Yo-Yo Ma brings the arts alive for Orchard Gardens students on behalf of The White House
World-renowned Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and nine other musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble, along with former New York City Ballet star Damian Woetzel and members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, visited Orchard Gardens K-8 School Thursday to initiate a two year musical and artistic exchange with students and the school community.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced Orchard Gardens was one of eight schools nationwide to be inducted into the first Turnaround Arts program. Turnaround Arts is a new two year public-private arts education initiative aimed at helping turn around low performing schools.
“We are certain that a strong arts education can lead to success for students in all academic areas,” said Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “Integrating the arts into our schools has been a key strategy in our work to improve student achievement. This new partnership will help advance that work and will help us replicate this success throughout the city.”
Hailed as “one of the 21st century’s great ensembles” by the Vancouver Sun, the Silk Road Ensemble draws together renowned musicians from more than 20 countries to collaborate and share music from every corner of the world. Under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma, the Ensemble performs and engages with students to carry out the Silk Road Project’s vision of promoting innovation and learning through the arts.
Silk Road Ensemble musicians, Mr. Ma and Mr. Woetzel led students at Orchard Gardens through the beginning stages of what promised to be an intensive artist residency which, over the course of the next two years, will include dance and music activities, conversation between students and musicians, and cross cultural learning. Thursday’s visit began with an assembly of fourth through eighth graders and an opportunity for students, staff, parents and family members to meet and engage with the artists, who have “adopted” Orchard Gardens to support and promote this school’s use of the arts to enhance achievement and expression.
Seven of the presidentially-appointed artists on the President's Committee—Chuck Close, Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, Damian Woetzel, and Alfre Woodard—have adopted one of the Turnaround Arts schools and will work with them and their communities over the course of the two year program. Partners also include larger national organizations such as Crayola and the NAMM foundation, all dedicated to providing intensive arts education training and resources in order to increase the arts impact on academic success and student engagement in each school.
Superintendent Johnson has made expansion of arts education one of the cornerstones of the district’s Acceleration Agenda. In partnership with school leaders, arts specialists and community organizations, Dr. Johnson has committed to giving students of all ages greater access to the arts during and after the school day.
The belief in the powerful role that arts can and should play in the life of students and an urban school system led to the launch of the Arts Expansion Initiative in the Boston Public Schools in 2009. The multi-year Initiative, supported by EdVestors, a Boston-based nonprofit, provides infrastructure to accelerate expansion and coordination of arts learning opportunities across the school system. Between 2009 and 2012, an additional 14,000 elementary, middle, and high school students experienced the arts during the school day.