Statewide Initiative Involves Celebrity Artist to Connect Schools and Communities

News Release — Community Engagement Lab
March 17, 2017

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GRAMMY-winning jazz guitarist John Jorgensen to perform four Vermont concerts, spotlighting students’ creativity

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Thirty-nine teachers from 15 schools in nine communities around Vermont are involved in an ambitious and creative enterprise involving world-renowned jazz guitarist John Jorgensen. The year-long, multi-disciplinary, cross-curricular project will culminate in April when Jorgensen – who has played with such diverse musicians as Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti and Bonnie Raitt – performs at four community concerts in April in Stowe, Barre, Randolph and Brattleboro.

Empowered by their classroom teachers and teaching artists – who began working with Jorgensen in June when he came to Vermont for the Vermont Creative Schools Initiative – students began exploring exploring questions: What if kids were in charge? What does it mean to belong? What does “equality for all” mean in the place where we live? Some of their work created during this exploration will be showcased on stage when the John Jorgensen Quintet comes to Vermont.

The Vermont Creative Schools Initiative is a program of the Montpelier-based Community Engagement Lab, which has been running such programs for several years. Last year, the CEL brought superstar percussionist Evelyn Glennie to the state, to work with teachers and to perform with grade school and high school students who created theater, visual art, stories, poetry, and music.

This year the program expanded, challenging even more students. At Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury, for example, students asked the question “What if kids were in charge?” and designed a plan to refurbish their dilapidated playground. With the help of their teachers and teaching artist Barbara Paulson from the No Strings Marionette Co., they mapped their project, surveyed students, and created a puppet show and song about the playground which they presented to the school and community in February. Teachers praised the project for involving the students not just in a creative endeavor but in “responsible and involved citizenship,” one of the transferable skills that are an integral part of Vermont’s Education Quality Standards.

The students and their puppets will be on stage with Jorgensen when he appears at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe on April 7.

In addition to the Stowe appearance, Jorgensen performs at the Barre Opera House on April 6 (along with the string orchestra from U32 High School), at the Chandler Center for the Arts on April 8 (showcasing work from Randolph high school) and at the Latchis Theater on April 9 (highlighting work from seven schools in the Brattleboro area).

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