Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Special PMAC Spotlight: The Graduating Class of 2016

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2016!

As another year passes, we congratulate the many seniors who have spent time making music and art with us over the years. Some have been with us since they were in kindergarten, some have come on later but all have been impacted by the arts.

We asked this year's seniors to share their stories, including their future plans are and why they believe a community arts education is important. 

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I currently take private lessons with Jim Dozet.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: The arts, specifically music, and even more specifically jazz, are a massive part of my life.  I've loved music my entire life.  I honestly can't remember when my first music lesson was.  It might have been piano around the age of 3.  Had I not been introduced to music at a young age, I most certainly would not be where I am now.  I believe that fine arts should be present in everyone's lives.  Through the arts, we learn to express ourselves creatively.  This is such an important skill in life, to be able to speak, not just verbally, but also through art, music, theater, and dance.  I have stuck with music for my entire life, and I plan to continue.  I’ve been honored to be around supportive people and talented mentors who have guided me through my musical endeavors.  A fine arts education can truly be life-changing.

What are your plans for next year?:  I will be attending New York University next year, majoring in Jazz Studies/Performance and minoring in Political Science.  I am so thrilled to have been accepted into such a competitive program, and am looking forward to studying with the likes of Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Mark Turner, Adam Rogers, Chris Potter, and Stefon Harris, among others.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?:  I took voice lessons with Taylor O’Donnell for around 4 years, (8th grade-Junior year). We usually did ½ hour sessions and worked on expanding my vocal range, specifically my middle mix voice. Taylor is not only my teacher, but also my friends. I look up to her more than anyone else in my life and she truly is the best role model and teacher I could have ever asked for. She has not only taught me vocal techniques, but has also helped me emotionally and spiritually. Taylor is an incredible woman and I am so lucky to have had her as a teacher.
I also really loved the A Cappella camp she ran for a year during the summer of my freshman year. It was super fun to choose songs we wanted and work with kids my age while having Taylor there to encourage and help us the whole way through. I specifically loved the warm up sessions she had us do; one person would start on a random note of their choice and we would go around the circle, each person adding a different note onto the previous ones. It always ended up sounding beautiful and was a relaxing way to start the session.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: An arts education should be apart of every person’s life no matter the age or level of experience. For me, the arts, specifically in music, have helped me heal from a lot of rough patches through my life and made me feel confident in myself. Music and practicing can be so frustrating, but once I could nail something I was working on, I felt so accomplished and proud of myself. Music is always my fall back when I have a hard day at school or something in my life isn’t going as planned. I always looked forward to Wednesday’s to have that 30 minutes away from everything else happening in my life and completely immerse myself in music and happiness. PMAC in a lot of ways was my safe place and helped me grow in more ways than just musical improvement.

What are your plans for next year?: It’s extremely scary but also exciting to announce that I will be attending Simmons College in Boston, MA. I will be a Neuroscience and Behavioral Studies Major on the Pre-Med track. I also have plans to join their A Cappella group called The Sirens. Music will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so grateful for Taylor and all she has taught me.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?:  I started doing the PMAC summer Jazz camps when I was in 7th grade, I joined Matt Langley’s Saturday Jazz Band in High School, and I’ve taken trumpet lessons with Chris Klaxton. I also did a youth/adult Brass Ensemble with my sister this winter.
What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Victor Hugo said, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." As a student of both writing and foreign languages, I've often found myself tasked with conveying the ineffable. Throwing down my Thoreau and my Nouveau Bescherelle, I reach instead for my trumpet. If there is anything magical in this world, it's the human mind's response to music. I've sung protest songs with French teenagers on a Paris city bus. I've collected musical instruments to be sent to the developing world. I've played for young painters, and shared the stage with avant-garde trombonist Curtis Hasselbring. To each place I've traveled, whether in the Seacoast or abroad, I've brought music, forged in me by the arts educators who have seared their sacred brand into my life. Though I'm off next year to college, to be re-yoked to my Bescherelle and my Thoreau, I have no doubt that music will carry me to places yet unknown. It is for this spirit unlocked in me that I have to thank my arts educators, at PMAC, at Berwick, at Oyster River, and those who wait in the uncharted future.

