Acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted the 1950s CBS Radio program This I Believe. It featured compelling essays from noted individuals such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and ordinary folks from all walks of life…like you and me.
When NPR revived This I Believe in 2004, I was an avid listener. This I Believe, Inc. engaged youth and adults in writing and sharing brief essays about their core values. This I Believe essays became part of educational curricula internationally with guidance and resources available from thisiblieve.org. Collections of essays remain available through publications and podcasts.
You probably guess where I am going with my brief summation of this powerful initiative. I believe in the power of the arts through arts education.
Having recently retired from a full time professional career, I’m proud to have spent essentially a half century working in the arts and arts education. Oh, I’m not finished—I just no longer rise at 6:00 AM to commute to a professional workplace. Reflecting on my varied positions and responsibilities, I hope I have now somewhat acquired what I deem meaningful perspective and valuable insight/hindsight. Contributing to Any Given Child Indy as a member of the Professional Development Committee is an amazing opportunity to continue to support arts education. Following are a few reflections I believe provide evidence to corroborate and support the importance of enabling students through the power of arts education.
- I began, and continue, my arts career as a pianist—a performer and teacher. Our schools today provide keyboard and other instrumental learning for many students, the benefits of which are innumerable, including development of basic skills, self-confidence, and facilitation of learning in all subject areas. Any Given Child partnerships can help to provide such opportunities.
- Years as a public school music educator provided me with direct evidence of the positive impact music experiences can have for the many students I was privileged to teach. These years also convinced me that curriculum integration and collaboration was not only a far more interesting way to teach music, but also led to more meaningful connections and understandings.
- In 1996, Young Audiences of Indiana’s Executive Director, Anna S. White, hired me to coordinate and direct their new arts integration initiative, an annual summer institute for classroom teachers to learn and utilize arts content and practices to enhance student learning and understanding. I shared an office space with then Arts Partners Director JoEllen Florio Rossebo, who succeeded Anna White as the current President and CEO of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning. I am so proud of her leadership and her role as the Co-Chair of Any Given Child Indy’s Professional Development Committee.
- Encouraged by Larry Hurt, then Indiana Teacher of the Year and in whose memory the Arts Council annually presents Excellence in Arts Education Awards, I applied to become the Fine Arts Specialist for the Indiana Department of Education. My nine years there included developing, revising, and promoting the arts education standards in our state. Work with the curriculum team further elevated my understanding and belief in the power of arts integration. I hope that Indiana will soon move to revise our state arts standards to reflect the new National Core Arts Standards in the defined categories of creating art, performing/presenting/producing art, and responding to and connecting the arts to societal, cultural and historical contexts.
- Leaving IDOE through my teacher’s retirement, I believed more of my professional life was yet to unfold. I became the Assistant Coordinator for the International Baccalaureate (IB) certification process in my home school district of MSD Washington Township; all K-12 schools were becoming official IB World Schools. Arts are required in the IB curriculum; thus, schools do not attempt to reduce arts classes and teachers as a cost-saving measure.
- Three years later, it seemed logical to pursue a more “part time” professional role; so I then joined the Indiana Arts Commission as full time Community Development Manager and Arts Education Coordinator. Wow—what an incredible opportunity to cap off my career by developing a new arts integration program from the ground up! “Partnering Arts, Communities and Education” (PACE) established four pilot programs that recently completed their first full implementation year; associated assessments and positive resulting data confirmed the impact of extended arts experiences for students in these high poverty/low performing elementary schools.
I so value the collaborative work of individual artists and arts organizations with schools throughout my career! One activity in my newly “retired” status is volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association to bring arts experiences to early stage patients through visits to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Symphony, Dance Kaleidoscope, and more.
The arts are essential to the development of young lives and as we grow and mature. I am proud to continue my arts education work with Any Given Child—a vital opportunity to further promote the arts in education. THIS I BELIEVE!
About the Author
Sarah Fronczek is a pianist and a former school music educator, Indiana Department of Education Arts Specialist, and Arts Education Coordinator for the Indiana Arts Commission. She proudly serves on Any Given Child Indy’s Professional Development Committee.
Voices for Any Given Child Indy is an initiative that gives leaders in the Indianapolis community the opportunity to focus on issues in arts education and in the community, as well as their personal investment in the success of Any Given Child Indy. Be on the look out for new posts from community leaders on anygivenchildindy.org.