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  • On Tuesday March 12, the AFP music program at Humanities Preparatory Academy was fortunate to host Jeremy Danneman of ParadeOfOne for a special multimedia presentation to students. Mr. Danneman is a truly unique artist with a poignant social message that made a palpable impact on the students and their perspective on art, music and world events. The presentation involved showing students slides, playing both live and recorded music, and discussing his experiences having visited Rwanda and Cambodia, two countries that have been recently ravaged by genocide. He shared stories about and recordings of musicians he was fortunate to encounter in these locales, and collaborations he performed with them, despite having possessed no other means of communication with them save for an interpreter. His enthusiastic explanations of his motives for doing this type of work and colorful retelling of his experiences illustrated beautifully the potency of music and arts to bridge social divides, and to introduce a new, living meaning to cultural exchange and painful, but important world events. The presentations culminated with live performances by Mr. Danneman on saxophone and clarinet, and in one case included myself playing guitar in an impromptu musical improvisation that tied together the power of all the skills that students have been learning in class for the past semester. AFP would like to thank Mr. Danneman for visiting our classes, and look forward to hosting him again soon along with a musician from Cambodia, whom, coincidentally, has his picture and story on a public service poster in the hallway of the school!

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  • This weeks AFP Art Ed blog entry features student, drummer and musician Jansen Bennett. Jansen was already an accomplished musician and world music enthusiast before we even met at the beginning of the school year. Having traveled to India with his mother, an accomplished actress, on a number of occasions, he developed a keen ear for the music of that region and a comprehensive knowledge of the instrumentation, musical concepts, and reverential spiritual focus that characterize and differentiate it from our own. Jansen plays percussion, including tabla (two drums, played with the fingertips,  tuned to high and low pitches that are used in traditional Indian classical music), ghatam (a clay pot with three different tones), mridangam (a two sided drum from southern India), dholak (a northern Indian double sided barrel drum), and drum set; kemenche (a Turkish bowed instrument from the Black Sea region), guitar and bass. He also plays a variety of mouth harps (yes, like Snoopy), which come primarily from different regions in India, but some are from Italy or Hungary. An avid participant in the after school program, Jansen brings an openness and enthusiasm to Humanities’ music program that are rare in a high school student.

    Interestingly, Jansen was also born 26 weeks premature. That’s not a typo, and makes him a miracle of modern medicine. He also lost his birth mother early in life.  He sometimes is frustrated by the superficiality of high school social dynamics as a result of his deeper perspective on life and his slight physical differences, but I feel that if more of the students at school would take cues from Jansen about what is really important, they would learn a lot about how to be a more completely realized person in adulthood rather than focusing on the priorities usually held in highest regard in high school like popularity, fashion and acting cool.

  • This week’s update on the Art for Progress art education programs features a brief introduction to some of the students in the AFP music programs, as well as some photographs by Paula Parker from the AFP visual arts programs, including student artwork.  Sherif, a senior at Humanities Prep, moved to New York City from Cairo, Egypt last summer, and was always an eager student in my music class throughout the past semester.

    Sherif spent most of the first several weeks of the semester playing a D chord rather roughly on the electric guitar. Although I continuously suggested that he learn another chord, he continued to focus on the D chord, lifting one finger at a time to hear the variations. Since he seemed to derive such joy from that one chord, I encouraged him to listen to the tone of the strings and demonstrated to him that there were different sounds that could be evoked coaxing them out of the instrument rather than hacking at the strings. Sherif has since developed his D jam into a more coherent developing piece, and after I lent him one of AFP’s classical guitars, he recently exchanged it for an electric guitar and is avidly practicing at home. Sherif fulfilled his arts requirements last semester, but continues to come by the music room at every opportunity and is a regular participant in the Tuesday afternoon student/faculty jam, playing drums, guitar, and occasionally gracing the microphone with his own inimitable brand of freestyle rapping/storytelling. Ever the eager student, Sherif has become among the most dedicated and capable music students at Humanities, and never fails to crack me up.

    Christian Tapia was also a student in my music class at Humanities Prep last semester, and also, despite his having already fulfilled his arts requirements for graduation, is constantly coming by the music room to continue his musical development. He had been trying to learn piano since a year before the AFP program started. He reportedly would visit the music room every day and be kicked out, often receiving detention as a result. he was even told by the former dean of his middle school, “If you don’t know how to play, then don’t play.” Upon recognizing Christian’s enthusiasm and drive last semester, I lent him an AFP digital piano, and he reports to me regarding his progress on a daily basis. Among the most diligent and focused music students in the school, Christian now participates in the Tuesday jam every week as well, introducing new songs every week that he is working on learning. Lately, he has been focused primarily on developing original compositions. well as developing original compositions. Christian is also a participant in the NYPD Explorers program for high school students.