What are your plans for next year?:  I will be attending University of Rochester (in New York State), where I’ll major in International Relations and continue to play in Jazz Bands.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I am currently a member of the Bow Street Youth Ensemble! I am a first violin, and it is actually my first semester with this orchestra. I have, however, played with PMAC before; I played with the junior ensemble for two years in third and fourth grade. I was able to see Joshua Bell through Bow Street, which was my very first time seeing a classical player live. I was also able to participate in the 25th anniversary alumni concert last summer.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: An arts education to me is a way of learning so many different things: history, culture, expression, etc. Learning to play music has taught me about people I would never have learned about otherwise. It has given an appreciation for complexity, and has given an avenue to express my emotions in both a formal as well as a more independent way. To me, this is the goal of any education in arts.

What are your plans for next year?:  Next year, I will be attending the University of Rhode Island as a dual Chinese and Communications major, with a minor in French. I have been accepted into the Chinese Language Flagship, a five-year national program based around superior fluency. I will spend up to a year in China as a result, studying and working in an internship. I love languages, and hope to use them in my career once I graduate. I do not know what I want to do, but with my programs of study, I know that the options are not limited!

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I took lessons at PMAC for many years, and played in the first youth rock band with Chris Weisman. Later I moved to the youth jazz band with Matt Langley, where he introduced me to jazz. I absolutely loved doing the awesome sweaty summer camps all those years. The lessons I learned and music I played there will be with me for a long time.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: To me, an arts education is a hugely important part of one's development. Focus on the arts for me opened my mind to new musical experiences and challenges in my emotional and musical lives. All the incredible mentors I've had through PMAC and elsewhere have taught me about how to be a better musician, but more importantly a better person.      

What are your plans for next year?:  I am really excited to attend The Berklee College of Music next year. My current teacher, Jackie Santos, is a professor there and I am really excited to continue working with him. It is a big step for me, but I am prepared and excited to continue my journey. I wouldn't be where I am today without the excellent steppingstone into music that PMAC was for me. 

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I study guitar with Nick Phaneuf and it has always been a great part of my week.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?:  An arts education means a huge amount to me, I have played piano since I was little and I care about music so much.  An arts education has definitely impacted my life for the better as it has jumpstarted my love of music.

What are your plans for next year?:  My plan for college is I am going to the University of Denver to study business, however I will most definitely continue my pursuit of music.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I currently participate in Bow Street Youth Orchestra. 

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Arts education is vital for the success of future generations. I am incredibly fortunate to have learned music skills that are applicable across different instruments, genres and ideas. Music has helped me to form some of my most rewarding friendships. I am very thankful for these opportunities.

What are your plans for next year?: Next year I plan to attend Emerson College to major in Political Communications.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I am currently part of the Bow Street Youth Orchestra as a part of the viola section.  I have been part of Bow Street since I was in 6th grade and have participated in the orchestra every semester. I study viola with Augusto Salazar, who is also the Director of the Bow Street Youth Orchestra.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: To me an education in art provides kids with another outlet to help deal with what life throws at you. Playing and listening to music helps me distress; it give a place where I can put my energy.  I honestly don’t know who I would be if being part of a musical group was not a part of my life. 

What are your plans for next year?: Next year I am planning to go to Smith College to major in biology.  When I get there I am going to run track and hopefully be part of the orchestra there.  I am extremely excited for the next part of my life to finally start.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I have been taking violin lessons with Diane Tiezzi since I was seven years old. I took guitar lessons with Bryan Killough for a time when I was younger. For several years, I participated in Bow Street Junior Ensemble and Bow Street Youth Orchestra. I also attended two sessions of Summer Rock Camp.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?:  To me, an arts education is an opportunity to learn how to think creatively and how to express oneself. An arts education also gives students the chance to connect with and learn from other members of their community. I have met many kind and inspirational artists during my time at PMAC, who have influenced both my education and my life as a whole. Through my studies at PMAC, I have begun a pursuit that enriches my day-to-day life and gained a greater appreciation for music, arts, and artists of all kinds.

