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Voices in the Community: Home School Students & Youth Performances

Photo: Dancing on stage at the Rebirth Brass Band Youth performance. Photo by Mark Gjukich Photography.

We love offering youth performances throughout our season.

The performances are attended by classes of students, but home-schooled students also get together in groups in order for the performances. We asked a few of the home-schooled families to talk about their experiences.

One family attended a performance in February:

The Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra was fantastic!  We didn’t really know what to expect going into it. We thought it would be relaxing, and interesting and that it would likely make us hungry for Chinese food, all of which it did. But, it was so much more!  The personality delivered through the voice of the director and the enthusiasm of the performers transcended any language barrier. The explanations and stories that were shared before each piece transformed the music and gave it an ethereal beauty. It’s effect remained with us throughout the day.  It has forever changed the way we will enjoy Chinese music; we will always be listening to see if we can guess at the story that the instruments are telling.  As homeschoolers we strive to take every advantage of the cultural benefits that so enhance the learning experience.

Another family attended two youth performances in one day:

When the subject of Maya, our 13 year old comes up in conversation, questions about home school often arise.  Volumes have been spoken and written about the potential of home schooling and why so many do it with such passion.  High on my list of “whys” is evidenced by the kind of day we had with the help of our friends at UMS.

We live, work and raise our children in a community that connects with the arts in ways that few other cities are fortunate to enjoy. In no small measure this is why we are the community we are.  On February 10th UMS sponsored two widely divergent but equally compelling musical performances.  We’ve been attending UMS youth performances for years with a home school group. It wasn’t a matter of if we would attend but which of these two performances, scheduled 1 hour apart, we would choose. With the help of the UMS volunteers, we chose both.

Our home school group was graced by a lively and culturally illuminating hour of traditional Chinese chamber music. The charming director of the Shanghai Orchestra and his translator did a terrific job of educating and entertaining.  Just as the last applause died away the UMS team dismissed us first and we were off.  We entered Hill Auditorium and were whisked to our section just in time for the opening applause as Conductor Morgan took the stage to lead the Sphinx Orchestra.  Whew.  Now for something completely different and equally joyful and enriching.  The Sphinx laureates were inspiring in their virtuosity and presence. I am glad not to have had to do the judges work… and equally glad not to have had to make the choice between these extraordinary musical events.

Bonus Video: Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra also visited Logan Elementary:

Do you remember attending arts events or performances as a student? What effect do you think these experiences have?

On the Road for the Kids

On Friday, September 16th at 6:30 pm, the University Musical Society (UMS) hosts its seventh annual benefit auction/dinner event, On the Road with UMS. Not only is this event an absolute blast, but the cause is near and dear to our hearts: performing arts education and community engagement. This integral portion of the UMS mission enables us to provide teacher workshops, in-class artist visits for schoolchildren, and live daytime performances programmed especially for school field-trips. In the post below, Karen Stutz — UMS volunteer, Advisory Committee Member, and 2011 On the Road Co-Chair — writes about why On the Road matters to her.

Imagine a sub-zero Ann Arbor morning in the dead of winter. Black ice, blustery winds, knee-deep snow. Without a doubt, this is the kind of morning that only a gleeful gaggle of  kids dancing to a live salsa concert can remedy. This exact sight lifted my heart when I worked as a volunteer greeter for a UMS Youth Performance by Baby Loves Salsa last winter.

I’ve volunteered as a Youth Performance greeter for a few years now and one thing is always the same: from the minute the kids step off the bus, they radiate excitement that lasts until the final curtain is drawn. The Baby Loves Salsa concert was no different. Along with their teachers, the children who attended Baby Loves Salsa clapped, sang, and danced in the aisles.

Last year, I also volunteered at the Youth Performance for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Watching the students’ faces as they soaked up the performance was fascinating. They were rapt with attention as they followed the movement and choreography. The UMS Youth Performance program offers companion classroom curriculum and educational workshops for teachers; by the time the students are on-site at a UMS performance field trip, they are some of our most well-versed and informed patrons. They are ready for challenging, world-class performances. They are learning about cultures from all over the world and about how the performing arts can act as a window to better understand one another and the world at large.

Thousands of students from Southeast Michigan benefit in huge ways from seeing performances right here in Ann Arbor — I support the UMS Education & Community Engagement programs through fundraisers like On the Road because I’d like to keep it that way. Performing arts education matters to me because it matters to the kids.

Why is performing arts Education & Community Engagement important to you?

Tickets to this year’s On the Road event are $100 and must be purchased in advance. Rachelle Lesko at UMS is more than happy to help you with your ticket purchases and answer any questions: 734-764-8489 or Hope to see you there!

VIDEO: Connecting Artists and Kids Through UMS Youth Performances

During a two week period (that began on Friday) UMS hosts five “youth performances” — performances by mainstage artists held during the school day and attended by kids ranging from ages 5-18 from throughout southeastern Michigan.  In December, the Carolina Chocolate Drops gave a youth performance to a full house of kids the same day as their sold-out public performance, teaching songs and sounds, as well as performing music.  The atmosphere was electric.  At the public performance, the CCD talked about how committed they are to providing educational experiences for youngsters and how much they enjoyed performing for the kids earlier in the day.  In this video, some students from a local elementary school in Ann Arbor talk about what they enjoyed most about the performance.

Although they only last an hour, these youth performances take literally dozens of people and hundreds of person-hours to pull off.  For each performance, UMS creates a “teacher resource guide” that provides background information for teachers, as well as activities they can conduct with students in the classroom.  Dozens of Advisory Committee volunteers serve as ushers and provide logistical support for getting all of the students in and out of the venue in a timely fashion.  And, of course, backstage the production staff is working with the artists to ensure a top-notch performance.  UMS Youth Education Manager Omari Rush is at the center of it all, creating the teacher resource guides, communicating with teachers, ushers, production staff, and following up with those in attendance to ensure an optimal experience.

Recent performances include Brazilian dance, a Native American songwriter, a salsa band, and high school students performing classical music:

Grupo Corpo — Friday, January 21

Joanne Shenandoah — Monday, January 24

Baby Loves Salsa — two performances on Monday, January 31

Sphinx Competition — Friday, February 4

UMS Youth Performances are just one component of a well-rounded youth education program that also includes teacher “cultural literacy” workshops; culture-focused book clubs;  day-long intensive “immersions” that focus on a specific culture, community, or art form; and training with education experts provided as part of UMS’s relationship with the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, which provides educators with arts-infused strategies to enhance student learning across various areas of the curriculum.  Click here for complete details on all youth education programs.