Stories of Resilience Through the Arts from YA National Arts Partner Organizations
As part of our ongoing Resilience Through the Arts series, we pleased to spotlight the efforts of our peers and partners in the field to uplift and sustain student learning in and through the arts amid challenging times.
Educational Theatre Association (EdTA)
Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), the professional association for theatre educators, is working hard to support its community of 139,000 students and 5,500 educators, taking innovative steps along the way to ensure that it continues shaping lives through theatre education. When school closures went into effect in March, the organization sprung into action immediately to build up its already robust capacity for online and self-supported learning. EdTA met its teachers’ needs with a rapid response, offering educator toolkits for transitioning online and a specialized curriculum for online teaching. As a service to the field, it opened up large portions of members-only content to the public.
EdTA’s dedication and expertise are evident in its exemplary Theatre Educator Pro, a rich and ever-evolving suite of professional development resources offering teachers and students standards-based curricula, interactive lesson plans, live and on-demand webinars, informal learning assignments, and more. Meanwhile, EdTA’s ongoing efforts to engage its constituents through virtual platforms include Weekly Green Room sessions, which offer open mic style forums for participants to discuss what’s on their minds. The first session will focus on the question, “What is working for you right now and what are you planning for the fall?” The organization has also been ramping up its efforts to support virtual student graduation and other Thespian ceremonies.
Now entering its 57th summer, the International Thespian Festival (ITF) remains an eminent hallmark of EdTA’s programming and commitment to celebrating student achievement in the arts. Demonstrating dexterity, resilience, and a true ‘the-show-must-go-on’ spirit, EdTA reimagined 2020’s ITF as a fully realized virtual event. Virtual ITF, set to take place June 22-26, will feature adjudications, auditions, the inaugural International Thespian Excellence Awards Showcase (a.k.a. the ThespysTM), performances, workshops, and master classes. While participants will miss coming together in person, the new platform gives EdTA opportunities to connect with industry professionals who otherwise might not be able to get involved. In addition to spotlighting Thespians online from across the nation and around the world, Virtual ITF will feature celebrity guests including Tina Fey, Dolly Parton, and Stephen Schwartz.
“As theatre people, we are noted for our flexibility and creativity – traits that are certainly called for in these trying times,” said Education Manager Cory Wilkerson, applauding the resilience of the community as they work to support their students while rapidly building the new way of learning required to meet this current crisis. With school closed indefinitely, productions cancelled or postponed, and teachers left to quickly find ways to shift to online instruction, EdTA exemplifies the power of the arts to inspire collective strength.
The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) is dedicated to advancing arts-centered dance education for people of all backgrounds. As the national service organization for its field, NDEO is here to support the dance education community through these challenging times, working diligently to provide high-quality resources relevant to the needs of the community, and responding in every way possible to support these changing needs. In recent months, NDEO’s primary focus has been on connecting the dance education community around the landscape of distance learning, all while highlighting the enduring importance of dance in the human experience.
On March 24, NDEO launched its Teaching Dance Online series of live webinars, free for members and non-members alike, with replays and related resources available on-demand. These interactive webinars give dance educators an opportunity to learn from leading experts in areas related to teaching dance during COVID-19. Webinar topics address diverse student populations and learning environments, as well as strategies for supporting students emotionally through dance in times of crisis. Recordings and support materials are available on NDEO’s website.
In addition to its webinar series, the organization has been offering recurring Virtual Special Interest Group (SIG) Meetings, which give participants an opportunity to connect with fellow dance educators in group settings. The meetings provide a receptive space for participants to express their concerns, learn from others in the field, and support one another through uncertain and trying times. NDEO has been encouraging use of its online forums as a safe, productive place for discussion of all things related to the current teaching environment. On the organization’s Behind the Curtain blog, for example, members are invited as guest bloggers to share their experiences, strategies, and insights around online dance instruction.
“It is our fervent hope that the world will emerge from this crisis stronger, kinder, and more connected than ever before,” says NDEO Executive Director Susan McGreevy-Nichols. “The reality is, of course, that we don't know what will happen in the next few months. One thing we do know is that the dance community has been setting an example of persistence, generosity, and care for one another that should serve as a model for the rest of the world.” Looking toward the future, NDEO is working closely with its Board of Directors and members in different sectors to outline guidelines and ideas for safely returning to classes, whenever individual states or institutions allow for the transition back.
As the leading professional membership organization exclusively for visual arts educators, the National Art Education Association (NAEA) is dedicated to advancing visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding. Representing all 50 states and internationally, NAEA members include elementary, middle, and high school visual arts educators; college and university professors; university students preparing to become art educators; researchers and scholars; teaching artists; administrators and supervisors; and art museum educators—as well as more than 54,000 students who are members of the National Art Honor Society (NAHS). While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged this broad and extensive membership base in many different ways, the NAEA community is united around the belief that an arts-rich learning environment remains more vital than ever in helping students thrive.
Supporting educators as they adjust to functioning within a new teaching environment while maintaining social distancing, the NAEA Collaborate community forum—providing a space for members to exchange ideas, share experiences, and offer kindred support—is being utilized now more than ever. To spark conversation around ideas in the field, NAEA also produces monthly Need to Know Webcasts, highlighting timely topics of interest for art educators. This series is free and open to the public, and past webcasts are available for download, including Fostering Resilience During Turbulent Times and other compelling presentations.
NAEA’s comprehensive Remote Learning Toolkit, curated for the field at large, offers educational strategies, lessons, and resources to guide diverse arts educators through the challenges and opportunities that come with distance learning. As the pandemic’s implications for arts teaching and learning continue to evolve by the day, the Toolkit is growing in tandem. Most recently, NAEA has added resources to help educators navigate fall’s new academic landscape, whatever that may shape up to look like.
In a recent open letter to superintendents, principals, and school board members, NAEA President Thom Knab outlined and underscored the important role of the arts in building academic, social-emotional, and community connections. “During this pandemic, students of all ages have found much needed solace and support through the visual arts, as their teachers provide valuable remote learning opportunities. Students learn to create, respond to, and make connections to the visual world around them and rely upon the arts for social emotional learning, expression, and support,” wrote Mr. Knab. “To provide the support all students require, NAEA respectfully requests that the visual arts, and all arts disciplines, be fully funded.” Through educational tools, community building, and advocacy resources, NAEA is working to uplift arts education throughout, and beyond, this crisis.
State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) sits at the forefront of national arts education. Its members, who represent state education agencies, are responsible for overseeing and shaping educational policy including required student learning standards spanning all grade levels for dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. While SEADAE has long been accustomed to virtual meetings and online professional development, digital communications have taken on new importance in recent months, as members seek to connect with their professional counterparts for guidance and support, and to brainstorm creative modalities that promise to have a lasting national impact for students across the country.
In mid-March, SEADAE was one of the first national service organizations to publish an online repository of Arts Instructional Resources for teachers to use for the purpose of facilitating distance learning in arts disciplines. As a signature initiative, members of SEADAE have also been contributing their departments' online learning materials to develop a state-by-state arts instructional resource map.
SEADAE continues working to support districts in their endeavors to provide robust instructional opportunities in the arts for all students, and to explore ways in which distance learning can be used to its greatest effect. “We sought to gain insight into the ‘conditions on the ground’ in individual states, to better understand what attempts are being made at local levels to support virtual arts learning in cloistered environments,” said SEADAE President Dale Schmid, who represents New Jersey. “Likewise, we’re mining for input on new ways for SEADAE to support the individual and collective effectiveness of our members, as well as serve in the best interest of our children.”
To this end, SEADAE has taken a leading role in advocating for the arts with a unified national voice representative of all arts forms. Looking ahead, a focus of SEADAE's will be on championing the indispensable importance of the arts within the COVID-19 learning environment, ensuring that arts education remains a funding priority for districts.
SEADAE continues to be a principal player in fostering a national dialogue around the arts and social-emotional learning (SEL), the focus of its 2020-2021 initiatives and professional development activities. Moreover, SEADAE is excited to be hosting its first-ever virtual summit, The Arts & SEL: A Synergistic Pairing, taking place September 25, 2020. It is SEADAE's ardent belief that the arts education community is extraordinarily well positioned to help students cultivate manifold strengths associated with social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-management and perseverance, social awareness, communication, and relationship skills – in addition to creativity. As an organization, SEADAE demonstrates how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) / The NAMM Foundation
With approximately 10,300 member companies in the music creative sector, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) has a 120-year history as a civic organization championing the fundamental importance of music education. As the philanthropic arm of NAMM, The NAMM Foundation wholly supports programs and activities that encourage music-making across the lifespan. Among its many integral purposes serving in the interest of advancing quality and accessible music education, the Foundation promotes credible and oft-cited research around the enormous benefits of music training and literacy on the physical, social, and mental well-being of youngsters.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, NAMM has stepped up its time-honed advocacy efforts to support those affected by the current global health crisis. For example, a recent information-heavy webinar, entitled Keeping Music Education Strong, covered urgent and timely topics including projected timelines and protocols for school reopening, education funding and potential impact on curriculum offerings, and the mobilization of advocacy messages to ensure that music education continues to be a vital learning opportunity for all children. Along with over 50 other national arts organizations, The NAMM Foundation lent its well-revered voice to the unified “Arts Education Is Essential” statement. NAMM’s upcoming 2020 online Advocacy Summit, taking place June 16, will prepare participants to contact Members of Congress and other elected officials about the essential role music learning plays in every child’s education.
As demonstrated by its Making Music Online series of webinars, The NAMM Foundation believes that teaching and learning music can continue and even thrive through the remarkable tools, resources, and people that are engaging in music online. Furthermore, the Foundation serves as the official U.S. presenter of Make Music Day, a global summer event celebrating the natural musician in all of us. This year, as Make Music Day goes virtual, NAMM invites and encourages everyone to partake in the online festivities and celebrate music-making in new fun and engaging ways.
“The remarkable music-making connections that are happening online – world over – remind us again of the power of music,” wrote NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen. “Thank you for the services and outreach that you continue to provide to support people everywhere; music surely connects us in unique ways during this time.” Now more than ever, music and arts education are vital for children’s social and emotional well-being, growth, and development.
GRAMMY™ Music Education Coalition (GMEC)
The GRAMMY™ Music Education Coalition (GMEC) is a nonprofit collective dedicated to building universal music education participation in elementary and secondary schools nationwide. With the nation staying, learning, and teaching at home, GMEC believes that there has never been a better, or more important, time to make music. The Coalition is working to help music educators and students everywhere continue to benefit from music’s capacity to keep us focused, centered, creative, and joyful.
To support teachers and learners through the transition to online music education, GMEC launched its Music Coalition Hub, which features free or reduced-cost music education resources being offered through its affiliates. The page is updated frequently with new content. GMEC also hosts a series of virtual town hall sessions, The Music Education Hub – LIVE, which connect the music education community and feature voices from throughout the field.
Meanwhile, GMEC has been working in close collaboration with Coalition affiliate the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation (DEYMF). On May 30, GMEC and DEYMF will co-present The Decade that Rocked, an homage to all things metal and hard rock, and the third installment in a new livestream series. Recently, GMEC helped DEYMF in raising thousands of dollars for its SCHOOL’S OUT initiative, in support of online lessons, instruments, and gear for students and aspiring musicians during quarantine. The initiative, launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis, partners legendary rock musicians with displaced students for one-on-one mentoring and instruction, giving both artists and students a much needed sense of purpose and normalcy in this confusing and uncertain time. The virtual fundraiser attracted a combined 500,000 viewers from all over the world.
Renowned musicians and artists all around are finding fantastic ways to express themselves and keep audiences engaged during the current lockdown period – and GMEC is ensuring that those at home remain connected to dynamic learning experiences through the arts. Harnessing the power of music and creative collaboration, GMEC is helping its communities perceive and realize the life-changing benefits of music education.
National Association for Music Education (NAfME)
National Association for Music Education (NAfME), among the world’s largest arts education organizations, works to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction. While education professionals in all subject areas face new challenges and hurdles in providing continued education to their students, NAfME recognizes that for music educators, the transition to distance teaching means adjusting lessons that thrive inherently on in-person instruction and in ensemble settings. Despite trenchant challenges and uncertainties on the horizon, NAfME's commitment to supporting rich and varied music education remains unwavering.
The organization has taken numerous actions to assert this commitment while advocating for equitable access to instruction. NAfME continues to curate its Virtual Learning Resources for Music Educators, an outstanding repository of online instructional materials that support educators in providing quality music education to students. Its upcoming advocacy webinars will feature various music education voices across the country. Additionally, NAfME’s archived webinars – including the most recent on Music Education Policy during a Global Pandemic – help listeners gain a deeper understanding of the education public policy landscape. Webinars are free and open to all. NAfME has been strong-willed in voicing its support of music students and educators, while reminding policymakers on why music and the arts are now more important than ever. As states brace for economic downtowns, NAfME’s Grassroots Advocacy Center offers tips and guidance around how to engage with the legislative process and advocate for music in federal education policy. Any and all arts and music education advocates are encouraged to share their voices and stories. So far, more than 11,000 messages have been sent to Congress through NAfME’s grassroots platform.
Additionally, NAfME helped lead the way in formulating, framing, and creating a unified statement advocating for arts education and its importance during the pandemic, as well as building the subsequent outreach campaign. The resulting statement, “Arts Education Is Essential,” was published to NAfME’s website on May 27, with a growing list of over 50 signatories including Young Audiences Arts for Learning, The NAMM Foundation, and SEADAE. “It is vitally important to advocate for music and arts education now, as school districts and states begin to undertake the challenging task of planning the 2020–2021 school year,” said NAfME President Kathleen D. Sanz. "Maintaining the arts in the schools is critical to continue to help our students with their educational and social and emotional learning, especially for those students in need of support in these difficult times.”
It is NAfME’s heartfelt belief that education programs support students by not only providing creative opportunities and outlets, but also creating healthy social and emotional learning environments. As the organization prepares for the fall, when it hopes to see students back in class, it feels strongly that music educators must be prepared to not only teach, but to advocate for the power of their programs as well.