[This essay appears as Chapter One in The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible
published by Oxford University Press, 2009]
There is no consensus definition of “teaching artist” in the evolving field of arts education. Five years ago, even the term would spark arguments from those who preferred the traditional labels of “visiting artist,” “resident artist,” or even “artist educator.” Part of me hopes there will never be a consensus definition for a practice so varied and dynamic. There are no consensus definitions of the words “creativity” or “art” either. For very good reason—sometimes there is no single term to capture a deep truth. (Leonard Bernstein said his definition of art was that it had three attributes: it holds a complex and profound truth; it cannot be expressed in any other way; and the world would be worse without it.) Perhaps a term like teaching artist must be sounded, gestured, drawn or performed in a room with engaged learners to capture its genuine connotation. And the world would be worse without teaching artists.
We still live in a time when you are a teaching artist if you say you are. That, incidentally, is the original meaning of the term “profession”—when you professed a vocation rather than got a degree or certification. Whether the profession of your vocation brought you a living depended on the quality of your work, not on your credentials. This is still true of the field of teaching artistry—with no official credentialing, you work if you are good, and you mostly get better by through experience.
One clunky definition of the term I use is: an artist who chooses to include artfully educating others, beyond teaching the technique of the artform, as an active part of a career. Yes, this could and should include just about all artists, all musicians, because we all find ourselves teaching in bits and pieces throughout our lives. We teach when we talk to family, friends, strangers and colleagues about music. We teach by example. As you will read in these essays, I believe that eighty percent of what we teach is who we are, and like it or not, our example in the world teaches people what it means to be a musician. And for the sake of our art form, I hope you teach as artfully as you perform.
This book is dedicated to helping you teach artfully and effectively—in performances, in schools and after school, in dialogue with colleagues, friends, family and strangers. This book aspires to change the way you define what teaching and art can be to one another, to your life, to music and to our culture.
Most of this book is specifically focused on music teaching artistry, but there are some sections, like this chapter, that include our teaching artist colleagues in dance, theater, the visual and literary arts to address the concerns of teaching artistry as a field. These broader sections present the context of an emerging profession, of which music teaching artists are an essential, leading, part. Certainly there are differences among the different disciplines, but in this first-ever book for our field, I feel the need to present a foundation for all teaching artists, truths across the disciplines, so we can work together to advance the field, not only succeed within the discipline-specific piece we represent. Just as someone with a passion to become an elementary school teacher must study the history and psychology of learning, the developmental stages before and after the elementary school years, and various philosophical approaches, so we should learn a little about the history and practices of teaching artistry to deepen our practice in music. I feel I would be doing music teaching artists a disservice if I did not present a context for our work that illuminates the big picture and the shared vision, before we delve into our beloved part.
Here are two additional definitions of a teaching artist that resonate for me:
• A teaching artist is the model of the 21st century artist, and simultaneously, a model for high-engagement learning in education;
• A teaching artist is the future of art in America.
I believe those statements to be true, and when you finish this book, I hope you will too.
By the way, that statistic cited above—eighty percent of what you teach is who you are—is a made up number. That invented percentage captures the actual truth that whatever the teaching techniques, whatever the words or activities, it is the understandings and the spirit of the individual teacher that sparks the potential to transform others. If you doubt that number, just recall the great teachers in your own life. It was not the quality of their handouts or presentations, nor the cleverness of their curriculum, that inspired you to change the direction of your life. It was the quality of who they were as people, their teaching artistry as humans, that had such an impact on you. If you adopt some of the messages in this book, you will be on the path to having more of that kind of impact on others. You will become an active contributor to revitalizing the art of music in a culture that predominantly promotes it as entertainment. You will become part of the solution rather than a frustrated part of the problematic status quo.
Let me clarify the difference between art and entertainment. Entertainment is not the opposite of art—please Lord don’t let entertainment be the enemy of art, be opposed to art in any way, or we are goners. What distinguishes entertainment is that it happens within what we already know. Whatever your response to the entertainment presentation—laughing, crying, getting excited—underneath the surface, it confirms. Entertainment says, “Yes, the world is the way you think it is.” It feels great to have your worldview confirmed in the many dynamic, imaginative, exciting ways our entertainment industries provide.
