On the final day of March 2016, a sunny spring day for a change, OSO Education Dir. Monica Hayes and 45th Parallel Artistic Dir. Greg Ewer took the drive to Elkton to see what Ethos is up to in that beautiful rural community. They met with Sei Harris and Andrew Arriaga of Ethos/Elkton S2S after observing a morning of band classes and consuming some tasty pastries from the local bakery. This is what they learned…

greg andrew sei deer

Greg Ewer, violinist (45th Parallel/DDSD/OR Symphony Studio to School leadership team member):

I was struck by how engaged the students were during the music classes. The teacher was very dynamic and kept the class moving quickly. At the same time, there was always time for students to ask questions, share anecdotes or simply engage in a bit of humor to keep things fun. I was also struck by the precariousness of this teacher’s relationship to the school. I left with the impression that if or when funding for the teaching position dried up, the community would be left with a substantial void. I got to thinking about my own education, and how my elementary and high schools were both public magnet schools geared towards music and the arts. Without them it is doubtful I would have been adequately prepared for a career in music, or even considered music as a viable career path. The big question in my mind as I drove back to Portland was this: In such an arts-centric city like Portland, how is it that there isn’t a vibrant arts magnet high school? Of course I fully realize that most of the answer probably involves money. Still, as Portland continues to grow into a leading west-coast city, is a magnet high school with an arts focus something we should all be talking about?

All eyes and ears on Mr. A- what will he say/do next?

All eyes and ears on Mr. A- what will he say/do next?

Monica Hayes (Oregon Symphony ECE Programs Dir./ Studio to School Leadership team member):

Watching band teacher Andrew Arriaga (through Ethos’s Studio to School partnership) working with kids ranging from high school to 6th grade was dizzyingly wonderful! He was able to relate to them on their level and yet expected attention and excellence.  Whichever instrument was needed to demonstrate a concept, he would grab it and play it- it was not perfect and he showed his students he was willing to take risks, have fun and not expect to be perfect at everything! My first impression, as a veteran educator and student teaching supervisor for so many years, was that this guy was born to teach and to inspire. His ability to motivate, affirm and instruct and, at the same time, entertain was phenomenal. I can imagine that his fellow teachers and the parents are very glad he showed up on the scene.

Mr. Arriaga plays whichever instrument he wants!

Mr. Arriaga plays whichever instrument he wants!

After we sat in on the HS, MS and then 6th grade band classes we had lunch together and went over what we saw and discussed the various the goals behind the work. Andrew also gave us the history of what was, or rather WASN’T, happening in music education in Elkton before he came on the scene in 2010 through the Ethos/AmeriCorps program. It is very apparent that the influx of Studio to School support has allowed the Ethos team to build up this fledgling band program into a very healthy and growing music education model at the Elkton Charter School. In looking at the number of students enrolled in his classes, the good condition of the instruments and the extent to which he is incorporated into the teaching staff, it is very clear that this program is valued.  As the standards and demand for this kind of curriculum are getting established there it would seem that the school staff, administrators and board members will have many reasons to sustain this program in the future after this partnership has ended.

Visiting this program in a rural community reminded me of how different our challenges are in making sure the community outside of the school is involved. Even though an urban partnership, such as ours, lends itself to making connections with a rich source of cultural opportunities from around the area for kids and community, competing for the time and attention of parents and teachers often competes with those cultural opportunities. But what we both share in our projects is the goal of providing quality music education experiences to students who might not otherwise have the resources to access lessons and performance opportunities with a group of students sharing the same challenges and interests.

Lumberjack sax

Finally, just as the Elkton Bands are preparing to perform a concert for the community this spring, the 2,600 David Douglas SD third through fifth graders are preparing to perform along  (from their seats) with the Oregon Symphony. We are getting so excited to bring the DDSD students and teachers together with the orchestra, as they play and sing together during our first ever Link Up concert titled “The Orchestra Sings”- 70% of this concert is “play and sing along”. This is one of 3 concerts we will do in the Schnitzer Concert Hall together in as many years. The students have been working for the past 6 months learning the recorder fingering, the words to the songs and the choreography to this very interactive Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute program.