized that some of the children seemed to be confused by the idea of what an “Indian” person is. I have received questions like: “Do you wear feathers in your hat?” or “Are you a queen?” It has been those types of questions that made me realize that these children have no clue what my heritage is. Upon first impression, they often identify me as a Native American rather than Indian. Through our programs, I have to first introduce them to the country of India and explain the difference. By allowing them to see an authentic Indian dance performance, we are giving them a glimpse into a different world and culture. They begin to experience something that is outside of their own comfort zone. It truly broadens their perspective.

Meet Our Artists NRITYA 6

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

From the curriculum perspective, it helps students develop in social sciences. They spend time investigating the living history behind the cultures that they are learning about. Dance opens them up to the idea of freedom of expression. My dances tell stories. I usually do fables which have a very Western background. The fact that I am using the Indian dance form to tell a Western story forces children to realize that the medium of dance is not limiting. If you are able to successfully tell a Western English story through Indian dance moves, you can do almost anything! You can be creative and explore that creativity while having fun.

Through one of my dance residencies, “Indian Immersion,” the children actually get to wear authentically-made Indian clothes and immerse themselves further into the Indian culture. The kids love it! After one residency a teacher came up to me to say: “There is a boy in my class who would usually never participate or want to be involved in classroom activities. I was amazed to walk in and see him there dancing with you!” To watch kids just get up, start moving, and enjoy it is touching.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students about or through your art form apply to their everyday life outside of the classroom?

I think it broadens their perspective to a greater world outside of their own. I tell the children that India is a place very much like America. I have had kids ask if my studio would allow dancers to come in who are not of Indian descent. I tell them that you don’t have to be Indian to perform Indian dance!

After my program, children become culturally aware. They begin to notice differences between themselves and other people. They notice differences between the food we eat, our outfits, communication, and how we express stories and emotions through dance. Yet at the same time, they realize that dance is dance. It’s a medium of expressing oneself. It is a medium of using your body to tell a story no matter what culture you come from.

When we bring Indian dance to students, we give them an opportunity to step outside of their schools, and see beyond their immediate neighborhoods. This is a way of letting them know that it is all right to be different. It’s all right to be creative. It’s all right to embrace art. There is a world outside of academics that allows children to grow.

Learn more about NRITYA’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Meet our artists-Ballet Theatre

Meet our artists: Ballet Theatre of Maryland

Meet our artists-Ballet Theatre

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. We recently sat down with Dianna Cuatto of Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

How did you first hear about Young Audiences?

My predecessor joined Young Audiences before I came to Ballet Theatre of Maryland 12 years ago, and it was my first experience with the organization. Other dance companies that I worked with hadn’t done anything like it, so I did my research and found that I really liked Young Audiences’ mission statement and philosophy. When I completed my first Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) seminar, I found it very helpful for connecting education with art to help students better their lives.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve brought to students with Young Audiences?

Seeing the impact the arts can have on so many lives is the most memorable part. When we go out to schools, we see how it touches the lives of the students we are able to either perform for or work with during an arts-integrated artist-in-residence program. We have learned so much from Young Audiences and have gained tools that we use in our other educational program offerings, too.

There are a lot of students who have never had exposure to ballet. Do you find that bringing classical ballet to schools can be a unique opportunity for students?

Absolutely. Whenever I ask a school what they hope the students will get out of a program, they want their students to have that exposure to a real ballet. One thing that Ballet Theatre of Maryland does that’s different from other ballet companies I’ve been a part of is that we actually bring a real ballet to the students so they can have that experience. It’s very rewarding and our dancers enjoy doing it. The students express how much they love it. Some students may never have known that they enjoy ballet if they hadn’t been exposed to it during one of our programs at their school.

Meet our artists-Ballet Theatre2

How does your art form connect students to what they are learning in school?

We do a lot of literary and historical pieces. For example, our assembly “Pirates of the Chesapeake” is based on pirate history. We also have an assembly, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and other programs that may relate to what they are studying in school. There is also the production of excerpts from “Excalibur” which we call the “Medieval Festival.” We mirrored it after a mini-Renaissance festival so students get experience with coats of arms and other material they learn about from that time period through dance.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students through your art form apply to their everyday lives outside of the classroom?

It seems that everything we do relates to their everyday lives. Our most popular assembly, “An American Journey through Dance,” teaches students about the many different cultures in our country. They are able to experience aspects of those different cultures through dance. There is something about the emotions and passions through the expression of dance that provides tools to understand each other, which is a very powerful thing for all of us. There is a culture embedded in all of the art that we do, and it is our place to pass it on.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?