Art, on the other hand, happens outside of what you already know. Inherent in the artistic experience is the capacity to expand your sense of the way the world is or might be. The art lives in an individual’s capacity to engage in that fundamental act of creativity—expanding the sense of the possible—every bit as much as the art resides in the what’s being observed.
For example, imagine, three people sitting next to one another listening to a late Beethoven string quartet. One is having a life transforming artistic experience as she enters that musical world, expanding her grasp of what the human heart and spirit can contain and the depths to which such knowing can be expressed. The man next to her is having a very entertaining evening, enjoying the beauty of the music, admiring the way the ensemble works together, drifting off to think about some problems at work, thinking how cute the violist is, but coming back to relax in the beauty of the occasion. The next guy over was dragged there by his wife, hates the event, and is getting nothing out of the music. The same musical offering becomes a work of art, a piece of entertainment or an ordeal based on the individual’s capacity to create personally relevant connections inside the music.
Those internal skills determine the difference between art and entertainment every bit as much as the music being played. We can’t label something art just because the experts say it is. I have heard audience members describe experiences at pops concerts that inarguably are powerful artistic experiences for them. Conversely, I have heard far too many symphony attendees describe their experiences at a classical concert of officially certified “art music” as barely entertaining. I have heard teenagers describe their experience of dreadful-to-me rock music in ways that make it clear they are having arts experiences. Art resides in the participatory experiences as much as in the objects that ignite them. Art lives in the verbs every bit as much as in the nouns.
Teaching artists are the designated experts in the verbs of art. Their skills can support, guide, educate and illuminate people’s capacity to individually succeed in creating artistic meaning in our best artistic offerings. What teaching artists know and can do is essential to engaging new audiences for classical music, and for leading the entire field toward a culturally-relevant future. Artists create in the artistic media that produce marvelous nouns; teaching artists create in the medium of the verbs of art.
For centuries we have defined art by its nouns—the performances we pay to go see, the objects that grace our homes and museums. We live in a time when a majority of the public does not know how to engage well with those nouns to create personal meaning, to grasp the art they contain. Many Americans are rudimentary in their skills with the verbs of art with which we create artistic experiences; they feel incapable, unsuccessful, and so, too often, disinterested or averse. Today, the verbs of art are as important as those nouns. Good teaching artists know how to work with the verbs together with the nouns. That is their hybrid gift, and that is what makes them invaluable in bringing new audiences into the richness of works of art.
For most Americans, art events seem expensive, and if they are only going to have entertaining experiences (at best) at an ensemble’s performance because of their limited inner capabilities with the verbs of art, there are many more stimulating entertainment events available for a lot less money. Our future lives in the experience economy, wherein people get valuable, rewarding personal artistic experiences inside the music—experiences worth the substantial investment of time, attention and money—and risk—in buying a ticket. Teaching artists possess the skills to help individuals, groups, and artistic organizations accomplish that goal upon which our future lies.
Teaching artists are also artists, very often superb artists—this is what makes them models of the 21st century artist. Teaching artists recognize and take active responsibility for the fact that it is no longer enough just to be able to play the hell out of an early Mozart piano program. Musicians now need additional skills to engage audiences, to help them tap the richness inside that world made by Mozart. I know that condescending attitudes still exist that assume any artist who chooses to also educate can’t be a first rate artist. Well, it just isn’t true.
People are welcome to cling to their outmoded prejudices, but in the mean time many of the finest young artists want to develop educational skills; they don’t want to perpetuate the 19th and 20th century prejudices about teaching. I encounter hundreds of artists in the top orchestras and arts organizations who work hard to learn education skills way too late, angry that they didn’t have a chance or a conservatory climate that encouraged them to learn teaching artistry during their schooling. The fine young artists who want to expand their kitbag of essential skills will be grabbing the jobs and redefining what the arts can be in our new century.
You may have noticed that my definition of the artistic experience—the capacity to expand the sense of the way the world is or might be—is very like a definition of learning. You might say the core activity of both art and learning is making personally relevant connections between yourself and new things. I think “arts education” is a redundant phrase—we are talking about the same fundamental human act. Teaching artistry is the artful, effective, engaging, successful, joyful, transformative, proven way to guide humans into and through those experiences.
I hear many musicians agree with such ideas in principle, and then immediately exempt themselves. They say they are not good at speaking; they hate teaching; kids give them the creeps; they don’t want to learn new skills because it is hard enough just to make the music well and scramble to make ends meet. They respect musicians who are good talkers, and are willing to let them carry the responsibility in their ensembles. I watch them sit, benignly smiling, through the audience interactive stuff, waiting to get to playing the music, which is all they really care about. Two comments to such musicians: 1) With that attitude, you and your ensemble are going down—smaller and smaller audiences, less income, less excitement—and taking the rest of us with you. 2) There is a role for every musician in the teaching artist’s world, even if you are not a good talker and get hives around eight year olds. We all need to join this work of supporting audiences’ capacity to succeed in the crucial act upon which the future of classical music depends—making personally relevant connections inside the music. This is not the responsibility of a designated charming few; it belongs to all of us. There is a role for everyone, a way every musician can contribute without being embarrassed, or being forced to do things that are not personal strengths. If you take in the perspectives and suggestions in these pages, you will find many ways to contribute well, happily, comfortably, creatively, importantly.
The preceding paragraphs hoped to provide some reasons for thinking seriously about developing your music teaching artist skills. In Chapter 4 you will find an even better reason: teaching artist skills make you a better artist. An improving music teaching artist is an improving musician. I will save the arguments for that chapter, but I find that the rewards of music teaching artistry are altruistic (it can revitalize our culture’s embrace of the art form), financial (it is one of the few sure ways of increasing income in a musician’s life), personal (it is directly rewarding on a regular basis), and even artistic (it provides new kinds of creative satisfaction).
As you adopt and adapt the skills described in these pages, you join the history, burgeoning present, and promising future of teaching artistry. Artists have been going into schools since there were American schools. Music programs constructed for educational purposes have been going into classrooms and auditoriums for fifty years or more—Young Audiences (YA), the first major national arts education network, began with an in-home performance for children by Yehudi Menuhin, and YA started sending classical music performances into schools in 1952. They now have 33 active chapters around the nation and 5,200 teaching artists in their network.
In those early years, there were fine programs developed by many individuals and organizations, and some heroic experiments around the country. Teaching artistry as a field really began in the 1980s. In response to the arts education cutbacks in schools in the Reagan Administration, arts organizations began to provide services directly to schools, and artists became key deliverers of those services. Arts education organizations like Lincoln Center Institute (where I started learning how to be a teaching artist), Urban Gateways in Chicago and others, began to train and send teaching artists into schools in growing numbers.
Story has it that the term was officially coined by June Dunbar at Lincoln Center Institute in the early 1970s. She told me:
I guess I was the originator the term ‘Teaching Artist.’ I came up with the words as a reaction to the dreadful one used by my predecessors at what was then known as the Education Department at Lincoln Center. The words they used to describe the activities of artists in schools sounded to me like a description for a typewriter repairman, plumber or an irritating educationalese term: ‘resource professional.’ Anyway, my term seemed more direct and specific, and it stuck. [‘Resource professional’ was actually inherited from language in the federal government grant that established the Lincoln Center education program.]
So, at its origin, the new term shifted the identity of this “resource professional” away from the needs of the institutions and funding authority involved toward the unique hybrid practice we still struggle to define. The neologism “teaching artist” put “artist” at the center where it belongs.
In the early years, teaching artists encountered some tension with music and arts teachers. I recall many music teachers expressing fears that musicians coming into schools were a cheap way to replace their jobs. They proclaimed, rightly, that a teaching artist coming into their school as a visitor cannot provide the consistent skill-development and embedded presence that builds a lifelong love of music. Sadly, some TAs in those earlier years didn’t ease those tensions: they arrived with a self-important attitude that put off teachers; they didn’t adequately learn about and accommodate the realities of schools; they did not respect school music teachers as artists in their own right, and as their best allies in enriching the creative lives of students. I have seen such tensions all but disappear in recent years, as history has shown that TAs do not become replacements for music teachers when the school budget axe falls on music programs (indeed they often become advocates for rehiring music teachers); and the professionalization of teaching artistry inculcates respect, more preparation and inclination to build good partnerships with school music teachers, and a greater range of ways to succeed within school culture.
Having seen hundreds of programs around the country, I can state that the best music learning for students springs from the collaborative efforts of three kinds of professionals working in coordination—a teaching artist, an in-school arts teacher, and an informed classroom teacher. The teaching artist brings in that spark of energy and outsiderness that can serve as a catalyst and inspiration for the in-school work. The TA is an emissary from a strange and different culture, wherein people dedicate their lives to creating in an artform. The commitment they carry and the risks they take to live an artist’s life resonate in their eighty percent, in the feel of the person who enters the room. Music teachers can provide the sequential skill building and consistent improvement that enables a young musician to learn to find success and satisfaction within the discipline—that is, if schools allow them the time and support to do what they can do. The informed classroom teacher can integrate the work of the other two into the many other kinds of learning that matter to young people and schools; they can provide context and connections.
Recently, I have noticed the field agreeing that the music teacher actually belongs at the top angle of this equilateral triangle of contributors. The triad is optimum, but the teaching artist and classroom teacher add resources to that essential spine of learning provided by a passionate music teacher. Teaching artists are increasingly becoming outspoken advocates for stronger school music programs.
The numbers of TAs in the U.S. grew through the 1980s, and so did their expertise. During that time, most programs hired artists who seemed to have the teaching gene, and shed those who “didn’t get it.” The notion of teaching artistry as a trainable practice, as an artistic discipline of its own, emerged slowly. In the early years, programs and schools hired artists who happened to be good with kids, and basically asked them to work some creative magic in classrooms. If the teacher and kids were happy, that was a great TA. There were training programs, and they focused on readying them to contribute to the particular needs of the program that was hiring them. Such trainings tended to be speedy and strategic, often only a day or two, with the hopes that new teaching artists would learn through experience. Some trainings were deeper, but very few were more than four or five days. Ongoing professional development, once hired, was inconsistent and problem-focused—for example, a two-hour, one-time workshop on multiple intelligences (MI) or learning disabilities was (and frequently still is) typical. A dedicated educator could take years adjusting their teaching to include MI or greater inclusivity, but the quick one-shot workshop, with no followup, was all the TAs got.
In the ‘90s, new challenges appeared for TAs. The National Standards (voluntary) for the arts were cobbled together, prompting almost all states to create their own arts learning standards (mandatory). Creating national standards for arts learning was a challenging and healthy process for a field that had never been required to come to agreement before. State standards were different because laws required that work in schools align with the newly adopted standards; so starting in the late 1990s, what teaching artists actually did in classrooms was actively impacted. Quite a few TAs participated in the development of those standards, state by state; and then TAs faced the transition in our work from “creating magic in the classroom” to “guiding learning that aligns with state learning standards.” Along with many, I initially bristled at the implication that I needed to change my delicate work to accommodate legislated norms. I balked at the very word “standards”. However, in working with the Standards in practice, I, like many TAs, discovered: they were rather benign; they aligned readily with what I wanted to teach; they prompted better conversations with teacher-partners; and they reminded me that artists themselves carry the highest standards, and live by them—so the whole notion of applying standards was artistically authentic.
This taught me a lesson you will find in these pages—teaching artists are at their best when they stay grounded in authentic artistic practice, rather than over-accommodating the needs and demands of schools or other institutions with whom we partner. I believe arts practice is so deep and flexible that we can almost always find ways to stay both artistically true and effectively guide learning in many settings.
In the ‘90s other challenges came into the work of many teaching artists. They were asked to create professional development workshops for teachers and other professionals. They were asked to become effective partners, trying to actively plan with teachers to deepen and expand the impact their in-school time can have. They were often thrust into the role of facilitator to enhance the quality of work in their partner institutions. They became involved in many of the arts-learning experiments that cropped up around the country, sometimes working as program designers, data gatherers or researchers, in projects such as: the Empire State Partnerships, A+ Schools, Bernstein Center Schools, the Annenberg Initiative, CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education) as well as programs led by the Getty Education Institute and the Galef Foundation.
