If you’re the sole music teacher at your small Quaker school, where do you go to talk with other performing arts teachers? The Friends Council’s Performing Arts Peer Network!
Heather Fortune, Performing Arts Department Chair at Friends Select School and a graduate of Friends Council's Institute for Engaging Leadership (IELFS) has been convening this widely diverse group of artists for the past two years. Educators who specialize in choral music, music theory, theater arts, all sorts of instrumentalists - come together on zoom to share inspiration and ideas.
This kind of professional support is especially needed since the pandemic hit in spring 2020 and educators shifted from in person teaching and performing to creating virtual learning opportunities and performance. Colleagues from across the United States met in February 2021 to give each other a “shot in the arm” (figuratively).
Sharing ranged from a description of one school’s collaboration with a nearby public school to tips for getting students to warm up and perform with each other. One teacher remarked that their primary focus in the performance-based zoom classes is “Are the kids having fun? Am I having fun?” Another educator shared that it can be a struggle to help students feel safe to be creative. “We are not in the private theater space where we can practice and make mistakes without people seeing. Now we’re in our homes, where parents can see us.”
The group concluded in the way that all Friends Council gatherings do - with some shared silence and time to reflect on, “how does this connection and our art bring us joy?"