What are your plans for next year?: Next year, I will attend Bowdoin College, where I plan to study French and English and participate in the college orchestra and string ensembles.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I started off taking Piano lessons at PMAC with Katherine from age 4-8. I then switched over to viola and continued to take lessons through PMAC with Katie Backus, Jessica Helie and Augusto Salazar. I became involved in Bow St. Youth Orchestra in 7th grade and have continued through my senior year of high school. Last year I had the honor to be a part of Max’s Spectacular Orchestra as well.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Having an Arts Educations through PMAC has fostered a love for music and also participating in musical groups. The basis PMAC has given me will lead me to be comfortable participating in any type of band or orchestra in the future. With this basis, I plan on continuing to play and share music for the rest of my life.

What are your plans for next year?: Next year I’ll be attending Wesleyan University and hope to play in the orchestra as well as chamber groups. I may even audition for an a cappella group!

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I have participated in multiple programs since I was 7 or 8 years old. First, I played for three years in the semester long rock groups, playing the violin where I learned to play within a group. Later, when I was 9 or so years old, I began to take private lessons with Augusto Salazar. To this day, I am still taking lessons from Augusto. When I was roughly 11 years old, Augusto coaxed me into joining the Bow Street Orchestra. For the first few years, I played in the Bow Street Junior Ensemble, and eventually I made it into the more advanced Bow Street Youth Orchestra. Over the years I progressed through the ranks, and currently I hold the concert master position in the Orchestra.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?:  An education in music means a great deal to me. Firstly, it means exploration. Not only have the lessons and ensembles taught me how to read, play, and write music, but they have shown the other world that music exists in. With the aid of my teachers, I have been able to navigate and explore this world opening doors to many great opportunities in my life to grow and develop as a person.
 Music has impacted me profoundly in a few different ways, but most importantly, it has taught me how to teach myself and finish difficult tasks. While learning Bach concertos, or playing in an orchestra with other players maybe aren’t the easiest things, they helped me grow. By struggling to learn a piece, or working with other musician, I have built the problem solving skills and know-how, to learn/finish other difficult tasks in my life. Music has helped me learn who I am, and how I work.

What are your plans for next year?:  Next year, I will be taking a gap year. As of right now, the skeleton plan consists of moving to Washington State in order to gain residency for college. Afterwards, I will be attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I currently take guitar lessons with Bryan Killough, and play outside of class just for fun, trying to learn as many songs as I can.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Playing the guitar has always been a bit of an outlet for me, especially when I'm stressed. It's very difficult to get frustrated with it and the result of hard work is very tangible.

What are your plans for next year?:  Next year I’m attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT and plan to begin a degree in either physics or aeronautical engineering, and I will continue to play guitar while doing so.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: At PMAC I have been taking trumpet lessons with Chris Klaxton for the past two years. I have also participated in the Teen Jazz Workshop over the summer.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Arts education is very important to me. I would say that it means a chance to explore creative outlets in a way that still fosters learning, allowing you to reach your potential to a fuller degree. I know that without arts education I would have never been able to fully discover my passion for music.

What are your plans for next year?: I will be attending Simmons College in the fall where I hope to study music and physics.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I currently participate in piano lessons with Mike Effenberger. In the past I participated in the Teen Jazz Ensemble and the Teen Rock Band in the summer where we played at Prescott Park.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?:  I love being part of the arts.  I am in the PHS marching band and jazz band as well as participating in PMAC.  I think that the arts is an important part of everyone’s development and I’m so happy to have been able to express myself through my music.

What are your plans for next year?:  I am going to Tufts to study Engineering.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: For the past nearly five years I have participated in the teen rock ensembles, summer camps, and interned with the junior rock ensembles. I was also a part of the Round Robin Festival last year through PMAC.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: I started playing piano at a young age and since then my focus has been pretty much entirely on music/music related subjects, so I would say it means a lot to me! I think it is a very important thing to give kids the chance to experience such a fun and interesting thing as musicianship. I don't know who I would be if I weren't a musician, I can't really imagine anything I would find more interesting.

What are your plans for next year?:  I am taking a gap year to travel, work on independent projects, and figure out whether or not college is the right path for me. I would really love to go to Berklee College of Music the following fall, but there is still plenty I want to do and need to consider between now and then!

