Dance education

UA program brings music and dance education to schools in need

By Alexis Blue, University Communications

June 5, 2019

Pablo Esteban Quiñonez Paz learned to play guitar through Lead Guitar, as part of the UA CFA in Schools awareness program. He plans to continue studying music at AU.
(Photo: Bob Demers / UANews)

When Pablo Esteban Quiñonez Paz was a young boy, he listened to his father and brother play “Spanish Ballad” on the guitar and thought that he too would one day learn to play the song.

Fast forward to 2014, when he and his family immigrated to the United States from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Quiñonez Paz was 14 and adjusting to an entirely new culture and way of life when he set foot in his first guitar lesson at Amphitheater High School in Tucson.

Now an 18-year-old school graduate, he is able to play “Spanish Ballad” and a host of other tunes, including the Eagles classic “Hotel California”, which he and his classmates made their way through a recent spring. morning rehearsal.

Quiñonez Paz is one of 16,500 young students who have benefited from the arts education offered by the University of Arizona CFA in schools program, which works with 75 partner schools in Arizona and across the country to provide music and dance lessons.

Based in AU College of Fine Arts, CFA in Schools deploys experts to help establish music and dance programs in schools that may not be able to offer such programs on their own, either due to lack of resources or cuts in arts funding.

These experts spend two to three years training and mentoring teachers, who may or may not have experience teaching arts disciplines. The idea is that they can possibly support the courses on their own. In Arizona, trainers are typically UA alumni, college students, or faculty members.

“The goal of the CFA in Schools is to provide the highest quality arts education to students who generally could least afford it,” said Brad richter, director of arts dissemination at the AU College of Fine Arts. “We are looking for schools that have 80% or more of their students eligible for a free and discounted lunch, and we have free programs at those schools. “

CFA in Schools offers three offers for middle and high school students: Lead Guitar for aspiring guitarists, UpBeat for drummers and Step Up for dance. There is also a general music program called Music First for Kindergarten to Grade 2 students.

Richter started the Lead Guitar program independently in 1999 while working as a professional musician. After playing a concert in northern Arizona, she was asked to visit Page High School to teach a guitar workshop. There he was inspired by a group of students who had started learning the guitar on their own, without any formal instruction. Richter wrote a guitar program for the school’s choir teacher so that she could help the students continue to learn.

The program grew from there, Richter and his colleague Marc Sandroff eventually established Lead Guitar as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2007. Six years later, in 2013, Richter joined the AU and brought the program with him.

With the encouragement of Jory hancock, director of the AU Dance School and then dean of the College of Fine Arts, Richter began to use the Lead Guitar model to develop similar programs in different artistic disciplines. And that’s how CFA in Schools was born.

Since 2013, CFA in Schools has grown from 17 to 75 schools, including several sites in Arizona, as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado and Oklahoma. Lead Guitar remains the most popular offering in the program.

Schools chosen to partner with CFA in Schools are generally located in areas where there is a strong academic partner from whom to draw expertise and opportunities for artistic enrichment.

In addition to its educational component, CFA in Schools brings students in universities to attend shows and perform in their own showcase concert at the end of the school year.

The program also helps organize school visits by professional artists. In Tucson, for example, world-class artists from the UA Presents season program are sometimes invited to perform for students in their schools.

“There are three important steps to what we do: classroom teaching by college-level instructors, training co-teachers so that they can eventually teach the class on their own, and community experiences and academics who get kids out of school and onto campus, ”Richter said. “We want them to feel comfortable here and to be celebrated here and to get used to the idea that a university is a place where they are welcome.”

The program is also a good training ground for university students preparing for a career in arts education.

Steven lerman, who is completing a PhD in classical guitar performance at AU Fred Fox School of Music, teaches guitar alongside the music teacher at Amphitheater High School. Quiñonez Paz was among his students.

Lerman has been involved with Lead Guitar since he was a senior UA, and he says it has helped him hone his skills as a teacher and performer.

“It really blossomed for me with my studies to take what I learned and help other kids learn and experience something different – something that they might not have had before. ‘opportunity to do, “he said. “As a teacher it’s amazing to get all this extra experience and to work in different conditions and to have to be able to react to things, but the best part was working with the kids.”

The intention of CFA in Schools is not to train the next generation of professional musicians, but to give young people – many of whom can come from difficult circumstances – the confidence to pursue what they want to do next, said Holly holmes, assistant to the director of CFA in Schools.

“The point is not to raise students who are all going to major in the arts, necessarily, but to have that as part of their critical thinking,” said Holmes. “It’s not about becoming a spectacular artist, it’s about realizing your potential.”

For some, however, a career in the arts becomes the ultimate goal.

Now that Quiñonez Paz has graduated from high school, he plans to attend AU and a double major in music theory and guitar performance. He wants to keep performing, with the support of his family and friends.

“It’s good to show people what you can do,” he said, “and that you can become something bigger.”