The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation has announced that Stephen Kuusisto, University Professor in the School of Education and director of interdisciplinary programs and outreach at the Burton Blatt Institute in the College of Law, has been awarded a 2021 Guggenheim…
VPA Students, Faculty Participate in Inclusive Music Education Pilot Program
A Syracuse University music instructor is spearheading a new pilot program that introduces homeschoolers to the art of creative expression.
Alina Plourde, who teaches oboe in the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), directs the Syracuse branch of the worldwide Music for People (MfP) organization.
MfP-Syracuse and a local homeschool cooperative called the Success Enrichment Group (SEG) are collaborating on a new course called the “International Music Laboratory Classroom.”
Beginning Feb. 5, the 12-week course will be offered every Wednesday in Fayetteville, tailored to students ages 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12. Activities include improvised singing, drumming, instrumental playing, dancing and creative movement.
“Age, background and skill level have nothing to do with self-expression,” says Plourde, an Eastman-trained teacher and oboist, who is a regional trainer for MfP’s Musicianship and Leadership Program (MLP). “There are no wrong notes because everyone has a story to tell.”
SEG Founder and Director Juliet Wall is excited about the course, saying that it is designed to foster creativity and innovation, encourage self-expression, promote pattern recognition, and boost brain function and connectivity. “There is long-standing research showing a strong connection between music participation and academic success,” she adds.
The “International Music Laboratory Classroom” will feature a rotating cast of MLP teaching artists, some with current or former ties to VPA.
One of them is soprano Laura Enslin, a retired VPA faculty member. “Music for People takes a mindful approach to creativity, beginning with ‘One Quality Sound’—a note or tone that expresses how we feel in the moment,” says the Eastman alumna. “For anyone, especially a child, the experience can be transformative.”
Increased self-confidence, enhanced communication skills and improved cognition are some of the benefits of MfP’s approach, she adds.
MfP has been a pioneer of inclusive, experimental music education since Grammy Award-winning cellist David Darling co-founded it more than 30 years ago. Today, MfP tools and techniques are embraced by performers, educators and wellness practitioners worldwide. More information is at www.musicforpeople.org.
MfP-Syracuse is the organization’s newest regional chapter, providing an array of learning and performing opportunities. Members include actor/singer Amy Zubieta ’09, G’20 and trombonist/pianist Nick Abelgore ’16, G’20, both of whom are MLP teaching artists.
“Having them on-site will add an extra layer of support and creativity, allowing for more differentiated instruction. These teaching artists will inspire our students to let loose their imagination and talent,” says Wall, whose courses are led by professionals and parent volunteers, including VPA graduate student Sabine Krantz, director of SEG’s high school choral program.
Part of the funding from the initial phase of the pilot program will go toward building MfP-Syracuse’s instrumental library. “The instruments will be used by MfP staff and teaching artists when they’re working with SEG homeschoolers,” says Plourde, who is organizing an MfP retreat at the University, April 17-19.
Adds Wall: “This means our students will have more opportunities to explore, create and succeed.”