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I am currently taking violin lessons with Diane Tiezzi. I have been taking lessons with her since 2005. I have participated in PMAC recitals, performed at weddings, and volunteered to play at assisted living and nursing homes.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: An arts education is valuable and essential in becoming a well rounded, creative, and disciplined student. It has given me a greater appreciation for the music and arts. It allows people to make connections to the many different aspects of learning, while also giving a new perspective to the way one sees the world.

What are your plans for next year?: Next year I will be attending College of the Holy Cross. I am unsure of what I will be majoring in, but I plan to have a pre-health concentration. I hope to continue playing violin in college and appreciate the gift of music.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I currently participate in drum lessons with Mike Walsh and am in the PMAC Teen Jazz Band. I also play with the Bow Street Orchestra. In the past I have taken guitar lessons with Nick Phaneuf, piano lessons with Mike Effenberger, and drum lessons with Jim Rudolf. In addition, I have taken many semesters of PMAC Teen Rock Band and attended the Summer Rock Camp multiple times.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Being a part of all these ensembles and lessons has impacted me greatly - so much so that I am pursuing a life of it. An arts education to me means a life of expression, hard work, fun, love, and creativity. I am happy to have found the thing that I want to spend my life doing so early on and a lot of it is due to the amazing teachers I’ve had the privilege of studying with throughout my life so far.

What are your plans for next year?: I am very excited to be attending Berklee College of Music next year in the class of 2020, where I will be studying drum performance.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: At PMAC, I had the fun and the privilege of being in several ensembles and taking lessons.  The ensembles are great because you learn the ins and outs of playing as a team.  I was in Rock Band with Mike Effenberger and Nick Phaneuf many times when I was younger, which was great fun.  I was also in Jazz band with Chris Klaxton, who gave me a chance to explore playing saxophone, which was a new instrument for me.  I also grooved with Jim Dozet in the Jazz Guitar Ensemble multiple times, which I really enjoyed.  For lessons, I've taken Voice, which is not my strong suit but has helped me a lot, with Taylor O’Donnell and Erin Smith.  And lastly, I take Recording lessons with Jason Crigler, which has been cool because that is what I hope to be doing in the future. 

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?: Arts Education - I guess “art” differs from “science” in that art involves how we feel and express ourselves.  Ever since I can remember, music was part of my life and I always wanted to better understand how it works.  So, for me, a music education has been a personal adventure; something I thrive on.  I'm thankful for places like PMAC that help people explore their passions and for the friends I met there. 

What are your plans for next year?: Next year I'll be in the Music Industry Program at the College of Saint Rose in Albany NY.  I'll be continuing to study music and also production and the business side of music.

What program/s have you participated in at PMAC?: I am in the PMAC Teen Jazz Ensemble for the spring, and I was in it for the fall as well.  I also went to the PMAC Summer Jazz Workshop during the summer before 9th grade.

What does an arts education mean to you? And how has it impacted your life?:  Music education has given me a lot of experience playing in an ensemble and really interacting with other musicians.  It has also given me a lot of performance experience.

What are your plans for next year?:  Next year I'm going to be attending Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Congratulations class of 2016! We can't wait to see what you do next!

Friday, January 29, 2016

January Music Therapy Advocacy Month

The following is a blog post from PMAC's Music Therapist, Virginia Macdonald. We hope you enjoy it!

Virginia Macdonald works with a Music Therapy client at PMAC.
January is music therapy advocacy month.  I am a music therapist and decided that this is the year I am going to toot my industry's horn! Pun totally intended. With any therapy, it is in the relationship with another that one comes to understand something new about themselves.  In music therapy, I think we have an added advantage - we are working in music, which most people already have some relationship with.  What is unique is that at the end of the session, our clients have new resources they can tap into, and more open networks of communication with the self that are therapeutic, thought-provoking, or physically/biologically stimulating. There is no 'one size fits all' method of music therapy, as each person will react to and benefit from different aspects of music. For some, clinical improvisation to practice communicating non-verbally with another, or working on social skills, may be most useful. For others, learning to play an instrument stimulates new responses that dramatically change how they enjoy life and see the world. Whatever the case, it is the process of working in music, and not the end product of performance, where the therapy happens.  I have had the pleasure of working with a woman who is a poet, a philosopher, and has now found her inner musician. I asked her to share a post with me to celebrate music therapy advocacy month and she graciously accepted.  Here is her account of her experience:

The difference between enjoying music and music therapy is simple but profound:  when I catch myself using music to either soothe me or to work through something difficult, it becomes therapeutic.  I’m not sure which is more powerful:  when I deliberately use music to enhance my life, or those fleeting moments when I check in with myself and recognize that I’ve got a few notes in my head and I feel more peaceful than usual.  It may only last a few seconds, but the mindfulness that the music is helping me feel better is the therapy.  It’s right there, at any time, and it’s available to anyone.  The trick is to use it and recognize its value.

I challenge myself with music.  I’m 61, with arthritic hands and a neurologically challenged brain that has a mind of its own.  What was I thinking when I chose to learn how to play the piano?!  Something in my head knew that it was the right decision, even though it still surprises me that I’m a piano student.  The enrichment that decision has provided me with continues to astound me.  The awareness of what the music does for me as I learn the piano has made me recognize that the healing powers of it are constantly in my life.  I sing in my head all the time – who doesn’t?  But when I ask myself what that music is doing for me, it becomes more powerful.  Now I envision my fingers playing notes on the keyboard as I hum notes, sing, or hear a song.  The possibilities of using music for healing become endless.

Language is an essential part of my life, and the music has become a new language to decipher.  It has the same effect for me that my writing does.  It’s a process of discovery and enrichment, and I can find myself playing one little section of a song over and over and over and being enthralled with the relationship between the music and my emotional state as I play.  It doesn’t end there – the experience continues in my head after the practice is over.  It’s a profound connection with my Self.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Special Student Spotlight: Bob Doty

Student Bob Doty Plays in the Fall 2015 Blues and 
Bluegrass concert at the Press Room in Portsmouth.

This month's spotlight goes to one of our adult Saxophone Students, Bob Doty. 

Bob played the piano and the cornet briefly as a child but neither stuck. These early lessons instilled in him a desire to someday learn how to play an instrument. After years or working for the NH Division for Children in child protection and educational services, Bob finally picked up the Saxophone at the age of 58. 

Retired now, Bob spends his time making music with other adult musicians - some who have been playing their entire lives, and some who have gotten an even later start than him. We had the pleasure to ask Bob about his experiences as an adult beginner musician, and the challenges and rewards he's found in music.

Portsmouth Music and Arts Center: How old were you when you started playing the saxophone?

Bob Doty: I was 58. As a kid my parents had me take piano lessons, and later the cornet. Neither were successful but I developed a desire that, some day, I would try again to learn to play an instrument.

PMAC: What made you decide to start playing as an adult?

BD: I went to a Blues Concert several years ago at the Pease Tradeport and one of the groups was the PMAC Adult Blues Band. I loved their performance and in particular the saxophones.  Afterwards, Russ Grazier explained to the crowd that PMAC had a program just for adults and it was open to anyone who ever thought about playing an instrument. It must have been Karma!  I called him a couple of days later. A few weeks later he had me play with the Blues Ensemble, who were very supportive,  and I was hooked.

PMAC: When you started playing, who did you study with? What were your biggest challenges to overcome?

BD: I took lessons with Russ [Grazier] and played in several ensembles that that he led. My biggest challenges were and continue to be playing in time and in rhythm. I have to work to play well. I record most sessions for later review and practice at home a few times a week.

PMAC: You've been a participant of many ensembles here at PMAC. What have you played in? How is playing with others different than making music alone?

BD: I've played in the ensembles that a sax can play in: New Horizons Band; Saxophone Ensemble; Brewery Lane Big Band,  Jazz Pioneers and Adventurers; and the Blues Band. It is very enjoyable to play in a live forum, to be part of the music and not just listening to yourself, which tends to get boring. Playing with others requires discipline, listening to others and becoming part of something bigger than yourself.   
PMAC: What do you feel that playing the saxophone brings to your life?