    Please enjoy some examples of student artwork from the AFP visual arts program at Landmark High School.

    Until Next Time

    -Barry Komitor
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  • Art for Progress arts education programs have been doing great work this winter, with visual arts programs in place at Landmark High School and Quest 2 Learn NY and music programs at Quest, Humanities Prep, Hudson High School for Learning Technologies, and, most recently, at James Baldwin High School, all in Chelsea.

    The Humanities music program, led by teaching artist and musician Barry Komitor, has added an after school student/faculty jam on Tuesday afternoons to two regular classes per day, enabling students to apply the knowledge and skills they develop during school music classes. In a dynamic group environment, they learn an entirely different set of skills and considerations. The group has learned “Zombie” by The Cranberries, and “Twist and Shout”, among other songs, and has regular blues and freestyle jams. Komitor also teaches drums after school at Quest 2 Learn on Mondays, and has begun offering guitar and piano lessons after school three days a week, subsidized by grant monies thanks to the Sansom Foundation.  These lessons are to serve students from former AFP programs in the Bronx and Brooklyn, which lost support or funding, including: Christopher Columbus High School Campus in the Bronx (which comprises Bronxdale High School and Pelham Prep as well as the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science [CIMS], all providing students that are participating) and The Academy for Conservation and the Environment in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Lessons are available one of the days to students from the Humanities program as well. Students from different schools and communities have recently begun to stop in on each other’s lesson times and exchange information about what they have learned. It’s pretty cool…

    Komitor and AFP would like to extend special thanks to drummer Mike Severino for donating a variety of instruments including the vintage 1970’s Slingerland drumset used in the Quest classes and by the Hudson rock band.

    Sansom Foundation grant funds have also enabled AFP to loan acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, violins, and bass guitars to several students who have shown dedication and perseverance, and we plan to acquire a variety of new instruments in the coming weeks, depending upon what this semester’s new students are interested in learning.

    The Baldwin music program, taught by mandolin player and singer Elio Schiavo, leader of the bluegrass band Six Deadly Venoms, began this January and serves students who have been redirected from other high schools for disciplinary reasons. Thus far they have been doing stellar work, meeting during school four days a week as well as after school two days. Schiavo also leads the after school rock band program at Hudson on Wednesdays and teaches guitar after school at Quest 2 Learn on Thursdays. The Hudson rock band recently played three songs, which were the highlight moment of their school dance; playing two Ramones songs and “Use Somebody”, by Kings of Leon.

    The Visual Arts program at Landmark High School, in it’s 5th year, has continued to evolve and expand as well. Here is a contribution from Art Teacher Paula Walters Parker:

    “Right now at Landmark things are going well. The school is changing, and the students are more invested in their work. Just walking through the halls feels different. We have beautiful artwork from our students hung on the walls; we have real learning in the classrooms, and we have more students that are more dedicated to the artistic process. Last year we had students’ work displayed in the AFP shows; we had students apply to a PS art competiton, and we also went on trips to galleries and the Guggenheim Museum.  We even had a student who was accepted in Pre-college Academy Program at Parsons/The New School!

    This year we continue to work on artistic discipline while exploring more inspirational aspects of what the city has to offer. We have gone on small inspirational trips to galleries in Chelsea while building an on-line gallery for the school. The students are learning from the visits what it takes to run a gallery, and taking the information back to school to help them create the first official on line Landmark Arts Gallery.

    In class we are working toward student-inspired projects. We have a short time-span but we are working diligently towards this goal. In the process we are careful to arm the students with the artistic knowledge, skills and discipline it takes to accomplish such an ambitious project. We teach basic techniques and create exercises to build line quality, patterns, compositional elements as well as exploring knowledge of color theory; then the students create the masterpieces.

    We continue to help the students applying for scholarships and internships as well.

    The students have created some great photography, watercolor landscape paintings and still life paintings, as well as Sumi ink drawings, celebrity portraits and mix medial paintings, and there is more to come;)”

    -Paula Walters Parker

     

    Parker also teaches elementary school visual art at Quest 2 Learn