Grantee Spotlight: Young Singers of the Palm Beaches ‘Choir in the Glades’

Provided by Young Singers of the Palm Beaches

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Young Singers of the Palm Beaches (YSPB) is Palm Beach County’s award-winning, community-based children’s choir. The non-profit just completed their 15th season. YSPB is an all-inclusive, multi-cultural arts education organization based centrally in West Palm Beach. It is their mission to teach life skills through music. Young Singers of the Palm Beaches believes that music education of children is an important resource in the development of productive participants in our society. Through it we can transform and enrich the lives of children and our community by: breaking down social barriers, developing life skills, providing an outlet for creativity, and fostering good citizenship.

Choir in the Glades 6Young Singers of the Palm Beaches’ CHOIR IN THE GLADES program for elementary school children in the Belle Glade area just completed its fifth season. Choir in the Glades “BellaVoce” middle school program at Lake Shore Middle School just completed season two. The elementary and middle school choirs each meet weekly and offer the children in Belle Glade tuition-free choral and music experiences, taught by music professionals. Transportation is offered, also free of charge, to all elementary school children from school to the rehearsal site.

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The importance of this program to the children and families involved is proven in the retention rate of the program, with many of the children who started with the choir on day one still being a part of it today. Choir in the Glades reinforces a love of singing and the satisfaction of being a successful part of a group.

 

For additional information, contact Pauline Zaros at pauline@yspb.org or visit http://www.yspb.org.


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Art Talk: Gold Coast Jazz Society and Mari Mennel-Bell, founder of JazzSLAM

Gold Coast Jazz Society

Founded in 1992 to bring more jazz to the “Gold Coast” area of South Florida, the Gold Coast Jazz Society presents a seven-concert jazz series in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts each year from November through May.

Gold Coast Jazz Society has a rich history of community outreach and over the years has expanded its outreach and education programs. For those who cannot attend mainstage concerts, free outreach concerts are provided throughout the area allowing access to cultural arts programs to economically disadvantaged residents. The Jeanette M. Russell Jazz Scholarship Program has provided over $450,000 in scholarship support to qualified and aspiring young jazz students to study jazz in college or to attend summer jazz camps over the past fourteen years.

In 2010, the Society began presenting the jazz education program, JazzSLAM, at no cost, to area public schools. This program, which includes a live jazz quartet, helps students improve their reading, math and test taking skills through jazz.  In addition, Gold Coast Jazz has presented several other jazz education presentations in local elementary schools.  Gold Coast Jazz also provides the free First Friday Jazz Jam program, where local students can jam, before a live audience, with a professional jazz quartet led by local jazz musician and educator Nicole Yarling.

 JazzSLAM (Jazz Supports Language Arts and Math)

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Designed by musician and educator, Mari Mennel-Bell, JazzSLAM is a free in-school jazz education program targeted to 4th and 5th grade students and includes a one-hour, live and interactive jazz presentation with a professional jazz quartet. The program integrates the music of jazz with elements of Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies to help students with critical thinking skills and strategies for test taking.  The program is designed to support teachers’ efforts to raise students’ test scores, motivate students to learn how to express themselves within the confines of a given form, and supports teaching with the Aural, Visual & Tactile benefits of music.  Students learn how musical forms relate to concepts such as essay writing forms, how musical rhythmic patterns relate to mathematical concepts such as percentages and how the ethnic origins of jazz relate to the geography and social studies.

We chatted with Mari Mennel-Bell to learn more about her long career in Florida and what inspired her to create JazzSLAM.

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): How long have you lived and worked in Florida? 

Mari: I grew up from age 11 on in Palm Beach County. There’s something so different about being in elementary school in Florida- it was just so fun! I attended college in New York and stayed in NY after graduating. In 1998, when our kids were in elementary and middle school, my husband and I decided to relocate to Broward County and we have lived and worked here ever since.

DCA: What inspired you to create JazzSLAM?

