Results tagged “arts education” from ARTicles

pattigypsy.jpgI've just started to teach arts journalism to a wonderful class -- sure, give me a few weeks, but I go in optimistic. But then a colleague asked me the question anyone in this business would, should, ask: Why teach a skill for jobs that are drying up?

Tuesday night (March 25), I was handed a solid answer, one that I must admit I already knew. I went with my very dear friend, a Tony-voting theater critic for a major metropolitan newspaper, to the St. James Theater for a critic's-night preview of Gypsy, with Patti LuPone as you-know-who. Opening night is Thursday, so even though I am straining to tell you what I thought of it, I can't.

Yet I bet you want to know, may even be dying to know, which is why, as long as curtains go up, critics will always have work.

My friend, let's call him Brooks, because of a series of editorial circumstances was under absolutely no obligation to review. So the evening was a streetcar-man's holiday, which seemed to make him happy; he even had a glass of wine with his pretheater burger, something I'd never seen him do.

We remained sitting, silent, as lights came up after the first act. Then Brooks hit his fist on the arm of the infant-size seat: "I don't care, I'm going to write about this, whether or not they print it." I could see on his face that he was thinking of scribbling some retroactive notes and already rehearsing his lede.

What would induce a member of any audience to swap an evening of guaranteed leisure and potential enjoyment for a stretch of strenuous observation and then hours of immersion into the sweat-making cauldron of writing? Marx -- remember him, Karl with a K? -- ages ago provided the cliché: unalienated labor, work that's not work but irresistible love. Brooks had no choice. The words (and music!) on stage demanded company, and continuation, for themselves, and he was there.

As you can see, the same thing happened to me.

March 26, 2008 6:36 PM |

Okay, now for a little good news. Local though it may be, I figure we can all take heart and maybe other cities can benefit from the experience. It concerns Renaissance Arts Academy in Eagle Rock, which is a stone's throw from downtown Los Angeles. I learned that RenArts (as this music and performing arts public charter school is affectionately called) was recently named the highest scoring middle school and the second highest scoring high school in the LA Unified School District.

That's a monster big deal. There are about 350 middle and high schools in L.A. (including magnets and charters). But the thing about RenArts is it's only five years old. To get in, you don't have to audition. Just take a lottery number and pray.

During the day its student body -- 55% of whom are from economically disadvantaged families, 12% of whom are Special Education students, 54 % of whom are Hispanic/Latino, 29% Caucasian, 12% African American, 3% Asian/Pacific Islander and 2% Native American-- learn the arts from professionals. Arts are completely integrated with academics. 

After school, a vitiminized Conservatory program offers professional arts training to 250 at-risk and underserved students (which is nearly the whole student body). The Conservatory boasts three dance companies! Three orchestras!! Multiple chamber groups and two choirs!!! They are mixed-age. And they have good reputations from people other than the students' kin. I've heard full-throttle praise from unaffiliated arts experts who know the difference between "inept, but promising," and "accomplished."

No wonder RenArts has captured the attention of the LA Philharmonic. Its soon-to-be music director, 27-year old Gustavo Dudamel trained as a violinist, composer and conductor as a youth within El Sistema -- a program not entirely unlike RenArts Conservatory though far more extensive and institionalized. El Sistema spared Dudamel and the many, many other Venezuelan kids who might otherwise have languished in ghettos, joined gangs or suffered from next to no education. Possibly. 

A hundred percent of RenArts students graduate. Every single grad is pursuing further education. The arts have everything to do with it. Read the RenArts' mission statement if you want to weep -- because it's not just words on the screen. This is real.

As real as is this YouTube snippet of Dudamel and the El Sistema-trained Simon Bolivar Orchestra in 2007, rocking the house with Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo." If L.A. school kids can follow this path, watch out! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Cuzcz8Tjs0

March 11, 2008 12:23 PM |


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