BD: I have met some very nice people who come from different backgrounds but all have a common purpose; to play music. When I play I feel a sense of joy, even when I'm just practicing. Playing with others in a live band and making music is a great feeling. A year ago I started playing the Ukulele in a group at the Dover Senior Center and I get a similar feeling so it's not just limited to the sax. It just feels terrific.

PMAC: What would you recommend to someone looking to learn how to play an instrument at any age?

BD: I think may people are afraid that they'll embarrass themselves or they are just waiting for some kind of push to get them going. Consider this the push. Learning to play can be hard but it's loads of fun when you actually hear notes coming from your instrument. People at PMAC are very supportive, so just come in and give it a try.

Thank you, Bob! 

If you're interested in learning to play an instrument or begin your visual arts education, whether you're a novice or already an advanced artist - PMAC has something for you! Head over to our website and sign up today!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Faculty Spotlight: Anna Nuttall Receives Governor's Arts Education Award

Anna Nuttall with Governor Maggie Hassan receiving the 
2015 Governor's Arts Education Award.
Photo by Abbigail Saffian.

PMAC couldn't be more proud of Anna Nuttall.

This year, she was one of the recipients for theGovernor's Arts Education Award, an award that recognizes an individual, nonprofit organization, school district or community that has made an outstanding contribution to arts education within the past three years.

An arts educator in Portsmouth for over 15 years, Anna has worked tirelessly to bring art to the forefront of education and community. Anna helped launch PMAC's Visual Art Education program as our first Director of Visual Arts and remains on our faculty today.

Anyone that knows her, knows how deeply and passionately the Arts and Arts Education are embedded into the fabric that makes Anna. We are honored to have her on our faculty and be a small part of Anna's creative world. We asked her a few questions to share with you why this award was perfect for Anna:

Portsmouth Music and Arts Center: First and foremost, congratulations on receiving this award! You have impacted the lives of so many students so greatly – how long have you been teaching?

Anna Nuttall: Thanks, it’s been a very special couple of weeks. I am very grateful to the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and to the folks who nominated me. I think the best part has been all the students past and present sending congratulations, high-fiving me in the grocery store and emailing the sweetest notes!

I have been teaching for about 16 years in Portsmouth public schools, (8 at Little Harbour Elementary, and 8 at the middle school) and I think just over 10 of those here at PMAC. Love ‘em all!

PMAC: What can an arts education do for a student?

AN: Oh, that is so quick to ask, and so long to answer!

I think what art can do for a student is only a part of what it can do for the whole child (and teenager, and adult!) The visual arts engages our intrinsic motivation to learn by igniting new individual interests and enriching existing ones – which supports all disciplines in school and life, not only art. Practicing visual arts exercises communication and expression skills, build collaborative skills, demands creative thinking skills and a lot of perseverance. And while most times art is a lot of hard work, and draws out our sweat and tears…it is also very often a lot of FUN!

An education with visual arts can also help to inspire and develop students’ empathy and compassion, things we can never have too much of. We aren’t just painting a pretty picture, we’re analyzing people in our lives, self-reflecting, developing symbol systems of expression, solving engineering feats, and yes, creating beautiful things too. Art isn’t a thing, it’s a way of thinking; a process (or many thereof). These are not just skills that prepare students for future career pursuits, but are all ‘human’ skills, needs, and qualities that prepare them for life. The question might be, “what doesn’t the arts do for students’!? (I know – I’m a little biased).  

I love teaching in public schools because I believe that visual arts education is something every child should receive. I love teaching at PMAC because it further extends and enriches those arts opportunities to youth (and adults), also regardless of socioeconomic status - as it should be. Visual art is “core content” for being human in my book!

PMAC: What is the most rewarding thing about being an arts educator?

AN: There are so many rewarding things about being an art teacher, but definitely what keeps me feeling most nourished, rewarded, engaged, enthusiastic and inspired year after year is simply working directly with the kids.

As much as I love to dream up programming ideas and curriculum (which I do love –it’s my total nerd-zone), I am still always trying to filter it all through the minds and eyes of my students the best I can. 

