In April, the Mayerson Foundation
was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts
grant for its Artistic Excellence Program. The $45,000 grant was matched by the Foundation to fund master classes for students at the School for Creative & Performing Arts
, the nation’s only K-12 public school for the arts.
The Artistic Excellence Program features seven master artists from around the world, seven resident musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
and nine dance workshops from the Cincinnati Ballet
, all of which take place during the 2012-2013 school year. The Foundation has applied for a second NEA grant to fund the program next year.
This month, contemporary artist Nico Muhly
visited SCPA in conjunction with the program. He worked with two student composers, held a Q&A and kicked off the year-long series with a performance for the students. Soapbox
caught up with the Mayerson’s grants officer, Jeff Seibert, to ask him a few questions about the program.
Q: What is the Mayerson Artistic Excellence Program?
A: The Artistic Excellence Program supports world-class arts education at SCPA. As a lead funder in the $72 million campaign that created the new SCPA, the Mayerson Foundation recognized the importance of supporting the operation of SCPA. We support what the SCPA faculty are trying to accomplish by bringing the world’s best ‘visual aids’ into the classroom, the theater and the dance studio.
Q: Is it program available for all students at SCPA?
A: Yes. All of SCPA’s 1,400 students can benefit from the Artistic Excellence Program, but direct participation is based on relevance—jazz students attend Fred Hersch’s master classes; dance majors work with the Cincinnati Ballet—and based on students’ stages of development. Students in Advanced Music Theory attended Nico Muhly’s master class in composition, whereas first graders will attend the upcoming young people’s concert with Constella
artists Anne Dudley
and Libby Larsen
Q: Does the Excellence Program provide scholarships for students?
A: All of the Excellence Programs are provided free of charge, except private music lessons. Since individual students benefit from private lessons and an enormous commitment to practicing is required, those students pay a small fraction of what the lessons actually cost.
The Mayerson Foundation heavily subsidizes the cost of lessons, and provides scholarships, along with the Friends of SCPA
and the Carlson-Berne Scholarship Fund of the CSO
, to ensure that economic hardship is not an obstacle to students’ participation in our programs.
Q: Is there a theme for the program?
A: The theme of the Master Artists Series is ‘responding to opportunity.’ We partner with presenting organizations to bring visiting artists to SCPA. Our goal is to support talented students at SCPA across the artistic disciplines and musical genres.
SCPA’s incredible faculty help us to create connections with the classroom curriculum. The master artists are living examples of art history that teach students technique, but also show then what a life in the arts is like.
Q: Besides Nico Muhly, what other master artists and artists-in-residence have presented master classes so far this year?
A: Violinist Joshua Bell
presented a “career talk” on Sept. 21 and jazz pianist Fred Hersch
presented a master class on Sept. 25.
Later this year are playwright and Taft Museum Duncanson Artist-in-Residence Nikkole Salter
on Oct. 24; world renowned violinist Anne Akiko Meyers
on Oct. 26; percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie
, who led 1,000 drummers in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, on Nov. 2; violinist Gil Shaham
on Jan. 25, 2013; violinist Leila Josefowicz
on March 1, 2013; jazz saxophone great Branford Marsalis
on March 14, 2013; and composer Jennifer Higdon
on March 21, 2013.
In April, Broadway star and TV actress Bebe Neuwrith
will present a master class at SCPA, and one of the greatest living jazz pianists is currently under consideration to visit.
Q: Do all of these artists then perform concerts in conjunction with their master class?
A: Most of the artists perform at SCPA, but not in full concerts. They perform pieces to help illustrate the concepts being taught in their master classes. Whenever possible, SCPA students attend rehearsals and performances by the artists at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra or at the Cincinnati Ballet. Students get the opportunity to go backstage to meet the artists after their performances and then to experience them in the classroom.
The opportunities provided to SCPA students are unlike any program elsewhere in the country.
Q: Is the public allowed to attend the master classes, or are they exclusively for SCPA students?
A: The community has made an enormous investment in SCPA and deserves to see what their investment is returning. Nearly every night of the year, audiences are treated to some of the finest student performances, plays, dances and art exhibits at SCPA.
Because master classes occur during the school day and because students are intensely engaged in learning, public attendance is by invitation only. Observing the interaction between a master artist and a talented student is really fascinating, so whenever possible, we do try to provide access on an appropriate basis.
By Caitlin Koenig
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