The Lifetime Importance of the Arts

by Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director

Erin Nolan_Karana and JuliaFWP2012

Photo by Erin Nolan

In my travels I get to meet communities across the country. Last month I was in Lansing and Ann Arbor, celebrating Judi and Glen Morningstar with the 2013 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award (LCA). The warmth and joy that exuded from that evening was a testimony to the Morningstars’ work and the community they helped build. Many thanks to the Ann Arbor Community of Traditional Music and Dance and all the participants for the wonderful celebration!

The following week, in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to dance and meet with dancers from Dance Discovery and I got to dance with Dr. John Ramsay, himself a LCA recipient (2010). Dance Discovery performed one of their dances and there were two wonderful morris performances at the break. Dancer/photographer Doug Plummer was visiting and took some wonderful photos; thanks, Doug! I also danced and met with callers and musicians associated with Childgrove Country Dancers. It was wonderful to dance with the St. Louis community, and to participate in their Calling Party—here’s a video of one of the dances we vetted:

DeniseSmith_ogontz family week 144

Photo by Denise Smith

A core focus of the work of the Morningstars and Dr. Ramsay is working with young people, students and homeschoolers. Teaching dance, music and song to young folks is important to CDSS and so is reaching out to teachers—classroom teachers, PE teachers and music teachers—to use traditional dance, music and song in the schools. In fact, this is an important programmatic priority for CDSS.

The arts can play a crucial role in improving students’ abilities to learn, because they draw on a range of intelligences and learning styles, not just the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences upon which most schools are based. (See Eloquent Evidence: Arts at the Core of Learning, President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, talking about Howard Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1995.)

BarbaraDyskant_R6. Kids Out with Peter U3 IMG_2647

Photo by Barbara Dyskant

Recently, CDSS member David Wiley, president of the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society, and caller/CDSS staffer Nils Fredland, accompanied by Sassafras Stomp, visited Washington Elementary in Kingsport, TN to provide a contra dance workshop for teachers and students. They worked with 40 kindergarteners and first graders, along with their PE, music and classroom teachers. Read Nils’ blog post about the event.

We know adults care about arts in school. Not just parents! According to the Americans for the Arts national public opinion survey:

  • 95% of respondents believe the arts teach intangibles such as creativity, self-expression and individualism;
  • 91% of respondents believe the arts are vital to a well-rounded education;
  • 89% percent of respondents believe that arts education is important enough that schools should find the money to ensure inclusion in the curriculum;
  • BUT 67% of adults say they do not know how to get involved.

CDSS can help you get involved!!!

As we’ve shared last year, CDSS is working hard to provide resources for public schools to use traditional dance, music and song as tools to educate their students. We’re continuing our work. This is not a new priority for our community, but CDSS has recommitted our organization to the task. We have our Lifetime Contribution Awardees and so many others who’ve paved the way to thank for strengthening our efforts and allowing us to support their accomplishments.

Thank you, Dr. John Ramsay. Thank you, Glen and Judi Morningstar. We’re following your lead, passing on traditions to the next generation, training teachers, and, with the help of our members and donors, making sure we have tools for busy school teachers to use dance, music and song well. Help us help teachers on Valley Gives Day this Thursday, 12/12/13.

VG event-logoCDSS wants to create online toolkits to help more teachers, schools, kids and parents across the country enjoy dancing activities in their classrooms and communities. Your donation to CDSS on 12.12.13, Valley Gives Day, will support this project and CDSS outreach. (You can schedule your donation ahead of time by going to that same link.)