One aspect would be the opportunity to see what other colleagues are doing, and how they are using the arts to impact children. Just being a part of the roster and being involved with different schools to see what children are able to gain through our programs is so rewarding. When you put all of the roster artists together, it creates a great tapestry of wonderful things students are able to experience in all of our different areas.

Why do you believe dance specifically–or the arts in general–is important for every student to have access to?

Our motto is: “Dance is a language more powerful than words.” No matter what language children speak, they can understand what you’re saying through dance. This is true for many art forms. We can communicate and break down barriers through that powerful language. It’s not just that studies show how art impacts students and helps them learn, it’s that we know the arts engage students in all of the senses, allowing them to experience it first-hand so they learn more intensely. When something engages all of your senses, it is easier to remember and apply it to other areas or circumstances. Art provides all of the learning tools that different children need because they learn in different ways.

Learn more about Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more artist interviews! See all artist interviews to-date here.

Meet our artists: Mark Lohr

Meet our artists_Mark Lohr2

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. 

How did you hear about Young Audiences? What made you decide to become a roster artist?

I started my apprenticeship with Theatricks Theatre Company, where my performing mentor had a show as a Young Audiences roster artist. I took a break from performing for a bit, and when I decided to come back I immediately thought of Young Audiences as a great organization to work with because of my past experience. I have been on the roster for about 10 years now.

Can you tell us a little bit about your art form?

My art form is Vaudeville-style physical comedy. During the performances, I interact with the audience nonverbally and become a combination of circus clown, comic actor, juggler, and magician.

The creation of vaudeville is such an influential time in our history. Entertainment was revolutionized for the vaudeville stage, and technologies were invented to make shows more impressive using special effects, lighting, and more. We don’t have an opportunity to see that style of slapstick, nonverbal comedy anymore.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students through your art form apply to their everyday lives outside of the classroom?

During a vaudeville performance, students have to listen more with their eyes than ears. They have to interpret what my character is communicate without words and respond accordingly.  Sitting there and taking it in with all their senses gets them involved. In a typical theatrical performance, there is a “fourth wall.” There is a performance or show, but the audience is on the other side of that fourth wall so there is no interaction. I put the wall behind the audience so each performance is a new experience–you never know what you’re going to get with each crowd that comes in.

Meet our artists_Mark Lohr

The performance becomes a shared memory for students. It’s multi-cultural and multi-generational entertainment. You bring a school together with a performance where they laugh and have a great time. They share that wonderful memory, and can relate to each other more because of it.

Why do you believe theater is important for every student to have access to?

Vaudeville is such an important era in our history that we shouldn’t forget. It has a great significance in our culture today. Television shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” follow in the tradition of vaudeville.

But a live performance is so important because, all too often, many students’ primary performance venue is a television or movie theater. There is nothing wrong with these things, but when you go to a live performance you’re immersed and surrounded by it so that you become a part of it. I feel that it is my job to reach out to schools and students who may never have the opportunity to see a live professional performance. In our education, it’s extremely important to give students that experience.

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

Hooked on Books” is my reading program where the audience has to listen and develop a response to everything I do. The main lesson I want them to walk away with is that books are more than stories, they are also gateways to new skills! I also share that it is OK to experience failure because to learn a new skill you have fail. The idea that failure isn’t a bad thing, but a part of the process, is a wonderful lesson.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve brought to students with Young Audiences?

From a performance standpoint, to be able to engage these students and have them become a part of my performance is a wonderful gift to me, and it’s my gift to them. They are laughing, responding to what I’m doing, enjoying the moment, and not thinking about what’s going to happen in the next hour.

In my residency, “America’s Got Vaudeville,” I talk about the significance of vaudeville and teach its skills and comic techniques. Our goal is to put on a show at the end. When I see there is a student who sits out in the corner not quite fitting in, I can reach out to them and teach him or her juggling or plate-spinning, and see his or her whole person change. They discover they have a new talent and skill and can share it with their classmates. Their peers begin to see each other in a different light and overcome social and cultural boundaries.  They share a common bond.  The look on students’ faces when they succeed in a new skill for the first time is a huge reward for me.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?

Young Audiences gives me the opportunity to share gifts that were given to me. My mentor gave me this knowledge with the one caveat of having to share it. It’s so important for me to have different venues where I can go out and give it away, and can see people walking away with a piece of the gift that was given to me. It impacts people’s lives, and I’m grateful that Young Audiences allows me to do that.