Mari:  I started JazzSLAM almost immediately after moving to Broward County. I had been doing a jazz program while working in the Hudson Valley, but one of the things that really gave me direction was seeing my sons just sitting at desks doing busy work. They were totally disengaged; they just did not want to be in school. I saw so many connections between academics and music and was inspired to really start developing the program. So, I went back to my roots. When I was in graduate school at New York University, I worked for the Children’s Television Workshop on a program which was using music to teach reading. After I graduated, I worked in a Title I school in the South Bronx that was doing the same thing- using music to teach students that were way behind in reading. I wanted to develop a program in Broward County that taught academics through jazz. I am so grateful to the Gold Coast Jazz Society for their funding and organizational support and the teachers in Broward County, who have, over the years provided wonderful feedback and suggestions that have helped me continue to develop the program.

DCA: What is the best part about your job?

Mari: Without a doubt, working with the students is the best part. Just seeing them make connections and seeing light bulbs go off in their heads is so cool. It’s always surprising, too, which students are the first to make connections. Oftentimes, it is a student with special needs that will allow the connections to become physically apparent by standing up and dancing or clapping to the music. I love to use this as an opportunity to put students that are handicapped or have special needs– students who are usually being bullied– in a leadership role. It is just super cool to be able to do this.

Teaching academics through the arts is such a powerful way to reach students. Students come in and don’t know what they’re coming to and aren’t sure they are going to like it and then we get rolling, and the fact that there’s so much music involved, it just captivates them and captures their attention in a way that straight academics don’t.

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DCA: What are some examples of how JazzSLAM integrates musical concepts with academics to enrich learning?

Mari: Our programs focus on language arts, math, and social studies concepts. For example, we use AABA song form as a parallel learning device for narrative essays. Students learn how narrative essays tell a story. Fairy tales are a perfect example: the first paragraph introduces “who, what, when, where, why”, the second develops the story, the third adds a problem, and the fourth resolves the problem. The lyrics and structure of AABA song form do the same thing.

The song “I Got Rhythm” is a great example of this. I describe it to the students as a “gratitude laundry list of good feelings that you can have”. The A sections introduce free things to be grateful for. The B section presents a problem: we are all going to have troubled times in our lives. The last A section resolves this by revisiting our gratitude list, which we can pull out when we are down in the dumps and remember all of the things that are good in life.

The day before the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, JazzSLAM gave a presentation at Silver Lakes Elementary. The school went to a “Code Red” lockdown, which turned out to be a staged, practice drill, however, the students were very frightened and lacked focus when they came in for our presentation. I used the “I Got Rhythm” lyrics to show them how to write a gratitude list to help themselves in times of stress.

After the presentation, Ms. Cline, a fourth-grade teacher, wrote, “Students learned that music can provide you with focus. That you can calm yourself with music.” Music offers logic and predictable patterns that bring us great solace in an increasingly complex world.

DCA: And how about using music to teach math?

Mari: One of the students’ favorite things is when we do a “rhythm orchestra”. Along with our drummer, Orlando Machado, I divide the room into five groups. Each group is responsible for one of five divisions of the beat: whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, and sixteenth note. Orlando demonstrates the divisions and I stand in front of the class.  Each group is given different directions and kinesthetic movements for each division of the beat, eventually all clapping together to hear how the half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes & 16th notes fit into the whole note pizza. Then, the students are asked to analyze the divisions of the beat while I show them a pie chart, i.e. “How many half notes are in the whole note pizza pie?”,  “Which fraction is each half note called?”,  “What percentage would each half note be?” Other concepts like finding the common denominator to add fractions are covered. It is purely academic and the kids are having so much fun that they don’t even realize that they are learning valuable math concepts! I think every kid in America should have the opportunity to learn this way.

DCA: How has the program grown over the years?

Mari: The first year, we probably did four or five schools with fifty students each. When we started getting grants for the program, we were able to expand. I initially thought that I could do the program for 300 students at a time, but that turned out to be overwhelming, so we limited it to groups of up to 150 to ensure that each student receives equal opportunity to participate. At one point, JazzSLAM was serving 30 schools a year. Now, we are serving about 20 schools a year and I am also focused on growing our eLearning programs.

