Keeping Arts and Music Alive in New Jersey Schools
Steve Adubato sits down with Alison Scott-Williams, VP of Arts Education at NJPAC and Stefon Harris, educator and musician, about keeping the arts alive in our schools and inspiring the next generation of musicians.
"Welcome to the great NJPAC, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. It is my honor and pleasure to introduce two very special guests, normally this is One on One, this is one on two today, Alison Scott-Williams, vice president of Arts Education NJPAC, and Stefon Harris, educator and musician. Good to see both of you! Good to see you. Good to see you. Thank you. Well, the Arts Education Initiative is huge here at the PAC, because? We are announcing our new schooltime series and partnership with the Newark Public School District. We are increasing the amount of children that will be able to see the programs from 15,000 to 24,000 over the next two years. This is huge. By the way, let's put this in perspective. If people say, "what do you mean 'arts education?'" What does that even mean? What do you do? We offer in school residencies, we bring over 30,000 children here to performances, for them to see things like the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. The best. And to see Stefon Harris perform jazz, and we have a whole series of over 35 concerts that go on here all year long. Why is this guy so talented? What's his talent? [laughter] Before I turn to him. He is one of the most brilliant educators and performers and artists on the scene today. Where did you grow up? I'm from Albany, New York originally. Is that right? That's right. How did we get you? [laughter] My wife is originally from Newark. Is that right? That's right. So I ended up moving to Newark, It's been twenty years now. Make the connection between your work as an artist and arts education. So I would begin by saying that part of the role of arts education is not just about giving children information and exposure. I was a kid who saw the Albany Symphony Orchestra for the first time when I was in about fourth grade or so, and it completely transformed my life. How? Because I saw sixty human beings on stage together collectively creating something so amazingly beautiful, I was enamoured with this organization, the feeling of music, the power... Fourth grade? In fourth grade. You knew something was happening? I knew it was happening, I fell in love with it, I fell in love with the energy and so what it did for me is it showed me a world in which if I got involved, I would have a new way to express myself in a way that I wasn't able to in mathematics, or in athletics. There's something incredibly subtle in terms of the way that arts allow people to express emotional depth. So what responsibility do you feel, as an arts educator, given what you just said..."