BWW Blog: Meet Lisa Beth Vettoso, Director of Educational Programming at ARB
Well, the time has come; it's September. And while some may try to deny it ("Summer isn't officially over until September 22!"), all of us in the education world know it can only mean one thing-the official start of the school year. Facebook is flooded with back-to-school photos and there's a crackle of excitement in the air (soon to be displaced by groans about waking up early and homework).
And although it is 9 months into the calendar year, September is when my year begins. That is because education, specifically arts education, is not only an integral part of who I am, it is what I do. As the Director of Educational Programming for American Repertory Ballet (ARB), I oversee the organization's Access & Enrichment department, including DANCE POWER, our flagship school residency program.
DANCE POWER, now in its 29th year, is the longest-running uninterrupted arts and community partnership in New Jersey, serving students in the New Brunswick school system. Each year, ARB Teaching Artists bring the DANCE POWER curriculum into 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms in two unique residencies: a process-based residency for 2nd graders that connects dance with language arts learning, and a production-based residency with 3rd graders that concludes with a community performance. Each year, 32 of those students are offered scholarships to continue dancing at ARB's affiliated Princeton Ballet School, and they can keep these scholarships through the 12th grade.
For one student each year, DANCE POWER's scholarship extends even to the college level. In 2001, the legendary Gregory Hines, DANCE POWER's Honorary Chair, endowed a scholarship at Rutgers University that earmarks annual funds for a DANCE POWER student to attend the university.
DANCE POWER's mission is simple: "Every child should have the opportunity to experience the joy and discipline of dancing."
And at the beginning of another school year, my focus becomes how to improve and expand our efforts to better achieve that mission.
The arts have had a profound effect on my life, enriching me both personally and professionally, and I believe that every child has the right to experience those rewards through an education that includes the arts. There are a variety of arguments both philosophical and political to support how and why we need to make arts education a given for all students, but right now, my mind keeps coming back to one word: partnership.
When I look back over my life and my own artistic experiences, I see the faces of those who were vital in allowing me the opportunity to engage in the arts: my parents, my teachers, my directors and my choreographers, and my fellow dancers, actors, and musicians.
Likewise, our DANCE POWER program has stood the test of time because of the people that have stood behind it: the administrators, the teachers, the teaching artists - all working together. They come together because they know that beyond the frustration of scheduling and testing, there is a child who is stepping foot onstage for the first time to perform a dance in front of his family and friends. And in that moment, as the lights come up and pride washes over that child's face, it is all worth it.
So here's to another year of working together to create programs that allow our children the opportunity to dance, to sing, to draw, to express, and to grow. Happy September, everyone!