There are currently 130 Sing for Hope Citizen Artist Schools in New York City. In partnership with the NYC Department of Education, we selected these schools through a competitive RFP process to become permanent homes for the Sing for Hope Pianos featured each June. In addition to receiving a Sing for Hope Piano, each school also gets our Citizen Artist Curriculum, a program that helps teachers empower students to use creativity and the arts to enact positive social change. The curriculum includes a specially-curated Citizen Artist Opening Assembly featuring our roster of world-class Artist Partners; a monthly online teacher resource guide including articles, lesson plans, and student contests; and the opportunity to host additional free workshops led by SFH Artist Partners on a variety of art forms throughout the year.
One key to this rich and successful partnership? It’s not only between the adults. When we meet the young new owners of the Sing for Hope Pianos at their Citizen Artist Opening Assembly, we tell them the story of their piano and the meaning behind the project. We end by giving the students a charge. “Do you promise to be your Sing for Hope Piano’s buddy, keeping it safe and in good playing condition? Do you promise to be your Piano’s musician, playing it, singing to it, and using it with other instruments? Do you promise to be a Citizen Artist, using your piano and your creativity for a greater purpose that even we can’t predict?”
We are asking them to love and protect the Piano, to use it well, and to use the arts to give back. That’s a tall order. Luckily, they have their teachers to support them, and resources provided by Sing for Hope. In its inaugural year, the Citizen Artist Curriculum is the cornerstone of that package. That curriculum includes resources for teachers to integrate into their regular programming: full, dynamic lessons that teach students about using art to give back to the community. The most recent module features lessons on Citizen Artistry through music, dance, and theater. The curriculum also provides opportunities for engagement beyond the school community, including student contests and opportunities for workshops with Sing for Hope staff and Artist Partners.
These interactive artistic workshops cover diverse art forms, but all have the underlying theme of Citizen Artistry. One of the most popular offerings is Sing for Hope’s West African Dance Workshop, led by Sing for Hope Program Manager Frank Malloy. To date, over 600 students across 20+ schools have participated in the workshop with “Mr. Frank,” who has performed all his life, including as the Musical Director of his parents’ performing company Harambee Dance Company.
Frank and the Sing for Hope team adapt the fun and challenging workshop to fit the unique needs of each age group. No matter how complex the particular dance moves, or how many minutes the group spends clapping rhythms to Frank’s drum, one clear theme emerges: pure joy.
Students explore the history, movements, and drumbeats of a traditional Malian/Guinean dance. All throughout the workshop, as students learn the components of each movement and become more comfortable with the physical execution of the dance, they return to that central idea of Citizen Artistry: the power to communicate, and for the dance (or for art of any kind) to have a greater meaning.
Our Citizen Artist Schools will have many more opportunities to expose their students to new art forms in our upcoming singing, improv, and visual arts workshops.