Learn more about Mark Lohr’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more artist interviews! See all artist interviews to-date here.

Meet our new artists: FutureMakers

Meet Our Artists-FutureMakers_2

During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far. We recently sat down with Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers.

What is your background as an artist?

FutureMakers started from work I was doing as a visual artist and sculptor with other makers and educators. I was frequently asked if I could bring the type of work I was doing to classrooms. I had met artists, engineers, and technologists that wanted to do projects with young people, but didn’t feel confident about how to approach it. I wondered if an organization could connect makers and educators, so both could build their skills.

During the summer of 2012, I was invited to work with a supportive cohort of community colleges in Maryland to bring STEAM workshops (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) into their summer programs for youth. Since then, we’ve steadily been growing our staff, or as we call them, coaches, and are excited to be working with Young Audiences to provide a formal pathway for those interested in joining FutureMakers to deliver programs to schools.

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

Someone shared a workshop offered by Pat Cruz, Young Audiences Education Director. I wasn’t able to attend, but reached out to Pat to find out how FutureMakers could learn from and work with Young Audiences. In 2013, we were invited to support a summer learning program in Harford County, and participate in the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar. Through TAI, we developed a FutureMakers residency. We’ve been making things that wiggle, draw, glow, and do crazy stuff with kids ever since.

Meet Our Artists-FutureMakers_1

See these sculptures in action here!

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve had through Young Audiences?

I was watching morning announcement videos at a school which used puppets created by students with TAI instructor and playwright John Morogiello. They were funny and sharp. It wasn’t about adults, it was about youth development with young people out in front. I was impressed by the way art was completely integrated into that school. It made me wish that more places would work and integrate this way.

What was your favorite part of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar? How has the experience changed your approach to teaching?

TAI solidified the way we at FutureMakers think about the pathway our coaches follow. It focuses our expertise and creativity on student engagement, measurable outcomes, and addresses the needs of our teacher partners. They get to see and do what they’d like within boundaries of what they need to do.

Our coaches are experiencing how maker education can connect in classrooms because of Young Audiences. Being observed, receiving feedback, and having scheduling and communications support is an enormous value that Young Audiences adds to our organization.

What does your art form–particularly as it relates to STEM subjects–teach students?

With technology, things are moving toward additive processes – for example, 3D printing, which is a process we incorporate in many community workshops. Traditional craft and art media are now expanding to incorporate materials often found in science or technology classrooms, or only available to higher education students. In a rapidly evolving, project-based learning world, coaches help young people embrace the design process in their creative lives – think like engineers to figure out how to solve a design challenge, and have the confidence to iterate, or try again, when things go in unexpected directions.

How do the lessons or skills you teach students apply to their everyday life outside of the classroom?

Students asking, imagining, planning, creating, and improving is the core of what we’re about. Young people have limitless imaginations, and are open to learning how to take a step back and ask questions. In the past, young makers followed plans or prescriptive examples to complete a project.  We’re learning that truly effective coaches facilitate their discovery of paths and options that lead to mastery – supported by the design cycle.

Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?

Young people need to have the opportunity to try something and fail, and a coach who can help them through difficult spots. Art was the only thing that kept me focused and motivated in high school; it was my identity early on. When we’re working with students in upper-elementary and middle school, identity is a large and important part of what our residencies are about. Art is a fast path to forming and grabbing onto an identity, whatever the content is.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?

It’s incredibly validating to know as an organization we’re doing something that our school systems embrace. I think the most rewarding aspect is knowing that we’re working in a community of other practitioners who are phenomenal performing and visual artists and amazing coaches. That is a very rare mix, and we’re honored to be a part of it.

Learn more about FutureMakers’ offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.

Meet our new artists: Valerie Branch

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During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far.

What is your background as an artist?

I graduated from University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance. Since graduation, I have been at the forefront and background of different dance organizations and have traveled around the world as a result of my passion for dance.

The first company I danced with was Lesole’s Dance Project, a traditional South African dance company where I was able to hone in on my leadership, creativity, organizational skills, and learn and appreciate a new form of dance. I served as rehearsal director, administrative and fundraising support staff and learned how to make a dance company successful. The Director and I worked together to create and organize an edu-dance program for young students in South Africa, which we were successful in implementing two years in a row.