I am always asking for their opinions and I think that not only gives them a voice, but is instrumental in my ability to make programming and projects for them meaningful, engaging (and thus rewarding) when it comes time to actually doing it! That leads to a room full of momentum and not a room full of just following directions.

Being able to work with so many amazing minds each day and discuss and create work about their ideas, challenges, opinions and feelings is inspiring, interesting, (and sometimes hilarious, frankly). They are so incredibly smart, intuitive, insightful, creative and dynamic; I absolutely learn from them as much as I do about them.  I often find they aren’t aware of just how smart they are! Working with them challenges my own thinking, reasoning, knowledge  - everything –which is great, I grow! I credit them with keeping me sharp - if not also with some of my gray hairs.  

PMAC: You’ve done some exciting projects in the past few years working with the Seacoast African American Cultural Center and other community organizations to bring together the community and your visual arts students, can you tell us a bit about them?

AN: Yes, I really have fallen in love with doing outreach projects that partner students with our community. I it really says a lot about our community here – they have always said “yes” enthusiastically when I’ve approached them about working with my students (at either PMS or PMAC!)! The Seacoast Food Pantry, Seacoast Local/(H)EAT campaign, SPCA, Portsmouth Public Library, SAACC, In Ears 'n'Eyes, galleries and other retail, restaurants, individual artists or civic leaders – all of them have been amazingly generous with their time, and energy while working on these projects.  

The most important part of the project design for me is that quality visual arts experiences are at the heart of it, and the kids are having authentic and meaningful experiences that help them make personal connections with both art and the people and places in their community. 

A community and/or grant-funded project can look great on paper, but it has to be a collaborative experience where everyone is somewhat equal, and everyone wins – including students. Their voices aren’t often heard, nor their skills tapped at this age in the broader community, but they have a lot of great things to share. It’s always the hope with these projects that they’ll feel a bit more connected to the world outside of school and see art in a variety of new and relevant contexts.  The added bonus is the the community gets to know the kids and their work, too! 

PMAC: Do you make your own personal artwork outside of teaching? What drives you to create?

AN: Ah - I do!  Though the balance of time making art and time teaching and programming is forever a challenge, I do think it's important to keep creating in some way, be it big or small projects. If I am excited and engaged with art, I can definitely better serve to inspire and excite my students about their process, and their art! It is also important to share one’s work with students I think. Just here and there – but it helps them get to know you, your interests and skills (and areas you are working on, as there are always things to get better at!)   I’m excited to have a new studio space as of this month actually, in the Button Factory just next door to PMAC, and thus am embarking on a new body of work I'm excited about!  Some mixed media pieces (printmaking, collage, watercolor mostly). Space has been a challenge the last several years and I’m so grateful to be able to spread out a little and get creating again, full-steam ahead!

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Anna! 

Check out Anna's work during the Button Factory Open Studios Weekend on December 5 & 6. More info about Open Studios Here.

If you're interested in taking an art class at PMAC, check out all that we offer on our website.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

PMAC Spotlight: Russ Grazier

Russ Grazier co-founded PMAC in 2002 and started the organization with a handful of instructors, one adult ensemble and dreams of becoming a hub for musicians and artists of all ages and abilities.

Today, PMAC hosts around 30 private lesson studios (including private visual art study), over 20 adult and youth music ensembles, music therapy classes, a digital studio for recording and digital art, the Haas Family Gallery and Recital Hall for gallery showings and performances, and visual art classes for youth and adults.

Russ continues to passionately run the organization while still maintaining a private studio and conducting a few of our adult ensembles. We've asked him about what lead him here and why he continues to do what he does!

Portsmouth Music and Arts Center: What is your teaching philosophy?

Russ Grazier: When working with a student, I always begin with the belief that we are all creative beings and my role in our relationship is to guide the student through their creative journey. Expressing our creativity, whether through music, visual arts, poetry, dance, or any other artistic discipline is a core part of being human. I am here to provide guidance, tools, and encouragement. It is important to me that the student connects with the art they create, so my instruction is tailored to the individual. That said, I believe it is important to learn new things, and venture out of our comfort zone on a regular basis, so I frequently introduce students to music that is outside of their existing knowledge and encourage them to think in new ways. Through music we can grow as individuals, and come together as a community.

