Together with the Kennedy Center, local arts organizations, and our coach partners, Turnaround Arts: California gathers Arts Leadership Teams from partner schools across the state annually to develop and deepen arts-rich action plans for school change.
Sierra Preparatory Academy in the Santa Ana Unified School District is one of 27 Turnaround Arts: California partner schools using the arts to fuel school change efforts. After visiting the school, Turnaround Artist Mark Ronson invited the school’s Jazz Band, under the direction of Susan Tory, to experience the recording process in a professional studio. Check out their rendition of Stand By Me!
Video by Wreesman Reels
Mary Chapa Academy partnered with Turnaround Arts: California in 2014, and their journey of school change through the arts is truly remarkable. Thank you to Nabil Abdulkadir for capturing their story!
This summer, Turnaround Arts teams from across the nation gathered at Airlie in Warrenton, Virginia to explore the question: How can we leverage the arts to increase equity for our students and community?
In their final retreat hour, new and veteran members of our #TAcalifornia team shared a reflective performance piece. Watch their performance below:
I used to think Turnaround Arts was a grant…
But, now I think it’s instructional strategies that will help our school.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was a prescribed curriculum…
But, now I think it’s a lot of freedom.
I used to think Turnaround Arts sent specialists to our school to teach our kids…
But, now I think we are the specialists.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was one more thing on my plate…
But, now I think it will enhance my plate.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was more work…
But, now I think it will make work more fun.
We used to think Turnaround Arts was far off…
But, now we think it’s family.
We recently spoke with Jaqui Hope, the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator (VAPA) of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD), to gain a more in-depth view of her work to improve K-12 education through the arts.
As a VAPA Coordinator Ms. Hope creates, upgrades, and manages the visual and performing arts at all her school sites – a total of 20 elementary, middle, and high schools! Two of which — MLK School of the Arts in Seaside and Marina Vista Elementary School in Marina Vista — are Turnaround Arts: California partner schools.
What drives you and the work you do?
My motivation largely stems from my childhood experiences. When I was 13, my childhood best friend was killed in an accident and I didn’t have the toolkit to express how I was feeling and what I was going through. I felt crazy and misunderstood. When I turned to the arts – poetry and music specifically – I remember beginning to find solace and acceptance in my thoughts by creating songs about how I was feeling and my journey through processing all sorts of emotions.
Creating songs was critical for my process because mental health was not at the forefront of the adults around me – parents, teachers and the like. I think back to this experience and it makes me empathize with kids that may be falling through the cracks in our current school system.
My goal is to make sure that students experiencing any sort of trauma rise to their fullest potential. I believe that the arts are a great tool to help them get there.
The second reason is because I want to foster our collective future. I feel like sometimes our educational system shuts down a student’s intellect. We celebrate those with a great ability to memorize and those that happened to get the math lesson as it was offered at that particular time.
What we really need is to create a culture of deep thinkers: students with the skills to see that there might be multiple valid solutions to a problem.
Students with regular access to the arts have the capacity to think deeply.
How have the arts impacted the culture and climate of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District?
Upon Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh’s hire in 2014, MPUSD’s shift towards the arts began. He was intentional about hiring a Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator.
Hiring staff centered on the arts sets the tone – it says that our district places value in the arts and what it can do for our students.
When I first arrived, there was a lot of stress around structure because of mandated minutes — teachers worried themselves over giving enough minutes of instruction in English and Math. I was shocked because I knew that there is so much more out there, so much more for these kids.
Flashforward to now – it’s night and day.
We have a superintendent and leadership team that’s really about growth mindset. We focus on our assets, and understand that we can always improve and bolster our skills. We understand that growth mindset and the arts go together like peanut butter and jelly.
When you’re bringing new arts to kids – I feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Creativity and curiosity is celebrated when there is no one solution at the end of an arts process.
Despite your work being district-wide, your office is located on the MLK School of the Arts campus. How does that proximity impact your day-to-day work?
It’s great! I see the kids a lot. There’s actually a group of fourth graders who like to hang out in my office after school. Which has its pros and cons… sometimes I have to create a spreadsheet and there’s a game of tag going on in my office!
I was at the district office for my first few years and then they decided to place me on campus to support local school arts activities. Because sometimes school staff need an extra hand to talk to the sound guy, or interface with the director, or whatever when you’re having special programs. The close proximity makes a difference.
My more interlocked experience at MLK makes me want to be very intentional about Marina Vista Elementary School when it enters the Turnaround Arts: California program in the new school year – I plan to connect with teachers and faculty even more so, to make sure they are supported.
What did you notice about MLK School of the Arts, after it joined the Turnaround Arts: California program?
There is much more parent involvement.
Whether it’s a group of parents painting to beautify the school or helping out with the plays or the art exhibits. It’s a relaxed way for them to participate. Many of our parents have newly immigrated to California so, understandably, they are new to California’s education system. Inviting them to their children’s school to visit and be involved in their children’s lives – I see a level of comfort and ease that I didn’t see before we used the arts to engage them.
It’s a softer environment – the kids are a little bit more open.
I just wanted to thank Turnaround Arts: California for the work you do for kids and schools. I was so moved as I sat there at the Kennedy Center [for the Turnaround Arts Talent Show] in the dark, often with tears welling, listening to the powerful spoken word poetry and watching experts and their students move so beautifully…this is an amazing organization.
Thank you for bringing me into a fold, and making sure the arts are there to catch our kids.
by Cathryn Deering
Two years ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office trying to decide which sessions to take at the annual Turnaround Arts Summer Leadership Retreat. This was going to be our first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, and I wanted to make sure I was signing up for classes that would best benefit me as a new music teacher and in implementing arts integration at my school. I now had my dream job — I stepped out of the general education classroom after 13 years to become the music teacher/Arts Coordinator at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary. I had a music credential because that was my major in college, but I had never taught music before — I had no idea where to start. When I saw a class called “Little Kids Rock, Modern Band” I thought, “hmmm, that sounds interesting!” To top it off, they told us that they would tell us how to get free instruments, so I immediately signed up.
Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the room stuffed from the Airlie breakfast buffet and half asleep because of the three-hour time difference and I saw a bunch of guitars next to the seats. I thought, “Uh oh, I don’t know how to play the guitar — I’m a trained opera singer.” Well, wouldn’t you know, about 20 minutes later I’m playing the guitar to multiple rock songs. Granted, they were one-finger chords on the guitar, but by George I was playing the guitar! My food coma and jet lag dissipated and I WAS SOLD! I kept on imagining our kiddos playing these instruments with songs that they love and composing their own songs! If I could do it, anyone could do it! I was able to step out of my structured classical training and be comfortable doing something that was quite foreign to me, but something my alter-ego always wanted to do: play in a rock band!
The minute I got back to Los Angeles, I signed up for the Little Kids Rock workshops. This past summer, I attended the Little Kids Rock Modern Band Rockfest 2017 at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It was such an inspirational conference, and there were so many choices of wonderful workshops to attend. It didn’t matter your skill level, there was something for everyone — from creating a scope and sequence and assessments for Modern Band implementation, to Hip Hop for positive classroom culture, to using Ukulele with technology. There was even a class for how to put a drum set together (which was really useful for me, since my drum set was in pieces all over my classroom last year and YouTube was no help).
A very powerful piece of this conference was that they had sessions and speakers on music education advocacy. As a music educator in today’s climate, arts education advocacy is one of the most powerful tools that we have for sustaining and maintaining the arts in schools. Being at this conference, there was a sense of advocacy, unity, and inclusiveness that I had not experienced in a long time. The Little Kids Rock staff was incredibly organized and had us involved in activities where we were forced (and I mean that in a positive way) to interact with educators from all over the world. If we weren’t in workshops, we were busy finding things from our BINGO game or participating in jam sessions and performing for each other. Educators came from all over the world to learn, grow, and create together for the betterment of our children. I’m not saying that Modern Band is the only answer, but if we are implementing a growth mindset and creating a culture and climate of success and joy, which Modern Band definitely creates for all (students, staff, and stakeholders), then imagine what a positive light and power that can create in our world and redirect all of the negativity and toxic climate that our society is currently experiencing.
Thank you Turnaround Arts for introducing me to Little Kids Rock. Not only has this program supported me in creating a successful music program at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary, but it has also supported arts integrated instruction. Little Kids Rock has not only given me skills to scaffold students learning various instruments, but also to create their own songs based on different content areas that they are learning in their classes. Another great thing about Little Kids Rock is that it doesn’t matter if you are a general education teacher or a music teacher, you will get something out of the program to best fit your instructional needs and the needs of your students.
By Jacob Campbell, Program Manager for Turnaround Arts: California
I recently made a trip out to Santa Ana, CA, to see how Sierra Preparatory Academy’s first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school has been going, and I was blown away by the infusion of arts projects and instructional strategies that have begun to permeate all areas of this special school.
By Heather Heslup, Implementation Coordinator
Honoring the rich history of their culture and community, the Arts Leadership Team (ALT) at Hoopa Valley Elementary School (HVES) recently led students and teachers on a journey to produce their first annual Acorn Festival. What began as a simple sharing of the story of the acorn’s significance to the local Hupa, Karuk, and Yurok tribes of northern California resulted in a wonderful display of community pride and creative exploration.