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DCA: Tell us more about your eLearning programs.

Mari: An educator saw me do a web learning presentation for Broward County (through Broward County Board of Education TV) and encouraged me to develop a way to present JazzSLAM nationally. Now, through the Center for Innovative Learning and Collaboration (cilc.org), we offer three eLearning programs nationwide, all of which are available for free to Title I schools. It has been really cool to hear from educators in tiny towns without supermarkets across the nation that they are using and loving JazzSLAM in their classrooms. It is one of my main goals for the future of JazzSLAM to continue to develop these programs so that JazzSLAM can reach even more students nationwide.

DCA: Which counties have participating schools? How many children participate each year?

Mari: The program mainly serves Broward County, though we have on occasion travelled to North Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. In the past 16 years, the program has served around 60,000 students in South Florida.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that JazzSLAM makes to your community?

Mari: It exposes students to the incredible musical heritage of our nation, which is jazz, while allowing more interactive academic experiences. Oftentimes jazz organizations have difficulty getting into school systems, but because our program is academically focused, that has opened doors.

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DCA: What do you think the future holds for JazzSLAM?

Mari: I want to know that when I leave the planet that JazzSLAM won’t leave the planet with me. I think the future for us is in continuing to give live presentations and develop the eLearning programs, so that we can reach students throughout the state of Florida and the nation. I would also love to partner with a college or university to train future teachers in the JazzSLAM methodology. I’d love to find a doctoral student who would want to research the significance of JazzSLAM concepts and using music to teach academics.  I always want JazzSLAM to be part of Gold Coast Jazz Society and for GCJS to continue serving Broward County, but I also want the program to be able to spread. When you see how much the kids love to do it and how grateful the teachers are for this whole new approach to academics, it’s like a no brainer. I have to figure out a way to get this to more teachers– to everybody!

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Mari: Certainly here in South Florida, we see that arts and culture are a huge draw for snowbirds and tourists. When I was growing up in Palm Beach County, there was close to nothing to go to. There were no opportunities to hear live music other than if you went to a private party or a club or community center. There is certainly a much more vibrant arts community in South Florida than when I was a kid. The more we have for visitors and year-round residents to do, the happier everybody is with Florida!

The DCA thanks Pam Dearden, executive director of Gold Coast Jazz Society, and Mari Mennel-Bell for their participation in this post. To learn more about JazzSLAM, visit: http://jazzslam.com/. To learn more about Gold Coast Jazz Society, visit: http://www.goldcoastjazz.org.

Grantee Spotlight: Pensacola Little Theatre Goes ‘Beyond Boundaries’

Provided by Pensacola Little Theatre

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Realizing the success of the arts and arts education in the community, Pensacola Little Theatre began taking their shows on the go with a traveling theatre troupe in 2008. PLT’s traveling theatre, Beyond Boundaries, takes theatre into underserved communities where children and parents from low-income or minority households can enjoy watching a performance or take part in a production through workshops and classes. Beyond Boundaries’ performances have also been well received by audiences at nursing homes, community centers, Title I schools, and other areas throughout the community.

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Past seasons have included such plays as Cooking It!, an original musical centered on the puppet characters “Sprout”, the Brussel Sprout, and “Brock Broccoli” who both don’t understand why children don’t like them. The program was developed to address the growing problem of childhood obesity by using fun, interactive theatre to promote healthy eating. A school nutritionist supported the lessons from the show by teaching students how to make healthy meals and snacks.

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You’ll almost always catch Beyond Boundaries in local libraries the weeks before performances in their children’s series (Treehouse/Acorn) with characters from the production reading to the children in costume. If you can’t come to them, they come to you!

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For more information, visit http://www.pensacolalittletheatre.com/.


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Grantee Spotlight: Zoo Miami Animal Fun Factory

Provided by Zoo Miami

Presented by the José Milton Foundation, Zoo Miami’s Animal Fun Factory is a one-of-a-kind interactive exhibit where zoo visitors can learn about animal welfare and environmental conservation through hands-on creative play. Enrichment is used to promote the natural behavior of the animals at Zoo Miami.  Visitors are guided by zoo educators to create enrichment items that provide this physical and mental exercise for Zoo Miami’s animal residents.