Teaching artists were asked to take on assessment challenges—to develop ways to document and illuminate some of the learning that happens with their students. This was a difficult, even distasteful, step for many because it was too much like testing, and felt to many like a violation of teaching artists’ most basic goals. However, artists are marvelous assessors of the quality of work, and TAs found practical ways to bring the best of what we know from the arts into the necessity of sharing the learning benefits of arts engagement. TAs were asked to become advocates too, learning how to present a case for arts learning that can change the way funders support and understand our work.
As TAs grow into the 21st century, the greatest challenge has been the largest arts learning experiment happening in the country today—arts integration. Arts learning is infused into the study of other subjects—for example, bringing music learning into a social studies curriculum. The gamble is that the learning in both subject areas is boosted by bringing them together. If we lose the gamble, then the arts become a handmaiden to other subjects, actually diminishing their impact on young lives. If we win, and we have to be smart and rigorous to win, then the arts have a much larger contribution to make in American schooling. It is too early to say how the adventure is playing out (see Chapter 20)—I have seen examples of failure on both extremes, of using the arts merely to pep up a boring curriculum and conversely, or conversely, overemphasizing the arts component of an arts-integrated project. I also have seen extraordinary work in which music provides access to deep inquiries from which both the study of history and music bloom. I recall a music and American history unit of study built around the theme of the ways music has been used to keep people alive. They investigated songs of the Civil War era underground railroad, work songs, protest songs, and also the songs the students themselves treasure so strongly they feel they are a lifeline. The musical exploration catalytically launched students into much more invested learning about history—because they were artistically involved, because they felt the relevance of the history in their hearts and guts.
All these new challenges teaching artists took on added up to a dramatic increase in what was expected of them, and what they had to know to be successful. TAs couldn’t be expected to know how to address state standards, facilitate, assess, advocate for funding, build strong partnerships, and integrate their artistry with social studies, just by having a knack. They needed training. And the training had to connect well with their artistic aspirations, or we strangle the artist in the teaching artist.
Such professional development programs have started to arise, and teaching artists have taken on the commitment to expand the scope of their practice. The teaching artist lineage welcomes you to this growing profession. There are many signs of growth. We have a peer-reviewed professional journal that is flourishing (the Teaching Artist Journal, now based at Columbia College Chicago, and published by Taylor and Francis: http://tajournal.com). When I started this journal in 2002, I had to confess in my sales pitch that no one had any idea of how many teaching artists there are in America. I made a few guesstimates that landed around 15,000 making a significant percentage of their living through TA work. But the true number might well be lower or four times as high. I had to admit there was no national association, no annual conference, not much evidence to the public eye. The publisher Lawrence Erlbaum finally shook my hand, saying, “OK, we will publish it, but let me tell you, of the eighty two journals we publish, this will be the first put out for an audience that has no visible evidence it exists.” Within four years, it was in their top ten percent of bestselling journals.
There are over thirty regional efforts by teaching artists to build local professional communities—groups like NECAP (New England Consortium of Artist-Educator Professionals), TAO (Teaching Artists Organized in the San Francisco Bay Area), and Artist to Artist (in Minneapolis/St. Paul). Courses in teaching artistry are offered at Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard, Columbia College Chicago, and many other schools of music, and a new program has just been launched at the Meadows School at Southern Methodist University. Every month I learn of another arts organization offering a new program to develop and support TAs. The Association of Teaching Artists is an online site based in New York State (www.teachingartists.com ). We have a first major national research study of Teaching Artists underway, and several states have launched research on their own teaching artist population’s identity and needs. We are increasingly working in non-school settings: in senior centers (as a part of the creative aging movement, which was founded by dance teaching artist Susan Perlstein), in businesses (to provide professional development and creativity training), in health care and high education settings. I was asked to give the closing keynote address at the first-ever UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, Cultural Organization) worldwide arts education conference—how significant that they turned to a teaching artist to bring this unprecedented event together!
Welcome to a flourishing, if still somewhat disorganized, field. We need your participation. So do the arts. S does music. So does American education. So does your own checkbook.
