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VOICES: Women in the Arts

Caldwell Fine Arts

Our VOICES program focused on 2020 to celebrate women’s voices in the arts. We also helped students become great arts patrons and learn appropriate audience behavior. This was accomplished through the following programs.

ARCIS SAXOPHONE QUARTET met with Mr. Curt Griffeth’s Vallivue High School Band. Arcis played several selections from their concert program, including a Gershwin Suite from Porgy and Bess that the students really appreciated. 

STRONG WOMEN OF IDAHO by master songwriter and storyteller Gary Eller entertained students of Lakeridge Elementary to a fun outreach featuring true stories from Idaho History, famous women pioneers of Idaho and his own compositions chronicling the events.

LIVING VOICES shared the powerful struggle of women’s rights to vote and have their voices heard in the moving one-person play, Living Voices, “Hear My Voice”. The performance was shared at Anser Charter School, Syringa Middle School, Nampa Library, and Canyon County Historical Society

LEGENDS OF COYOTE was performed with puppets, masks, and costumes inspired by Northwest Native American art. The fourth grade students at Van Buren Elementary were treated to a school assembly and a free community performance was also held and sponsored by the Caldwell Public Library for all patrons to enjoy.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

What happens when (artists) allow an understanding of the world to inform perceptions about (the arts)?

The specific answers to  include: TH:Cn11.1.8.(and grade level variations) a. Use different forms of drama/theatre work to examine contemporary social, cultural, or global issues.

The LIVING VOICES program pushed students to examine the issues surrounding women’s rights by observing a dramatic presentation. LEGENDS OF COYOTE similarly looked at the Native arts and gained a deeper appreciation for cultural differences and similarities.

MU:Pr4.2.7c (and grade level variations) Identify how cultural and historical context inform performance and results in different music interpretations.

It was exciting to see ARCIS interact with Vallivue HS students. They took questions from the students, who gained a deeper appreciation for the German musicians, and the differences in music education in the two countries. They also were able to see a female brass musician playing at the highest level, in a genre often dominated by male performers. 

Students enjoying STRONG WOMEN OF IDAHO saw how important history was in the work of Gary Eller. They saw that his songs were part of preserving that cultural heritage.  

MU:Pr6.1.7b (and grade level variations) Demonstrate performance decorum (such as stage presence, attire, and behavior) and audience etiquette appropriate for venue, purpose, and context.

All students were coached on proper etiquette for the situation and responded in a great way to every performance. They learned when it is time to participate, and when it is time to be still. They also learned how to appropriately show appreciation in different situations. 

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

After the ARCIS performance at Vallivue High School, one 16-year old clarinet player responded: “It was so cool to see how they were so unified because they sounded like they have been playing together forever. They really know how to blend. It was just really cool. I was smiling the whole time. Half the saxophone players at my school are girls, so it was cool to see a female playing at that level. She was totally amazing. I wish we sounded like that in band. It gives me something to work towards.”

Students were very engaged with the LIVING VOICES presentation. Students at Syringa Middle School told us that they had no idea that women were so limited in their rights just 100 years ago. “Thank you for bringing this program to our school. Such a powerful message and so moving.”

Gary Eller engaged students with his stories and songs about STRONG WOMEN OF IDAHO. The students at Lakeridge Elementary School were excited to participate. They played instruments and sang, “And Here we Have Idaho” for Mr. Eller at the conclusion of the program.

The audiences for LEGENDS OF COYOTE were young, but still learned appropriate audience behavior. Ryan, a 9-year-old at Van Buren Elementary commented: “My favorite part was when the coyote got stuck in the tree and the eagle ran around the audience and told us all to laugh at him.”


Our programs were successful endeavors to shine a spotlight on women in and through the arts. Living Voices: Hear my Voice was the focal point for our programming, highlighting the 100th Anniversary of Woman’s Suffrage in the United States. I was so surprised to learn that many girls in our school system didn’t even know that women didn’t have equal rights in our recent history. This program exposed them to valuable theatre experience, but also was a powerful lens for examining social issues. Other programs added to this impact, with Arcis Saxophone Quartet showcasing women reaching great heights in the brass world and stories of strong women who helped shape Idaho.

All of our arts opportunities this year also helped to support our goal of helping students in the Districts we serve become successful arts patrons. Many of the students who participate in projects are socioeconomically disadvantaged and don’t have opportunities for things like music lessons, dance class, or theatre camps. Our programs provide them a chance to be exposed to many kinds of artistic expression. We also coach them on how to be successful audience members so they feel comfortable enjoying a variety of performances. We hope that this success will flow into other areas of their lives, as they participate in the arts, or excel in whatever they are passionate about.   


This year was definitely memorable, with COVID-19 striking towards the end of our programming. At the beginning of March, schools were wary about inviting in outside visitors, and our Living Voices didn’t reach as many as we had planned. Likewise, our author visit for April was completely cancelled due to school closures. We were able to fit one visit in by Gary Eller, but planned Spring programs didn’t happen. Even with the challenging circumstances, we had a great year and are proud of our accomplishments.

These experiences have moved Caldwell Fine Arts to grow and develop in positive ways. We are forced to consider multiple ways of reaching students in the future, and meeting needs of our community through alternate paths. Like most hard things, we have already learned much, and we are eager to continue to promote the arts in a creative and flexible way. For the coming season, even our back-up plans have back-up plans, but we know we’ll move forward and continue to serve our community.