National Arts In Education Week is September 9-14, 2018!

Each year, the cultural and education communities come together to celebrate the power of the arts in education to transform our communities, schools, teaching, and learning. As our young people and educators return to school, we take time to reflect on the role of arts education in our lives and how it has contributed to making us the people we are today. The research is undeniable: when schools and communities embrace the arts – dance, music, theatre, visual and media arts – students benefit, educators are more effective, and learning communities are revolutionized.

The research is clear: youth who participate in the arts are more likely to be successful in school, college, and career than their peers who did not have arts education. There is a significant impact on drop out rate, suicide prevention, and at-risk students. The arts also impacts student performance

This summer, I attended performances by Katie Cox, Andie Springer and Caitlin Warbelow. A friend attending with me was astonished to discover they all grew up in Fairbanks, all became professional musicians in New York and all return to give back to Alaska through the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, through Wild Shore Music Fest, the Far North Fiddle Fest. All return to teach, perform and stimulate our economy. My friend inquired if we might have something in the water to generate such fine artists. I said no, we had programs like Jo Scott’s Music Camp, UAF’s Fine Arts Camp and great, dedicated teachers in the school district but that those resources were diminishing.

A friend recently shared this piece from Frontlineviews on an exceptional bass player raised in Fairbanks. I quote: Jon Button is from Alaska and resides in LA but he’s seen the world in a way that only few dreaming musicians attain, as the bassist for rock & roll royalty. He’s a mainstay of the session scene (film, television, and commercials) but that’s his day job. The skills he honed at UNT in Denton, Texas may have empowered him with the reading chops and stylistic diversity required in the studio but his inner teenage rockstar manifested with touring gigs such as Sheryl Crow, Shakira, Roger Daltrey, and most recently The Who. From his hip digs in the outskirts of Los Angeles, Button shares his thoughts about what led him to such success and how he maintains this in the midst of a serene family life. “I grew up in Alaska during the Oil boom, so our public schools had tons of money and thus had plenty of funding for music programs. I joined school orchestra in 3rd grade and jazz band in 7th grade. There were also a couple of local summer music camps that brought in great educators from out of state. ”

In order to reap the benefits of arts-rich schools and arts-infused communities for all members, we must focus on increasing access, particularly for students who are typically disenfranchised. Additionally, we must focus our efforts on broadening and diversifying the leadership pipeline, so that our arts educators, cultural program leaders, and our community’s artists reflect the communities in which they are working.

Last year we asked the community what our priorities should be. the resounding answer was Serve our Students! With that in mind, we have started several new initiatives.

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should take pause to cheer for our accomplishments, but also remember the work we have to do. How can we support parents, families, and the community in providing more opportunities for arts education? It’s up to us all to take a stand and take the lead – and we can start during National Arts in Education Week.

Alaska’s students deserve an education that will prepare them for success in today’s increasingly competitive workforce.