Friday, March 25, 2011

A Very Fine Arts Festival

My son’s school had a fine arts festival last night. The students’ artwork was on display and the kids gave a concert. But it was not exactly what you might think. Not unless you were expecting Cubism and psychedelic rock.

The first thing that tipped me off that this was no ordinary school arts festival was when I saw that the artwork was not simply a disparate collection of art done by the students, but rather was inspired and organized by the art movements of Impressionism, Cubism, Still Life, and Pointillism. Even among the first graders, the art teacher had introduced the students to the art movements that changed history in a way that they could understand and enjoy. The students were then challenged to use their newfound knowledge to create their own works of art, which were on display last night.

When I was in first grade, my own artwork, if you could even call it that, consisted of rudimentary stick figures or simple drawings of the sun or moon. It would be more than two decades before I would learn of Cubism or any of the other art movements. And so, I appreciated this surprising art festival as much as any I had ever been to.

The concert was organized by a similarly progressive-minded music teacher. In class, the students learned of the famous classical composers like Bach and Chopin and Stravinsky. But, on this night, the songs they performed were of a different era.

I am used to kids concerts where the songs are the usual standards we’ve come to expect at these sorts of things. But, there was no “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” at this one.

Instead, the older kids (3rd through 5th graders) kicked off the concert with “She Don’t Use Jelly,” a song originally done by the psychedelic alternative rock band the Flaming Lips. I have to admit that I had not heard of the Flaming Lips before last night. But, this inventive and fun performance has me curious to learn more about them.

The next tune was another unexpected choice, the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy arrangement of the R. Kelly song “The World’s Greatest.” Now, perhaps I am out of touch, but I would be surprised to find very many R. Kelly songs being sung at other school concerts.

When the older kids were done, my son’s group went up to perform. They sang the Buddy Holly classic, “Peggy Sue” and the Beatles’ “Ob - La - Di, Ob - La - Da.”

My son stood out. Kai sang loudly, enthusiastically, and with much expression, if not so much on key. We know that the boy standing next to Kai is sensitive to loud noises and so he was annoyed by Kai’s singing. My wife was grimacing at times, but I was smiling the whole time. A shy boy he is not. It was great to see him express his love of music.

And so, the evening was more than just a fine arts festival. It was a glimpse into the education my son is getting. School should be about much more than reading and math. It should be about expanding horizons, fostering creativity, learning from the past, and building the foundation for a great future.

I saw that in my son’s school. You can’t have a better evening than that.

Check out our Facebook page to see a few examples of Kai's artwork.

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