When did you become the Festival’s Director of Education & Outreach?
A little more than three months ago, on July 1.
What was your job before this one?
For 11 years, I was the music-education coordinator for Santa Fe Public Schools. Prior to that, I taught music in K–5 settings on Santa Fe’s south side.
Are you from Santa Fe?
No. I’m from North Carolina, but, since childhood, I wanted to live in the Southwest, which is quite different from where I grew up. Prior to moving here, I lived on the Navajo reservation, where I taught music to children in grades K–6. In 1998, I moved to Santa Fe because it interested me on many levels. I was drawn to its visual arts, music, mix of ethnicities and cultures, and amazing location near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
What’s your own music background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s degree in music education from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved keyboard instruments—piano, organ, and harpsichord. I also studied oboe during high school.
In a general sense, what does your current position entail?
I oversee all education and outreach programs for the Festival, including the four school-year programs—Music in Our Schools, Strings in Our Schools, Guitars in Our Schools, and the Dream Big Private Lesson Program—as well as the summertime Youth Concerts. Additionally, the Young Composers String Quartet Project—which offers commissions to two emerging composers every year, and which the Festival’s Artistic Director, Marc Neikrug, created in 2013—is a Festival education program.
Why does the Festival offer these music-education programs? Why are they such an important part of its mission?
An organization that brings world-class music to its local community naturally has an interest in the community itself. Without programs presented by the Festival and other local organizations, children in Santa Fe’s public schools would still receive an excellent core music education, but the Festival takes things further by providing experiences like direct contact with professional performing artists; deep immersion in various genres of music, from classical and jazz to world music; and direct instruction on various instruments, including voice. Also, children need more than one teacher. They need multiple meaningful relationships with adults who work within their areas of interest. By providing these critical enhancements to students’ music education, the Festival is actually providing a lifeline to a rewarding, successful future. Through our support, students can find their unique identities while experiencing confidence, purpose, and success in their social and academic environments. A child who studies music often becomes the first person in their family to break out of limiting social paradigms common to poverty. They do better in school, they attend college, they become a leader in their community, and they graduate!
Which schools are participating in the Festival’s programs right now, during the 2019–20 school year?
Music in Our Schools, which serves children in pre-K through grade eight, is the Festival’s largest program, and it’s currently in 10 Santa Fe public elementary schools, one public elementary school each in Pecos and Los Alamos, the Taos Integrated School of the Arts in Taos, and the Kha’p’o Community School in Santa Clara Pueblo. Strings in Our Schools serves three Santa Fe public elementary schools and one public elementary school in Pecos. Guitars in Our Schools is offered at the Kha’p’o Community School, and the Dream Big Private Lesson Program is in Capital High School, which is part of Santa Fe Public Schools.
Whom do you work with at the various schools? Does every participating school have a dedicated music teacher?
I work with the music teacher and the principal at each of the schools we serve. The only schools we serve that don’t have a dedicated music teacher are the Kha’p’o Community School and the Taos Integrated School of the Arts.
How many students are the programs serving during the 2019–20 school year, and how many people attend the Youth Concerts?
We’re serving some 5,000 students through Music in Our Schools, 80 students through Strings in Our Schools, 40 students through Guitars in Our Schools, and 30 students through Dream Big. Typically, a total of 100 to 400 people attend each of our four Youth Concerts every summer.
Music in Our Schools and Strings in Our Schools, both of which have been around since the 1990s, are the Festival’s longest-running programs. What does each one offer?
Music in Our Schools brings live chamber music concerts to 14 schools three times a year. Prior to each concert, the Festival provides training for the schools’ music teachers, which gives them the tools they need to introduce and share the music with their students. Teachers engage students with guided listening exercises or studies of the rhythms and melodies inherent in the literature, for example, and they teach them about the works’ instruments and composers as well.
Through Strings in Our Schools, elementary school students study violin with Hilary Schacht, an accomplished musician and pedagogue. The Festival loans each student a violin free of charge, and he or she uses it to take group lessons, practice at home, and perform in public concerts. This program is a very important component of an elementary-school strings education because it prepares students to play in their middle school orchestras.
Guitars in Our Schools is relatively new, having launched only three years ago, in 2016. How is this program different from the others, and are there plans to expand it in any way?
Guitars in Our Schools is offered at Kha’p’o Community School and serves students in grades 3–6. Our instructor is Roberto Capocchi, a consummate professional guitarist who has the practiced ability to teach young children. Roberto and I are currently taking a discerning look at the program’s curriculum and materials, and at how we present concepts and skills. We’re also monitoring student progress. In the future, we expect to see more and more sophistication in terms of the students’ skill development.
And the Dream Big Private Lesson Program is the Festival’s newest program, right?
Yes. Santa Fe Public Schools and Performance Santa Fe jointly managed it for the past three years. The current school year is the first time the Festival is managing it, with support from Santa Fe Public Schools and the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association.
Why did the Festival add Dream Big to its programs?
Private lessons are critically important for high school students who are serious about their musicianship and are preparing, for example, to audition for statewide honor ensembles or study music at the university level. Dream Big offers private lessons during the school day, when students are most consistently able to attend them, and they can cost as little as $3 a lesson. All the Dream Big students are enrolled in one of their high school’s performing ensembles, such as band or choir. The lessons provide personalized instruction on a variety of instruments, including voice, which enables students to participate in their ensembles with confidence, pride, and artistry. Currently, we’re working to expand Dream Big to Ortiz Middle School, which feeds into Capital High School.
The Youth Concerts are another longtime Festival offering, but, unlike the other programs, they’re presented, as you said, during the summer. Who performs during the concerts, and what music do they play?
The four Youth Concerts are performed exclusively by musicians appearing in that summer’s Festival and feature excerpts from that season’s repertoire. Each concert has a theme, which is inspired by the artists and the repertoire.
What are some of the ways the musicians interact with the kids during the Youth Concerts?
They talk about a lot of different things, like various aspects of the music, the composers’ lives, and their own backgrounds, and they go into the audience to engage students by asking and answering questions. Ultimately, they make the music and the concertgoing experience fun, and they give kids the chance to hear great music played by some of the finest musicians in the world in an accessible, friendly atmosphere.
How old are the kids who attend the Youth Concerts?
It’s a wide range. We get everyone from infants to young teens.
What do students say the most rewarding aspects of participating in the Festival’s programs are?
With Music in Our Schools, they love the experience of meeting professional musicians, learning about music, and hearing great music performed live. Students in the Dream Big program and in both Strings in Our Schools and Guitars in Our Schools love having the opportunity to develop skills on their instrument and to successfully perform familiar pieces of music. Many of our students dream of becoming an accomplished musician, so these programs directly address that goal and make it attainable for them.
What’s the most rewarding aspect for you?
I’m delighted to be able to provide robust, quality, accessible music programs for children and youth, especially those who are disadvantaged or underserved. As long as I’m addressing the needs of an aspiring musician—inspiring them and helping them reach their dreams—I’m a happy camper, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with the Festival. I also enjoy working with my highly professional colleagues at the Festival because we share the same values. We’re a great team, and I know we’re making a huge difference in the lives of the children of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico.
What are your hopes for the programs going forward?
My hope is that we continue to strengthen and develop the programs in order to have the widest reach and most profound impact. I want to make sure that we reach the kids who are the most in need of enlivened musical experiences.
To learn more about the Festival’s Education & Outreach programs, click here.