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Keys to a Successful Artist Residency
©2005 Steve Schuch / Night Heron Music
residency Roots go down, leaves come up
With a bit of care and a measure of luck
The Trees of Life will yet grow tall
The seed’s inside of us all

     –Steve Schuch, Trees of Life
Like quality education or childhood itself, quality art is not mass-produced according to generic specifications. It takes time, and a personal connection. With good planning and teamwork, an artist residency can become a one-of-a-kind experience that continues to blossom long after the final concert is over.

What makes an artist residency different from a regular concert or workshop? To me, it is two things: time and depth.

A Closeup Example:
Effingham Elementary School



Residency Enhancements
Consider including an enrichment workshop for chorus, orchestra, foreign language classes, drama club, art classes, etc.





"Life is a Symphony... play your part!"
Steve Schuch



music and tales of ireland

Residencies offer a chance to plant seeds, all of which take time to germinate, grow, and blossom. Perhaps it is the first chance for a child to fall in love up close with a violin, a melody, or a story and character from another place and time. Often teachers and parents come away inspired to share more creative time with their children. They may take up creative writing or learning an instrument themselves. Ideally the visiting artist goes away with inspiration for new material too.

Like a tree supported by the roots and soil underground, part of the success of a residency depends on all the unseen preparation that happens in the weeks and months before the artist ever arrives. Working as a team, the community coordinator, teachers, and visiting artist ask each other questions such as:

  • What is special about the about this community and this residency?
  • What projects are classes doing at the school?
  • How can everyone best work together on cross-curricular projects?
  • What have other guest artists done before? What do people hope to see come from this time together?

Some of my goals for an Artist Residency include to:
• Create an in-depth experience between the artist, students, teachers and community
• Model integrating the arts into classroom curriculum
• Foster the children’s own creativity and a lasting love of the arts

What are your goals?

The Planning Team
It helps if folks at the school are already used to “integrated arts” and working together on larger cross-curricular projects. Key people to involve might include the music teacher, librarian, principal or assistant principal, art teacher... obviously the enrichment coordinator if your school is lucky enough to have one! While the team will be different at every school, the key is to keep everyone in the loop. This applies to the Planning stages, the Preparation, as well as during the actual Residency. Ask for everyone’s input and requests. Then communicate all this back to me in a timely fashion.

Advance Planning
The key to getting the most out of any arts residency is advance planning. Often the enrichment coordinator, librarian, music teacher, and art teacher are part of the planning team. In consultation with me, they plan the overall themes and schedule.

After deciding on core themes and classes to work with, don’t stop there! Consider including an enrichment workshop for chorus, orchestra, foreign language classes, drama club, art classes, etc. Likewise a Parent or Educator workshop. See our full range of Workshops.

In turn, the team coordinator sends me details about things such as:
• Goals for the Residency
• Curricular Themes (the more detail about what different grades are doing, the better)
• Special needs or requests I should be aware of
• Schedule (make sure teachers will be with their classes for all workshops... ideally it’s great to involve the music teacher and art teacher in the workshops too)

Prep Materials
I generally send Prep Materials to the school a month or two in advance of the residency. As an author and composer, my packet includes multiple copies of my books and CD’s, full Lyric Sheets and Suggested Activities. It includes suggestions for Whole Language activities and Integrated Arts projects. To prepare students for the books, there are background Geography and History materials. The music teacher should keep one set of CD’s to work with; the extras are for all the teachers and specialists to share. Don’t forget the art teacher and reading specialist! The CD booklets offer further suggestions on using the music and songs in the classroom.

In addition to working with my books and recordings, classes often create art murals or hallway exhibits. They might work on creative writing or journals, or other activities related to the residency theme and workshops we’ll be doing. Are there people in town students might want to interview, or a community project that might tie in with the residency?

Real Life Examples
I’ve done lots of different Artist Residencies, from elementary schools to high schools, from New England to Alaska and even Europe. Each one has been wonderful in its own way. Some have focused on a school wide theme, such as Songs & Tales Around the World, Oceans & Whales, Songs & Tales of the Earth, Music & Tales of Ireland, etc. Some schools have identified a more general goal, such as building a sense of community, increasing tolerance, or understanding racial/ethnic differences.

A residency might be focused specifically on song writing, creative writing, or storytelling. Or it might include all of these. In a middle school or high school setting, I offer a full range of different workshops appropriate to specific classes. These can include choral workshops for chorus students, a storytelling or poetry workshop for English classes, music/art workshops for art classes, and a bilingual music and slide program for Spanish and Biology classes on the reforestation work I did with Peace Corps in South America. If there’s a special workshop you’d like included, ask for it!

A Close Up Example - Effingham Elementary School
Effingham is a small town in northern New Hampshire. The elementary school teachers and community coordinator sent me all kinds of background on the town, themes at the school, what other guest artists had done, and a tape with the story of the town bell. They suggested one special need was to bolster their town/school image.

In turn, I sent a set of my recordings to the school about a month ahead of time with suggestions for specific songs I hoped to include in the residency. This way, the teachers and children already knew my songs and a part of me before I’d even arrived. It also made it easy for them to join me on several of the songs for the final evening performance.

Before the residency, I asked if the children at the school could do some drawings or writing for me. Some of the questions they were to answer, whether by words or pictures, included:

“I was born in a place that....”
“In Effingham, one of my favorite things to do is....”
“I’ve heard that in earlier times in Effingham....”
“When I’m old someday, I hope Effingham will still....”

thinking!Their responses became part of the final group song we wrote. Their drawings and poems were displayed on the walls of the gym for the final evening performance and later exhibited over at the town hall. But more importantly, this was a way for the children to explore their feelings about their community, about their home. It provided a way to for them to express those feelings, and a way for all of us to share them together in an evening of song.

Where the Ossipee runs to the sea
And Revere’s bell still tolls liberty
All around our Green Mountain
Where the air is good to breathe
Effingham is home to me
Effingham is home to me
       –Steve Schuch

Suggestions for Further Reading
Reflections on the Arts & the Nature of Education by Steve Schuch

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
The Kind of Schools We Need by Elliot Eisner
Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas

Trees of Life Activity Guide

Recordings & Books
Trees of Life & other CD’s by Steve Schuch
A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch
Seedstars & Tomato Patches by Steve Schuch

About the Author (view full Artist Biography)
STEVE SCHUCH has delighted audiences of all ages across the U.S. and Europe. Classically trained on violin, he also is an award-winning author, singer/songwriter and storyteller. Venues range from schools and town halls to symphony orchestras and The Kennedy Center.

Haunting violin and whale calls... music and tales of Ireland... a pizzicato interpretation of a Picasso painting... these are just part of Steve’s wide-ranging repertoire. Honors include composer awards, PBS soundtracks and five fiddling championships. Steve’s recordings with The Night Heron Consort are national best sellers. His musical story, A Symphony of Whales, has received five national book awards, and his children’s recording, Trees of Life, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

For four years Steve taught a graduate course on integrating music and storytelling into classroom curriculum. A former Audubon naturalist and Peace Corps volunteer, he lives on a farm with his wife and various creatures. Personal interests include white water canoeing, Mexican food and relating to large reptiles.

We also recommend visiting Performances, Workshops for All Ages, Specialized Workshops, Workshops for Educators & Parents, Recordings, Books, and School Assemblies.

Night Heron Music • 72 Meeting Hill Road, Hillsborough, NH 03244 • USA
• ph (603) 464-4321 •

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