Studio to School

Reflection #8 – Sustaining the Work

THIRD YEAR FOCUS

The Sunriver/La Pine Studio Project Team will concentrate on developing and refining two key projects – band and restoring an annual musical production. Support for choir, art and dance (within PE classes) during the school day and co-curricular photography and guitar after school will continue with an emphasis on activities that promote and enhance band and the musical.

The Decision

Deciding to concentrate on two core areas was a several month process. Last spring, impressed by the focused purposes observed in the Cave Junction and Lincoln City projects, some of our group proposed narrowing our focus to band – our original grant application plan. Other team members disagreed. Citing the need to expose La Pine students to a wider variety of arts experiences, they wanted to also continue to support art, choir, and dance during the school day and co-curricular guitar and photography.

Summer work at the Hood River Rendezvous guided team members to reconsider our ultimate aim – to ensure quality music/arts educational opportunity for our students. Working through the dialogue box worksheets, considering the challenge of sustainability, and reexamining our staff resources, the committee decided on two core projects – band and a musical..

Why these two projects?   Experienced, motivated and specialized (music and drama) teacher leaders will direct each project.   These are popular teachers who enjoy the support of students, fellow staff, parents and community members. Both teachers are committed to remaining in La Pine and to working beyond their classrooms to positively affect students and families. Both band and the musical, by their nature, involve and draw in large numbers of student participants who may choose among a range of instruments and/or roles necessary to produce music or put together a theater production.   Both projects will develop and showcase student talent for student, staff and community La Pine audiences

Art and choir classes and photography, dance and guitar will continue this third year with an emphasis on providing additional support and resources for band and the musical.

Creating the post: At September and October Studio Committee meetings core committee members brainstormed strengths and challenges, ideas for how we can best leverage the project forward, and determined this year’s project direction.  From these discussions a draft was completed, edited by all Studio members, and finalized.

LEVERAGING STRENGTHS

Band: Using grant support, La Pine Middle School has moved in two years from no band offered to two periods of band, beginning and intermediate, with 53 students enrolled and 37 students in the La Pine High School band. The restored Pep Band (disbanded for 13 years) now plays at most home games. Both band and choir are now popular elective options for the majority of LPMS and LPHS students.

Leveraging forward: Band and choir visibility as part of school electives and at performances within and outside of school continues to build popularity (as expressed in student enrollment) for these programs. School district funding support will follow student enrollment. School staff will continue to seek donations and grants to supplement district funding of these electives. Plans to involve students and parents in music fundraising projects are being developed.

Staff and community expertise and enthusiasm: Much of the success achieved in restoring the band program is due to the talent, enthusiasm and leadership of music teacher Michael Chavarin, the staff member representative on our OCF Studio to Schools team. His vision, planning and hard work with beginning band students has established band as an important and valued elective in the LPMS and LPHS community.

Drama began as an exploratory after school activity, led the first two years by a drama novice but interested and popular middle school Social Studies teacher. Last year an experienced English and trained drama teacher, Lindsey Spring, joined the La Pine staff. Learning about the co-curricular drama class, she volunteered her time to work with students for several months prior to the Evening of the Arts and, in the spring, she proposed restoring a school musical to the La Pine community.

Leveraging forward: We recognize that for ongoing success, organization and ownership of performing arts activities must reside in the school staff and community. We know that leaders of successful performing arts activities must possess specific expertise and training to create a quality experience for students. Beginning last spring, music instructor, Michael Chavarin, and English/drama instructor, Lindsey Spring, working closely together, began creating a “Musical Dream Team” involving other teachers and community members to oversee sets, costumes, dance and music production. Plans are already underway to charge for performances, establish fundraisers, and to seek donations and grants from other groups in the area to create a permanent budget from which the musical group can continue to operate into the future. The possibility of aligning in some fashion with the local theater group, the Sunriver Stars, has been raised.

Popularity of co-curricular activities: Guitar, drama and photography have been popular co-curricular activities. Students appreciate having additional opportunities beyond sports in which they can explore interests, meet new friends and work towards goals beyond academics. Mentors are enthusiastic about teaching their classes, sharing their passions and expertise, and working with students who share those interests.

Leveraging forward: The after school drama group will end, replaced by the school musical. Photography will continue, with a focus on documenting and showcasing student involvement in grant and other school activities. Guitar will continue, with students sometimes interfacing with band groups and some working independently in the after school class. Both guitar and photography mentors are planning fundraising projects, hoping to raise enough funds to cover expenses needed to operate into the future once grant funds are no longer available.

LEVERAGING CHALLENGES

Hiring part-time highly qualified music staff: Part-time positions needed to offer and to grow music and performing arts offerings in small schools are difficult to fill. For three years La Pine has been unsuccessful in seeking to recruit a part-time music certified staff member.

Leveraging forward: The OCF Studio to Schools grant has provided funding to hire Michael Chavarin during his prep period to begin a band class. Growing enrollment has paved the way for district funding to add a second band class at the middle school. Provided student enrollment remains strong, the possibility of district funding to maintain staff funding of band looks promising. The Studio grant has funded repairs to existing instruments, the purchase of new instruments and a library of music that will carry the program into the future. Strong support from community groups and the possibility of grant funds from them in the future is likely to help provide for future needs. As music enrollment grows, the search for a part-time music instructor will continue, as adding music staff will be necessary for growth.

A small school staff must assume multiple responsibilities, necessitating careful coordination of schedules: Small schools in a large district like Bend-La Pine are held accountable for the same school and professional responsibilities as larger schools but have fewer administrative and teaching staff members to accomplish all tasks. Thus every small school staff member is expected to assume multiple school/district tasks beyond his/her classroom work. In a larger school, these school/district responsibilities are distributed among more staff.

The Studio team struggles to find meeting times that do not conflict with the other school commitments of committee members. Non-school members do what they can to support school staff to help them focus primarily on student learning.

Leveraging forward: This year’s focus on band and the musical will shift leadership and logistics of both grant projects into part of these teachers’ regular school routines

To avoid school conflicts committee meetings will continue to be scheduled in the late afternoon or evening. Detailed minutes, emailed to members, will continue to keep members who must miss a meeting informed.  Ongoing communication via phone, emails and texts will continue..

Financing the work, beyond the grant years: Grant funds have provided the opportunity to build a performing arts sustainable base upon which schools can operate into the future. For the La Pine band, the necessary instruments and equipment and student interest that drives enrollment (and district funding) are in place. Planning key purchases and budgeting to sustain an annual musical, will be a challenge we face this year. Planning for affordable stipends to mentors, for supplies for co-curricular activities, and for costs of future Evenings of the Arts, are also challenges to address this year.

Leveraging forward: To maintain student enrollment (which drives district funding) we will continue to promote and attract students to enroll in band. Careful scheduling of mandatory academic classes will help make this possible.

Producing a successful musical, involving lots of students in a variety of ways, will provide an annual co-curricular, non-sports outlet for interested students. Plans to charge for performances, recruit community support from Sunriver Stars, plan fundraisers and seek grants from other community groups in La Pine and Sunriver will hopefully build a financial base to pay for future musicals as Three Rivers School has done in Sunriver for many years.

Each co-curricular mentor is planning fundraising ideas to cover costs necessary to maintain their activities in years going forward. Committee members are meeting with each one to support and approve these projects.

Fundraising ideas to implement at the Evening of the Arts so this tradition can continue are being discussed in Studio meetings. Some ideas proposed so far include the following: a raffle of donated professional art, changing the format from a meal to a dessert, actively seeking and acknowledging significant community donations, and/or featuring a community or professional artist to perform side-by-side with student presenters.

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