Permit me a little autobiography. Since there is no established pathway into teaching artistry, it may be helpful to give some sense of how I found my way to the understandings in these pages. I was a hard-working, conservatory-trained New York actor who hated doing eight performances a week. As a side-gig, out of curiosity more than commitment, I began working at Lincoln Center Institute in the late 1970s as a theater teaching artist. I learned their approach, called aesthetic education. I got fascinated and poured myself into the work. I studied, took every kind of gig, started projects, worked with many organizations, wrote, talked, experimented. I began training teaching artists in the early ‘80s, and have continued to expand my practice. Work led to work, as it often does when it is filled with passion. Even though much of my teaching artistry has been played out at national conferences, with large organizations and includes making speeches in recent years, I make sure I spend time in classrooms, time with teaching artists, and time thinking about teaching artist practice every year. I also make sure I continue to make art, all the time—the philosopher’s stone in the alchemy of teaching artistry. It is tough to rehearse and perform in plays when you are on the road so many weeks a year. So, every week I complete a poem—to walk my talk of primary creation. Every event I lead is always grounded in the principles you find in these pages; while the examples are all about music in these pages, the principles apply to all teaching artistry.
For example, not long ago I led a half day workshop on “creativity, but not art” for the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 company. It is a sad truth that mainstream America sees a huge gap between the importance of creativity and the gooey irrelevance of art. That is the most common workshop/speech I am asked to do in the corporate world. My task is to close that gap, without hitting the art-alarm until they themselves discover the innate connection between creativity and artistry. I use my teaching artist skills to come in under the radar of their prejudice that art is a fluffy waste of serious business time, and make sure they get enough learning about creativity to validate their investment of half a day of their valuable time. That day, we began with a fun, fast competitive word game. They reworked their word list several times following steps I gave. In the last step, I sent them back to their word collection with one final assignment to revise according to an important personal experience they had once had. Half way through this step, they realized they were composing something that looked suspiciously like a poem. But it was too late!—they were already creatively engaged. They insisted on completing their poems, sharing them, comparing them, and having me judge the best—so we had to create a rubric for assessing the quality of such a poem. This was all beautiful artistic work, exactly what they wanted in their workshop—all from my teaching artist skills.
With my longtime colleague Edward Bilous (composer and Chairman of the Literature and Materials Department at Juilliard), I started Juilliard’s Art & Education program, connected with the Morse Fellowship, in 1994-1995. It included a full year’s classroom preparation for the students (described in Chapter 12), and then a subsequent year or more placed in two New York City classrooms as a Morse Fellow, inventing and delivering a year of classes for the same students. I have little musical background, can’t read music, never studied it. Juilliard was the first time I delved deeply into training music teaching artists—until then I had trained artists either in my art form of theater, or in mixed disciple groups only. The years that I led and developed that program provided a profound opportunity to explore the ways to bring musicians into their teaching artistry—and the ways not to!
I have now worked with thousands of musicians, in hundreds of trainings, with many hundreds of ensemble musicians, with players at many of the largest orchestras in the country, and with teams from many orchestras through The Knight Foundation’s Magic of Music Program, and The Mellon Foundation’s Orchestra Forum. I have taught the professional development of the N.Y. Philharmonic’s teaching artist faculty for ten years now, with many of those teaching artists coming out of the program I led at Juilliard, making great careers as musicians and teaching artists—I have worked with some of them for a dozen years in a row. Do you have any idea how challenging (and terrifying) it is to teach the same gifted people for twelve consecutive years? The opportunity has pushed me to keep going deeper in the work we care about. They have taught their teacher well, which is why I have dedicated this volume to them, those named and the many others. (One of them, David Wallace, co-wrote Chapter 26 with me, entitled Interactive Performances. I highly recommend his book Reaching Out: A Musician's Guide to Interactive Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2007, ISBN#: 0073401382). Three decades of work in this field have taught me what works and what doesn’t, and those understandings fill these pages.
Having worked with teaching artists of all disciplines for many years, I have heard endless debates about which discipline is the hardest, easiest, most accessible, most fun. Judiciously, I never offer an opinion on the subject, but this seems like a good place to fess up. Music teaching artists are the most in demand and the hardest to find.
