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AdvocAcy Cultural Concerts Ellen Mahoney T he lights go down in the assembly and the music starts. Images appear on the large screen, signaling the start of the annual Culture Concert series. For twenty-five years, the Buckley School has been providing a concert series for kindergarten through twelfth graders presented by the visual and performing arts departments. These concerts survey the arts from around the world and across the centuries. The programs are developed by the faculty of our visual and performing arts departments with the intent to show our students the close connection between the events of a historical period and how creative ideas are shared across the disciplines of the visual and performing arts. collaborative Themes concert that examined the history and The themes we select for the Culture music of Rodgers and Hammerstein Concerts are often incorporated into matched with the paintings of Northe visual and performing arts lessons man Rockwell to illustrate the midleading up to the twentieth century Hearing and seeing assembly through American experithe artwork, outstanding performing ence. The themes dances, and music talent—from opera singers for the concerts that are developed have ranged from and blues bands to dance showing the crein the classroom. companies and our own ative expressions of Frequently, student talented students— performers are a historical period the main focus of to the contribuhas been fantastic. the concerts, but tions of individual we also tap into the resources of Los performing and visual artists. Angeles by bringing in professional Digital presentations and the Intermusicians and dance troupes. net have greatly expedited the process Professional performers involved of creating the visual art presentawith the concerts often follow up with tions for the concerts. But preparation workshops for students. Themes for for the concerts does require a large the Culture Concerts have explored time commitment. Working with the the concepts involved with the performing arts teachers to distill school's theatrical productions. For common threads between the two disOklahoma!, we presented a culture ciplines for each concert is an enrich12 October 2012 SchoolArts ing professional experience that has enhanced my own knowledge. The visual Art component In presenting the visual arts part of the concert, I focus on the major points and images to weave the story together so that it can be told in ten or fifteen slides. There is always a looped presentation running as students enter the assembly that includes images, phrases, maps, dates, and portraits to provide students with reference points before we begin the concert. We perform a shorter version for grades kindergarten through fifth, and a forty-minute concert for grades six through twelve. The series is supported by funds from the parent association and the school budget. Benefits The benefits of the Culture Concerts series have been many. The experience of hearing and seeing live outstanding performing talent—from opera singers and blues bands to dance companies and our own talented students—has been fantastic. The weaving together of the range of ideas and art forms has given students an understanding of the reflection of a time and place in the arts. The tradition of the Culture Concerts at our school has created awareness among our students not only of a range of artists and performers, but more importantly, of the ideas behind creative works. Ellen Mahoney is visual arts department chair at the Buckley School, Sherman Oaks, California. firstname.lastname@example.org