“Every artist was first an amateur.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

My May articles for the past few years have focused on the arts as an integral part of our human development. Educational research that examines the learning processes beginning with Plato, has emphasized the importance of the arts as part of our development and scholarship. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education continues to partner with local arts agencies, arts companies, and art associations all in promotion of the humanities. Humanities are described as academic disciplines that study human culture.  Humanities researchers detail the arts as one of the defining characteristics of the human species and we must consider fine arts as a critical component of our academic experience at all levels. Community arts education outreach such as those with the Clark Center, the Performing Arts Center, Opera San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Orchestra Novo, Symphony of the Vine, Studios on the Park, the SLO Jazz Festival, and the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, just to mention a few, all enrich humanities opportunities for students on the Central Coast.

During May of 2017 nearly 3,200 north county students, faculty and staff gathered to enjoy “Peter and the Wolf: Telling Stories Through Music” a Countywide Arts Collaboration bringing together the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo, radio talk show host Dave Congalton, and the OperaSLO Grand Orchestra conducted by Artistic Director Brian Asher Alhadeff in a new ballet version of Sergie Prokofiev’s classical tale for narrator and orchestra.  This year Vina Robles has again agreed to graciously host a production of “Peter Pan,” another Countywide Arts Collaborative sponsored by the Paso Robles Education Alliance, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, Professor David Burt, and Virginia Severa.  “Live theatre is a team sport and the performing arts are relevant and necessary for children to experience frequently,” says Maestro Alhadeff. OperaSLO is also working with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education to provide student-sponsored tickets, a student-generated art exhibit in the foyer of the Performing Arts Center displayed during the Mothers’ Day weekend performances of Oklahoma, and several arts outreach programs in our schools featuring high quality local talent. Vina Robles is hosting Symphony at Sunset for a third consecutive year this June 10th and offering free admission to students 16 and younger accompanied by an adult. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education is currently partnering with Vina Robles and multiple arts agencies throughout the county to provide humanities-based opportunities for Central Coast youth.

Café Musique recently shared their musical gifts and talent with the Shandon Joint Unified School District as part of a grant provided by Mary Bianco.  Brynn Albanese’s violin and vocals, along with Duane Inglish’s accordion, Fred Murray’s Bass, and Eric Williams’ guitar provided an experience north county students will surely remember.  The D’Anbino tasting room in Paso Robles doubles as one of the best live jazz venues on the central coast and regularly features local music students, artists, and graduates all exploring the musical arts. Venue owners Carmine and Joann Rubino hosted one of my leadership meetings, shared aspects of sound engineering, Career and Technical Education, and educational outreach opportunities. Orchestra Novo’s partnership with the Grizzly Youth Academy provides exposure to the arts for some of our most at risk youth.  Programs such as these all enrich arts education for our youth.

Arts education refers to scholarship in the disciplines of music, dance, theater, and visual arts. A study in the arts is integral to our society and our human spirit. The arts have connected with many parts of the American cultural heritage. Philosophers state that the arts are what make us most human, and most complete as a people.  Research teaches us that the arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than we can acquire math or science through osmosis. Education and engagement in the fine arts are an essential part of the school curriculum and an important component of the educational program for every student. Decades of research data exists to support the study and participation in the fine arts as an essential element in improving all academic areas.  Involvement in the arts has been shown to reduce student dropout, raise student attendance, develop better team behaviors, foster a love of learning, improve student dignity, enhance student creativity, and better prepare citizens for the workplace.   I thank the many organizations that have accepted the challenge and opportunity to share the arts with our Central Coast youth. It is my hope that this article will provide an impetus for continued discussion about the benefits of an education that includes the fine arts (music, art, dance and theater).  I am proud to serve as your County Superintendent of School and to advocate for arts education.

“Creativity takes courage.”

~Henri Matisse