I have had the same conversation in five cities in the last few months—local arts educators want to expand a program but can’t find music teaching artists strong enough to do the work, so they give up, or downscale the ambition. Music is the hardest art form to talk about. Teaching artistry is the most challenging to develop in music, partly because it is so opposed to the predominant ways the artists were trained for so long and partly because it confronts traditions of the discipline. As you will discover in several chapters, becoming a good music teaching artist challenges some traditional ways of thinking, preferred habits of mind and unquestioned professional norms. I believe the confrontation is not only healthy but essential. However, it does make things more difficult for the musician than the actor or dancer. Painters and writers and media artists have their own challenges. But musicians, with their enormous potential, with significant demand for good practitioners, and with their art form struggling, are the focus of this book.
I began this Introduction with the admission that we can’t precisely define what a teaching artist is. Let’s return to that unanswerable question. Teaching artistry is an improvisation in the verbs of art, as is the kind of reflection that tries to identify what a teaching artist does. Here are the improvisations from eight smart colleagues of mine, all current or former teaching artists, who responded to my inquiry in 2003 to create a definition of a teaching artist:
A Teaching Artist is a practicing artist whose teaching is part of that practice. Teaching Artists don't necessarily have education degrees, but they might. Teaching Artists are role models for lifestyle, discipline, and skill. They pass on an oral and experiential tradition in ways of thinking, seeing, and being. They are educators; in the truest sense of the word (the root of the word educate is to draw out) they 'draw out' rather than ‘put in’. They are guides/facilitators/bridges to creativity. Teaching Artists are social activists.
Tina LaPadula, Arts Corps, Seattle
Teaching Artists are arts translators, whose primary responsibility is to use their own artform’s language, precepts, concepts, strategies and processes to translate the personal and collective arts events of other individuals into a meaningful experience.
Richard Burrows, Los Angeles Unified School District
A Teaching Artist is a practicing artist who is steeped in (lives in, thinks in) an art form—and who has made a substantial commitment to share her artistry with students and teachers in schools.
Judith Hill, music teaching artist
A teaching artist is one whose proficiency in one or more arts disciplines is complemented by knowledge and experience in facilitating the acquisition skills and knowledge in and through the arts among students, teachers and other practitioners.
Richard Bell, National Young Audiences
A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist who extends the definition of practicing professional artist to include collaboration with classroom teachers with the goal of advancing teaching and learning. This goal is achieved through the design and presentation of activities that aim at illuminating the curriculum by engaging students in the medium of their craft, its skills, procedures and social/historical contexts.
Daniel Windham, The Wallace Foundation
A teaching artist is an artist who actively engages learners in consciously developing the aesthetics of their own processes for learning.
Arnold Aprill, CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education)
When an artist “teaches” through his/her work (and by teaching I do not mean giving information as much as opening possibilities), art is produced. When a practicing artist agrees to break down the components of art making to fit some more linear model, then I suggest that art is being taught about rather than taught. When a practicing artist, on the other hand, is able to tap those more aesthetic and original ways of communicating that have made his/her art production deeply satisfying, then I think the real potential of the Teaching Artist is achieved. He/she is not teaching about art; she is teaching aesthetically, is being an artist in the way he relates to learners and situation.
Linda Duke, Krannert Art Museum
A Teaching Artist is an artist who has both extensively engaged in and reflected deeply on the creative, perceptive, and reflective processes inherent in making and viewing works of art and who has made a commitment to turn this reflection into action by guiding others to make works of art, perceive works of art, and reflect on the connections between art and the rest of life. … A Teaching Artist does not want to shape those they teach in their own image, but support learners to become more of who they are.
Christine Goodheart, arts learning consultant
Let’s conclude at the beginning. Etymologically, the word art comes from an Indo-European root meaning to put things together, and the word teach comes from the Greek meaning to show. So, the term teaching artist is born of two verbs (appropriately, since the work of a teaching artist is more about creation than information), and might be said to mean: one who shows how to put things together. Let’s put together a new future for music.