PMAC: When did you start playing? How did that lead you to where you are now?

RG: I was introduced to music at a young age in school, singing, dancing and playing instruments in elementary music classes. At age eight I began to study guitar and would spend hours writing songs and learning music in my Roy Clark and John Denver songbooks. In the fourth grade I began saxophone in the school band and have never looked back. The key moment that led me on the path to my career in music was when my father took me for saxophone lessons with Kenneth Radnofsky in Arlington, MA. I was 15 years old at the time and Ken introduced me to the amazing world of classical saxophone music. He was my teacher at the Tanglewood Institute when I was 17 and I stayed with him through my Bachelors Degree at Boston Conservatory. I still consider him to be one of my top three arts mentors and we are friends and colleagues to this day.

PMAC:  What do you enjoy about teaching adults who are beginners?

RG: Adult beginners are so different than youth students. When a ten year old blows into a saxophone for the first time and makes a loud "HONK" their face lights up in excitement that they made a sound. An adult will often get a look of dismay and say "that's not how it's supposed to sound!" But it IS how your first note should sound. Adults beginning music study for the first time come with a lot of knowledge gained over a lifetime of loving music as a listener. They know what they like and what type of music they want to learn. And they get really excited about playing in groups with their peers. They express more skepticism than children, but they also tend to be more goal oriented, bringing skills from other areas of their life to their music study. Private lessons with an adult student are wonderful because they ask so many interesting questions and have a real curiosity about how everything comes together. It's one of my favorite aspects of teaching at PMAC.

PMAC: What are the benefits of making music as an adult?

RG: Too many to list, but the best ones are: more robust memory, increased verbal fluency, improvements in planning abilities, greater speed when processing information, plus many cognitive, physical and psychological benefits. Between the ages of 60 and 85, playing an instrument has a marked positive impact on quality of life and health. Plus it's fun. Do it!

PMAC: What would you say to someone who is hesitant to begin playing music?

RG: Too many people put off or avoid learning music out fear that they won't be good at it. Fear of being judged, fear of failure. At PMAC we have programs designed for everyone, including our New Horizons Band program for adults which comes with the mantra "your best is good enough." Think about that. It means that making music is about pleasing YOURSELF and growing as an individual. It's about fun and laughter, not how many notes you can play and how fast. If you love music (which includes everyone I've ever met) you should be making music singing or playing an instrument. Do it for yourself!

PMAC: Over the years, what is your favorite story of an adult music student?

RG: I have many, but one I like to share a lot is the story of a 75 year old baritone saxophonist in PMAC's New Horizons Band. We once did a combined concert with the Shapleigh Middle School (Kittery) and PMAC's adult student were integrated into the middle school band, which means our 75 year old player sat next to a seventh grade baritone saxophonist. At the end of the combined piece we were playing, there is a moment of silence right before the big finishing chord. During the performance, our adult sax player belted out a loud low note in the middle of the silence, and then the band finished the piece. During the applause, the seventh grader turned to him and said, "That was so AWESOME! If I did that I'd be in big trouble!" This immediately turned a brief moment of embarrassment into laughter and story he told for the rest of his years (and I'll continue to tell for the rest of mine). He played a note where there was none and the world didn't end. The audience still loved the performance and his best was good enough. And individuals separated by six decades connected over a musical moment.

PMAC: What are you looking forward to the most at PMAC in the upcoming year?

RG: There is so much to look forward to, but a highlight for me is Ken Radnofsky's visit on October 12th. He'll be presenting an afternoon master class for students, including some UNH saxophonists, and a recital that evening. Having studied with Ken for seven years in my youth, this is a big moment for me. It'll be his first visit to PMAC and I'm excited to share our community with him and vice versa.

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would your medium be?

RG: I draw in pencil. I even took drawing lessons from Anna Nuttall a few years back. I don't do it enough, but it's great to learn new art forms, especially ones I didn't grow up with. She's such a great teacher and I have kept everything I created under her guidance.

Thanks so much, Russ! Come by PMAC on September 15 between 6:30-8:30 for our Adult Ensemble Info Night. Chat with Russ and other instructors about what they do here and how YOU can get involved!