In 2011, I was invited to Copenhagen, Denmark as a visiting artist to explore the country’s culture and art. As a result, REVISION dance collaborative (a company in which I co-directed its first season) had the opportunity to perform in and be part of the Kids Euro Festival where we performed in locations throughout Washington, DC.

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

I heard about Young Audiences through Laura Schandelmeir, who had partnered with Young Audiences through the Maryland Wolf Trap program as a teaching artist. Laura was one of my professors at UMCP and is a wonderful dance educator, and someone whom I have had the opportunity to be inspired by.

You recently completed the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar this spring. What was your favorite part of the program? How has that experience changed your approach to a program or your teaching practices?

Saying that I loved the TAI program is an understatement. Though I have been working with students within and outside of the classroom for years, I felt that this program truly changed the way I think about and approach my lessons, teachers, and students. I really appreciated Karen Bernstein, the dance facilitator on staff. Karen truly guided and provided me with advice so I could grow. I felt that Karen was the true support that I needed. She gave me feedback when I needed it; let me struggle in order to figure out what I needed to do; and was there when I needed encouragement. So often in programs like this, artists just receive a generalization of arts education/arts integration and then have to figure out: “What should I do with my art form and where do I start?” It was helpful to receive a plethora of examples from different artists. I enjoyed that the staff was fun and made the experience fun.

What made you decide to become a YA roster artist?

I initially joined Young Audiences as a Maryland Wolf Trap Teaching Artist serving preschool classrooms. In my first year on the Young Audiences roster, my opportunities have grown tremendously to reach older students and I am appreciative of that. Being part of the Young Audiences organization, I truly feel like I am growing and developing as an artist–where I am right now in my career is exactly where I want to be. Taking this journey has allowed me to focus on my career, taking everything that I have learned and witnessed throughout the early stages in my career, and create something new.

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Have you had any programs through YA yet? If yes, what was the most memorable part? If no, what are you most looking forward to?

I love teaching within the classroom and working with the teacher and the students to explore learning and understanding subject matter through movement. I am really looking forward to assemblies!

Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?

Children need to be allowed to think creatively and develop their own opinions. They need to develop their critical thinking skills at an early stage so that they have a clear understanding of why they think the way they do and why they feel a certain way about different situations. They have to develop their own understanding of how to accomplish tasks. The arts provide a creative outlet by allowing them to explore, imagine, and test new ideas. The arts target a different area of their brain, and once students have this experience it opens them to new possibilities. It allows them to take risks in the classroom that they may have been shy to before an arts experience. The arts help to develop self-confidence.

What does your art form in particular teach students?

Self-confidence, patience, respect for self and others, and focus. It also gives them an understanding of their own bodies–they find out new and exciting things that their limbs can explore, plus they learn their own limitations and to appreciate what others can do.

Learn more about Valerie Branch Dance Ensemble’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.

Meet our new artists: Noa Baum

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During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far.

Israeli-born Noa Baum, who joined the Young Audiences roster in 2013, is an internationally acclaimed storyteller who uses mesmerizing voices, impeccable timing, and warm authenticity to captivate audiences and confront important topics. Read on to learn how she got involved in storytelling and why she believes it’s so essential.

What is your background as an artist?

I was an actress in Israel at the Khan Theatre, a repertory theatre in Jerusalem. I studied acting at Tel Aviv University, studied with Uta Hagan, and received my Master’s from New York University in Educational Theatre. I started as an actress, but I wanted more. There’s actually a story about why I became a storyteller: I didn’t get an acting part I wanted, so to make ends meet, I got a job doing a story hour with kids in Tel Aviv. The way that the children reacted there was very powerful, and I wanted to learn more about the power of drama and story.

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

I moved to the east coast after living in Israel, and I’ve worked in the area ever since. I heard about Young Audiences when I arrived, and I auditioned and was accepted onto the roster.

What made you decide to become a Young Audiences roster artist?

I really like what Young Audiences does for artists. As an artist, it’s hard to market yourself to the schools by yourself. Working in schools is only part of what I do—I do programs for adults as well—so I wanted someone to take care of the marketing for me because it’s a lot of work. Young Audiences is very dedicated. It’s a lot of really good people working and keeping ongoing relationships with the schools and the school districts.

Have you had any programs through Young Audiences yet? What was the most memorable part?

I’ve been really grateful for this year because, as a first year artist, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of schools. The most memorable part has been the flexibility and support of the staff. With Young Audiences, I feel that I have a home and people to support me. As an artist, it feels really good to know that I can focus on my art because I have people taking care of the logistics.

Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?

