Music Teacher, Rebecca Nederhiser and AIEG Director, Shelley Toon Lindberg spent the day with Brad Tisdale in Sisters to learn more about the Sisters Folk Festival-Americana Project. First, we toured the high school luthier program. It is an exceptional example of community members coming together to support student learning in a unique program that teaches both technical skills in wood working and technology and inspires students to take their music practice to a new level. We were both surprised by the engineering equipment available to students in this program and impressed by the retired engineered that trained them to us it. While at the high school we listened to students play and sing original songs, and we talked to students about what the program means to them. They shared openly. Some said the music program was life-changing for them and made school worth attending, others shared that it gave them a place to reflect during a busy school day. The classroom environment was structured but allowed for individual time to play music and converse. It felt great.
We visited Sisters to speak to Brad about how they have developed such a successful community-based festival that continues to grow and sustain itself. We wanted to some of the programs that are embedded in the school day and after-school programming that exists as well. We visited the piano lab at the middle school and got to see the students in action as they worked on keyboarding with an upbeat and confident instructor. We toured the visual art classroom where Kit Stafford works tirelessly with students on place-based visual arts and music. The mellow vibe of the classroom felt great to us and reminded us how important it is to slow down a bit and just create thoughtful art. At the elementary school we met the teaching artist, Laura Campbell and the visual art teacher who were working on an impressive permanent installation of varying-sized fish that would become a gateway feature to the community of Sisters. This community-wide project was inspiring because it was large and involved so many community members.
By chance, we did our site visit when the whole Studio to School team came together for a dinner/planning meeting. School administration, Brad, artists, teachers and teaching artists gathered to envision their next steps and to discuss what they had learned so far. We thought this type of convening would be helpful in our community as well and hope to bring the entire team together in the coming year to reflect and plan for the 2016-17 school year.
We left Sisters feeling invigorated and inspired. There was a real sense of community and collaboration in Sisters that reminded us of Hood River. It made us both very grateful that we live in a supportive rural community and it inspired us to do more to bring people in the community together around our Band Together project.