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Leveling the Playing Field: Arts Access for Rural Idaho

Music Theatre of Idaho

The Mission of the Music Theatre of Idaho is to provide rich and varied opportunities for performers and patrons by exploring the vast array of musical theatre literature available. To reach across economic boundaries in preparing and presenting programs and services to as many members of the community as possible, not only through our traditional production program, but also through the programs and services we currently offer, including ARTS IN EDUCATION (out of school performances, visiting artists), and ARTS FOR EVERYONE (low cost/no cost season tickets). The MTI will provide outreach and education based programming to students and teachers, aimed at Arts Access, and Inclusion of all audiences (with particular attention to those with special needs, or who are at risk).

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do we level the playing field, creating arts access for more children in rural Idaho?

Music Theatre of Idaho ARTS IN EDUCATION project: Leveling the Playing Field: Providing Outreach and Access to the arts for Idaho Students. This project provided outreach, especially to children in rural schools, in order to provide access to professional quality arts opportunities, through their schools and in the community.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Identified standards included student’s being able to view and discuss productions on a variety of levels, based on age and grade appropriateness. Students and teachers noted a growth in discussion and talking points from the pre show survey and the follow up. Students grew in their ability to use production related vocabulary, as well as depth of knowledge and understanding.

Impact

The Music Theatre of Idaho relies heavily on two assessment techniques in order to evaluate participants demonstration of newly-acquired knowledge. First, we hold an open forum discussion following each performance. Students are allowed to formulate and ask critical questions, based on their training and their audience experience. Performers and technicians answer these questions for the entire audience. Second, a carefully designed survey tool is used to query educators on their student’s experience. These surveys lay out the specific goals and objectives of the project and asks educators to honestly evaluate their students skill base. The tool also asks teachers to identify the high points of the project, and what we might do better in the future. We also encourage letters from the students, perhaps with a specifically themed approach, such as identifying their favorite character, and then telling us how the character was different in the book literature and in the script. Or, perhaps asking their favorite part of the musical, and then asking them to detail why this part of the production appealed to them the most. Idaho Humanities Standards for Theatre, 2:1-2:2 addresses the students ability to address analysis of the dramatic form in an increasingly sophisticated manner, as the student progresses.

Reflection

Teachers were offered the opportunity to complete a workshop during the month of August, before the start of the Fall term for most schools. This workshop, taught at the MTI, by professional personnel included ideas on mapping the Humanities Standards to classroom activities. Early interest and curiosity in the project will be built by professional designed email teasers, post cards and word of mouth. Many teachers have already participated in our programs and word of mouth is our biggest anticipation builder. Generally we have teachers calling us months ahead of a program announcement in order to get their names on the “list.” Teachers will meet with MTI professional education personnel and help plan activities, syllabi and curriculum. MTI personnel will workshop with teachers, for each grade level and standard. Ideas for lesson plans and learning activities will be offered. Teachers who participate will be given valuable resources, such as a specifically designed study guide, audio recordings, video teaching aides and other materials.

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