I think art offers a holistic engagement of the brain, the heart, the body, and the whole self. As humans, art is the way we make meaning of who we are, why we’re here, and what this world is made of. Art has never been separate in the development of humanity, but unfortunately, we live in a society where we’ve started separating it. Art has become this extra thing, something that can be cut from the budget because it’s not as important. I don’t think it’s something extra. I don’t even think art is a subject as much as it’s a way of being. The more we integrate the arts into the subjects that we teach, the more we help the students learn and become who they are.

What does your art form in particular teach students?

Our brain processes information through stories. It’s how we remember and how we learn. Storytelling is the best teaching tool that I know—all of the great teachers and leaders of the world have been great storytellers. For me, storytelling teaches a lot of things, the most important being connecting with yourself. It’s an art form that asks you to participate and connect with your creative life force.

I think another amazing and powerful thing that storytelling teaches is listening in a deep, authentic, and fun way. From a very young age, we tell children to be quiet and listen. We expect them to be obedient and listen to instructions, but we don’t offer practice that teaches them how. One of the best ways to teach how to listen is to create an experience where listening is supported, such as a storytelling performance. Storytelling helps cultivate listening because you really have to listen to be able to imagine.

Storytelling works on a cognitive level as well. There’s a lot of research showing that if you want kids to be good writers, they have to be exposed to a lot of oral language. Writing and reading are basically connecting signs to things in your brain. The more words you’ve been exposed to orally and the richer the language you have in your head, the faster you can connect it to words on paper. If you’re looking at words and you don’t know what they mean or have no experience with them, reading and writing will always be a struggle. But if you know what “blossom” means, for example, and if you’ve heard it many times, you can connect the letters to the meaning faster.

Storytelling helps us emotionally connect the mind and heart. You may not remember all the intricacies of a story, but you’ll remember how you felt when you heard it, and sometimes, that can be lifesaving.

Learn more about the Noa’s offerings through Young Audiences here.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.

Meet our new artists: Baltimore Improv Group

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During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far.

The Baltimore Improv Group is a talented ensemble that came aboard our roster in 2013, and their performances and residencies never fail to evoke laughter and learning. Read on to find out why they became a Young Audiences roster artist, what they learned through our Teaching Artist Institute, and why they believe improv works so well in the classroom.

What is your background as an artist?

​The Baltimore Improv Group is celebrating its 10th year as a theatre company in Baltimore. We started small but have grown close to 60 performers, and we perform 90+ shows a year, including our annual Baltimore Improv Festival. We also teach classes to adults, teens, and children. Our performers have studied and trained all across the country, and we continue to host the best improvisers in Baltimore. ​

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

​Our Education Director, Bridget Cavaiola, worked with Young Audiences for years in her position as the Residential Life Director for the Upper Chesapeake Summer Center for the Arts. The center would bring in Young Audiences artists to perform for its campers. She knew it would be a perfect fit for BIG and made the suggestion that we audition.

What made you decide to become a Young Audiences roster artist?

​Improv is such a natural fit with children. It encourages risk taking, creativity, and collaboration. We have hosted our own kids’ shows and classes but knew this would be a perfect match for us. ​

Have you had any programs through Young Audiences yet? What was the most memorable part?

YES! We had more than 10 assemblies at schools this year and our first residency, too! We are looking forward to more in the coming school year. Some of our favorite memories are watching the students come up on stage and perform in front of their peers and receive that amazing confidence boost that comes from taking a risk within a supportive environment! We certainly have traveled Maryland quite extensively, and we will certainly remember the fun trek to Flintstone Elementary School in Allegany County!

Baltimore Improv Group at YA Summer Camp

You recently completed the Teaching Artist Institute Seminar this spring. What was your favorite part of the program? How has that experience changed your approach to a program or your teaching practices?

The Teaching Artist Institute is an amazing opportunity where artists, educators, and staff truly collaborate to help process, define, and designate the importance of art in the classroom. We loved the guided lessons, hands-on experience, and being around such amazing, talented individuals. We felt that this experience helped to shine a new light on our own experiences as a teaching artist.

What does your art form in particular teach students?

​Improv teaches a lot! Listening skills, taking risks, collaboration, the power of “yes,” learning from failure and mistakes, and much more! ​

Why do you believe it is important for every student to have access to the arts?

​Art is the glue that solidifies education for so many kids. It allows them to access their own creativity and instills a level of respect and ownership over a child’s education.

Learn more about the Baltimore Improv Group’s offerings through Young Audiences here.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists!