Band or choir? Jazz or mixed-media collages? The arts have so much to offer, why choose just one? This is the philosophy behind the Visual and Performing Arts Program at St. James Academy, which boasts one of the most comprehensive arts program in the entire state.
“Our scheduling is very different from what you see in other schools,” explains Randi Martin, Music and Arts teacher at St. James Academy. “Children take multiple disciplines, multiple times a year, for multiple years in a row. If you only give a child the chance to choose one, you’re limiting the creative development. The arts don’t stand by themselves,” explains Randi.
But what about those students who shy away from the arts or have anxiety about being up there on stage with all of those people watching? The creative educators at St. James have accounted for all of this, too. New to the middle school program is the Orff ensemble where students learn to play pitched percussion instruments. This is all part of the master plan at St. James to find a place where everyone can contribute.
“With the right fit, they are encouraged to put the fruits of their labor out to a greater audience,” says Randi.
Randi describes the arts program at St. James as a place where the arts thrive and the students thrive because of that. “We have arts to grow the soul and arts to grow the world and everyone’s consciousness.”
The arts bring communities together. “Music is a community act. When the first caveman started beating on the first drums, it was a way to bring the community together,” says Randi matter-of-factly.
Want to bring some of the St. James arts education philosophy into your family? Here are a few ways to cultivate a love of the arts with your children.
How to Cultivate a Love of the Arts with Your Children
Consume the Arts
Go see as many things as you possibly can, which is easy to do in Baltimore. But don’t limit yourself to just the professional shows at the Hippodrome or Modell Performing Arts Center. There are abundant community theater options around town with less expensive tickets. Even better, check out local school performances. (St. James Academy has theirs listed on the school calendar). For a young artist, watching peers put their own spin on things may be just as inspiring as seeing the latest Broadway hit downtown.
Explore New Genres
When it comes to developing a love of the arts, it’s all about exposure. We can’t expect kids to find their niche if they don’t know what’s out there. Take the kids to the opera, the ballet, and check out a free drop-in art class at the Baltimore Museum of Art or the Walters Art Museum. Just because it’s not in your wheelhouse, that doesn’t mean that jazz, sculpture, or hip-hop dancing might not be your child’s new favorite.
Don’t Focus on Talent Alone
It’s not the time to be critical when fostering a new skill (and hopefully passion). Give your kids space to explore the arts for themselves free from judgement and criticism. Take a cue from the St. James chorus where students review the works of other choral performances on YouTube asking the questions: Was every note perfect? (No.) Did it still add value to the community? (Yes.)
When encouraging your own young artists on their creative path, remember that it’s not only about hitting the right notes or coloring inside the lines. Art is ultimately about making the community–and the world beyond–a better place. And, of course, having a great time while doing so.
ABOUT OUR SPONSOR: ST. JAMES ACADEMY
Situated on 89 acres just ten minutes from Hunt Valley, St. James Academy is an Episcopal parish day school for children in Kindergarten through Grade 8. The International Baccalaureate MYP World School has a well-rounded academic program that prepares students for a global economy. SJA is known for their stellar use of technology in the classroom, athletics, language, and theatre arts programs. Another great advantage? The student to teacher ratio is 7:1. #SJAExperience MORE INFO
Photos by Laura Black