Finding Ways to Bring the Arts to Every Student
During her master's program, alumna Shea Mavros realized that integrating arts into the curriculum “went further than just having access to art or music classes. It’s about how everybody learns differently and how the arts allow kids to comprehend in the right way for them.”
Now her mission is to help young musicians see the possibilities that lie ahead. Her own path has branched out into surprising areas, something she didn’t anticipate and wishes she would have known as a teenager. “I understand now that music doesn’t have to be an either/or situation,” she says. “You can have a full experience, and it doesn’t just have to be one thing. The path is different for each person.”
Mavros knows these music prodigies may not end up following the exact map they’ve drawn for themselves. Her own career has included opera singing, elementary school teaching, and community outreach. Now, in addition to her singing career, she’s the Boston-area program manager of “From the Top,” a public radio showcase for top-tier classical musicians age 8 to 18. Under her guidance, performers on the show also take part in workshops that explore how they can contribute to their communities through music.
As program manager, she draws on every aspect of her background, including the M.Ed. in Elementary Education with a focus on the arts she earned from Lesley in 2005.
In the workshops, “From the Top” musicians design outreach programs for local elementary schools, homeless shelters, senior residences, and hospitals. They create programs that introduce preschoolers to classical instruments, participate in a fundraising event such as Music for Food, and take part in mentoring younger musicians. These activities help broaden their definition of a music career beyond performing to include areas such as teaching, arts programming, and music therapy.
“It’s awesome to see the growth in these students, to catch the ‘aha’ moment when they say, ‘I never thought of that,’” Mavros says. At the same time, she notes, they’re connecting with audiences who otherwise might not visit a concert hall or listen to classical music.
By getting performers to think outside the practice room, Mavros also helps counter the isolation that can develop in the serious pursuit of music. “When you’re a young musician or artist, you have tunnel vision. You think, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’” she says. “When I had the opportunity to see the arts from a teacher’s viewpoint, it opened up wider possibilities for what you can do in the arts.”
She encourages the students to talk about how to integrate their music practice into the rest of their lives, including school and career. “The arts aren’t separate from academics or from work,” Mavros says, “They should be a part of everyone’s life.”