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A visitor to the Animal Fun Factory might make a papier-mâché zebra for the lions to “hunt” or a birthday cake made out of cardboard boxes to celebrate an animal’s birthday. In creating these enrichment items, visitors gain awareness of and insight into how the animals are cared for and how important it is that everyone do their part to conserve and protect our natural resources.

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Other activities help stimulate awareness of endangered animals at Zoo Miami. Zoo Miami recently celebrated the 52nd birthday of Dalip, one of the oldest and largest Asian Bull Elephants in the country. Dalip was treated to a birthday cake and birthday banners as well as painted barrels and other items for interactive play created by the Animal Fun Factory visitors. Each activity provides a unique and creative opportunity for visitors to connect with the animals, to help them understand Zoo Miami’s dedication to caring for the animals and their welfare, as well as increase community awareness on how they can help protect these animals in the wild by shopping for sustainable products to prevent further habitat loss.

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The Animal Fun Factory has received over 13,000 visitors since opening in March 2017 and is the first exhibit of its kind. It is open on weekends from 11am-3pm. For more information, visit http://www.zoomiami.org.


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Grantee Spotlight: Pensacola Symphony Orchestra ‘Beyond the Stage’

Provided by Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Stage program builds lifelong relationships through responsive musical experiences. From introducing musical instruments to providing comfort with music in a health-care setting, this program nourishes the musical culture of our community as connections are made in key moments between people, music, and musicians.

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Beyond the Stage brings teaching and mentorship to the Community Music School, Tate High School, Ransom Middle School and Brown Barge Middle School with recurrent monthly or bi-weekly visits. Children in hospitalization or treatment at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care hear performances and participate in hands-on musical activities to reduce their anxiety and improve how they feel about their care.

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Adult learners at Azalea Trace Retirement Community and Artel Gallery hear chamber ensembles perform and engage in thoughtful programs that feature historic and insightful commentary in addition to art. Patients and families at Covenant Care’s hospice facilities experience performances intended to soothe and uplift. Through these partnerships, small groups of PSO musicians are able to foster musical excellence, benefit health and wellness, inspire music participation, and promote lifelong learning.

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For more information about Pensacola Symphony Orchestra and Beyond the Stage, visit PensacolaSymphony.com.

Grantee Spotlight: Miami City Ballet’s Ballet Bus

provided by Miami City Ballet

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Ballet Bus students

Now in its third year, Ballet Bus is a Miami City Ballet outreach initiative designed to reach deep into the Miami-Dade County community to provide underserved children with a comprehensive, full-scholarship dance-training program as a gateway into the arts. The nine-month, thirty-four week program provides local children, ages 7-10, with everything they need to succeed and excel in one of the nation’s premier dance training academies: fully subsidized tuition, dance attire, family support and counseling, bus transportation to MCB Studios, and an invaluable opportunity to engage with critically acclaimed teachers and artists. Scholarship students are integrated into the MCB School student body, and each year each student will be evaluated and have the opportunity to move on to the next level of study. This long-term investment in each child will have a transformative impact on his/her future. Continue reading

Grantee Spotlight: Creative Clay

Creative Clay’s General Support Grant helps the organization fund their day-to-day activities. Their core program is the Community Arts Program, which serves 50-60 adult artists with neuro-differences each week. Through the implementation of additional offerings, such as the inclusive Art Around the World summer camp, Summer Studio for older teens and young adults, Artlink employment program, Creative Care Arts in Wellness outreach program and the Pinellas County Schools’january-february-2018-final partnership Transition program, individuals of all ages and abilities are mentored, taught and empowered to become working artists who actively create, market and sell their work. The end result is that a formerly stigmatized population, through the art it creates and sells, demystifies stereotypes surrounding those with disabilities and creates a culture of acceptance throughout the community.
Visit Creative Clay at their website or their new location at 1846 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg.