Introducing Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE)

Since 2006, ASTEP has worked to harness the power of the arts to help children break the cycles of poverty they were born into. Still, we understand all too well that barriers to access and opportunity don’t cease when one enters adulthood — in fact, for many of our students and colleagues from historically marginalized communities, the industries they enter harbor their own interlocking and mutually-reinforcing biases. Broadway is not immune to this. That is why we are beyond proud to partner with MUSE, a multi-racial collective of Music Directors, Arrangers, Orchestrators, and Composers working to develop pipelines for musicians of color who aim to work in theater but are seldom granted access. Committed to cultivating more racial equity in the industry, MUSE will partner with like-minded organizations to offer, among other services: a free online database of musicians of color, music assistant fellowships, mentorship opportunities, education, outreach and more.

Please click here to learn more about this exciting and necessary new initiative.

NYC Food Resources

We are proud to maintain longstanding relationships with incredible communities across New York City, made up of individuals affected by homelessness, HIV/AIDS, the justice system, and immigration status, among other challenges. We have seen through our partnerships that these communities are resilient, loving, and brave. Our students and their families are facing many obstacles during this pandemic, one of which is food scarcity.

If food scarcity is affecting you, your family, or your community, these resources may be able to help.

Free meals are available to every New Yorker at 400 locations
-Text ‘NYC FOOD’ or ‘NYC COMIDA’ to 877-877 to find food pick-up locations or for more information

Food for vulnerable and food-insecure New Yorkers
-The City has created the #GetFoodNYC Food Delivery Program to provide food for coronavirus-vulnerable and food-insecure New Yorkers not currently served through existing food delivery programs. This is a food delivery service for people who are unable to go outside for food. This program delivers two meals to each person in the household, every day.

One week of free groceries are available to all New Yorkers in five boroughs at the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) Nutrition Kitchens, in partnership with the Food Bank of NYC and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)
-Learn More: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/neon/programs/nutrition-kitchen.page

These resources are available to anyone who needs food, regardless of age, student status, employment status, or immigration status.

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Gabriela Garcia

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Gabriela Garcia!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
Because their mission inspires me and I believe that giving back and sharing enriches our lives.

¿Por qué haces voluntariado con ASTEP?
Por que su misión me inspira y pienso que el dar y compartir nos enriquece la vida.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Uff, there are so many, but there was a day in which we explored acting with the older group at LSS. The exercise was to observe a painting (“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat) and identify with one of the characters in the painting and recreate the moment before that character arrived at the scene of the park. Create who he/she is, what he/she was doing before going to the park, why they went to the park and what they were thinking when the moment was recorded on the painting. I was impressed by how all of them left their daily life’s worries and problems in order to create a new character and allow themselves to be taken by creativity. It was a beautiful moment witnessing the transformation of these kids and how they integrated themselves into the position of their chosen character on the painting.

¿Cual es tu recuerdo favorito de algún programa de ASTEP?
Uff, hay varios pero hubo un día en el que exploramos actuación con un grupo de chicos de LSS. El ejercicio era observar una pintura ( en este caso “Un Domingo por la Tarde en la Isla de La Grande Jatte” de Georges Seurat) e identificarse con uno de los personajes dentro de la pintura y recrear el momento antes de llegar a la imagen de la misma. Tenían que crear el personaje, quién es, qué estaba haciendo antes de ir al parque, por qué fue al parque y qué pensaba cuando se grabó la imagen en el cuadro. Me impresionó como todos salieron de su vida cotidiana y se dejaron llevar por la inspiración del cuadro. Fue un momento en el que dejaron todos sus problemas, preocupaciones etc, para crear un personaje nuevo y dejarse llevar por la creación. Fué un momento bello ver a cada grupo transformarse e integrarse a la posición de su personaje en la pintura.

Why is arts education important?
Art is an escape from the everyday pressures of life. It allows us to open up our senses and explore our spirit within. It makes us feel, it inspires us, it opens up our mind and as a result it motivates us to act better in academic situations. It raises our energy and vibration which leads to better performance in any task that we want to accomplish.

¿Por qué es importante la educación de las artes?
El arte es un escape de las presiones cotidianas y nos deja abrir nuestros sentidos y explorar nuestro interior. Nos hace sentir, nos inspira, nos abre la mente y por ende nos motiva a actuar mejor en situaciones académicas. Eleva nuestra energía y vibración lo que nos lleva a una mejor ejecución de cualquier tarea que queramos lograr.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I always say that if one of the ten students present got something out of my class, then I have fulfilled my mission. I hope that sharing my art with them inspires them to be curious in life; I hope it invites them to try new things that can enrich their knowledge and motivates them to step outside of their comfort zone.

¿Que esperas que se lleven los estudiantes de tu tiempo compartido con ellos?
Siempre digo que si uno de los 10 que asistieron se llevó algo, cumplí mi misión. Espero que mi enseñanza los inspire a tener curiosidad por la vida y los invite a probar cosas nuevas que los puedan enriquecer; que los motive a salir de su zona de confort.

What have you learned from your students?
I’ve learned that they are open books who want to learn and who need good role models, empathic beings who are there to listen to them and not judge them.

¿Qué has aprendido de tus estudiantes?
He aprendido que son libros abiertos que quieren aprender y que necesitan tener buenos modelos a seguir, seres empáticos con disposición a escucharlos y no juzgarlos.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
Be ready for ANYTHING! You may come into a class with a plan and when you get there, the response may not be what you expected. So be prepared to change the game in a second’s notice and be aware of their energy and what you feel they need from you. I also love to think of a class as a game. Always greet them with a “thank you for showing up to play with me.” That word removes any pressure kids may have from entering a class. Mark Mylod (director or SUCCESSION, GAME OF THRONES ) said that to me as I entered the TV set for my shoot, “thanks for coming to play with us.” It has changed my life! I threw away any worries or pressure I put on myself and I did just that, I started to play.

¿Tienes algún consejo que quieras compartir con para los nuevos voluntarios de ASTEP?
Hay que estar listo para CUALQUIER COSA! Puede que llegues a clase con tu plan, y cuando entras al salón la respuesta tal vez no sea lo que esperabas. Así que prepárate para cambiar el juego sin notificación alguna y sé consciente de la energía del salón y de lo que los estudiantes necesitan de tí. También me gusta pensar en una clase como si fuera un juego. Es bueno empezar con un “gracias por venir a jugar conmigo.” Esa palabra remueve cualquier presión que pueda tener un estudiante al entrar en una clase. Mark Mylod (director de la serie SUCCESSION, GAME OF THRONES) me lo dijo cuando entré al set para mi filmar my escena. “Gracias por venir a jugar con nosotros,” y esa frase cambió mi vida. En ese momento, cualquier presión o preocupación que hubiera sentido hacia mi misma, salió por la ventana e hice precisamente eso; me puse a jugar.

Thank you, Gabriela, for your hard work and dedication! We could not do this work without you!

 

 

ASTEP’s March and April Professional Development webinars

During this unprecedented time, ASTEP is leaning into Adaptability – one of our four foundational pillars. We’re adding to our monthly Second Saturday Webinar Series by offering weekly, free professional development and networking opportunities for all of our trained and placed Volunteer Teaching Artists. These webinars focus on a variety of topics that best prepare Teaching Artists around the world to work with the young people ASTEP serves. Even cooler, we’ll have a variety of different presenters!

Please take a look below and let us know if you can join. Take good care of yourselves, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, ideas, or desire for communication!

Sign up for as many as you like. We will send out reading, watching, and listening materials in advance so you can be best prepared.

  • Friday, March 27th from 3:00-4:00pm EST: ASTEP Artist Meet Up with Monique Letamendi
  • Saturday, March 28th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Monday, March 30th from 3:00-4:30pm EST: Lesson Planning for One-Off Workshops with Tiffany Ramos
  • Friday, April 3rd from 12:00-1:30pm EST: Making the Most of Digital Platforms with Marcus Crawford Guy
  • Saturday, April 4th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Monday, April 6th from 3:00-4:30pm EST: Activities Without Age Limits with Will Thomason
  • Saturday, April 11th from 10:30am-12:00pm EST: Using Art to Create Courageous Spaces with Juanita Castro-Ochoa
  • Saturday, April 11th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell
  • Tuesday, April 14th from 5:00-6:30pm EST: Working at the Speed of Trust with Mauricio Salgado
  • Friday, April 17th from 12:00-1:30pm EST: Mindfulness and Self Care with Lizzy Santiago
  • Saturday, April 19th from 5:00-6:00pm EST: Stay Sane Saturday with Mary-Mitchell Campbell

 

Remote Lesson Planning: ASTEP Style!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead

These days, in an ever-changing world, we need to be adaptable and creative. Luckily, we are an organization of ARTISTS!

Last week, we collaborated with one of our New York City-based partner organizations as they prepared to dive into the new world of remote learning. This particular partner serves children who have recently arrived at the US border without an adult family member and who are awaiting resettlement, and all of our programming with them is in Spanish. Together, we created a plan to integrate the arts into their remote learning model through a series of “homework packets”. Thanks to our amazing Volunteer Teaching Artists, we were able to put together packets focused on storytelling, movement, creative writing, poetry, and visual arts in just a matter of hours.

Find out what our Volunteer Teaching Artists had to say about the experience:

“Last week I had been talking to a friend about how I wished there was something I could do for those kids, and the universe answered with Lizzy’s text! It was a crazy moment of serendipity. We talked through what she was doing, and I was blown away by ASTEP’s efforts in making this homework pack come true. I went through a few ideas on the phone based on classes I have taught before, and we came up with one in a manner of minutes. I typed it out, and sent it along! My heart really goes out to these kids who are already experience so much turmoil, and uncertainty. Just glad I was able to help in some small way!” -Susanna Stahlmann, Volunteer Teaching Artist

“Last Wednesday afternoon, I received a call with an excited Lizzy on the other line. In usual Lizzy fashion, she had an idea, and sprung into action. She contacted me and others, and shared her idea: a virtual class, complete with worksheets and multi-level learning, to assist our partner organization as they navigate distance-learning with both the younger and older students. We brainstormed the best ways to provide materials, and I chose to take the advice of Lizzy and create a virtual Yoga/Movement lesson, by way of storytelling about the environment and the outdoors (something that at the time I didn’t realize how much I would want connection with). I excitedly searched Google for black-and-white coloring pictures of people in specific yoga poses. I came up with an outline for a story we could tell with our bodies, and questions to ask to dig deeper for each part of the story. As the 4pm deadline drew near, I realized that with my focus on the younger class, I hadn’t dug into a reflection portion of the class for the older individuals. Lizzy was collecting a variety of worksheets and lessons from many different people and needed to send it off to our partner, and so I collected myself and practiced what I was putting on the page. I reflected, I breathed in (“Inhala”), I breathed out (“Exhala”), and thought of what questions I was asking myself. With GoogleTranslate pulled up to check spelling of Spanish translations and a list of Sanskrit words in another tab, and with a gentle reminder from Lizzy about the time, the worksheet was complete, save an upside-down exclamation point or two. I didn’t know what anyone else was doing, but submitted and hoped our partner would be able to feel supported through this time. Minutes later, I received an email with all of the lesson plans that were made in those few hours, and I was amazed. There were hand-drawn diagrams, and many, many pages of activities, ranging from coloring and creating to writing and reflecting, and with all of them, a feeling of fun and play and art. I was amazed. I am amazed. I knew our group of teaching artists at ASTEP was top-notch, and this continued to prove what I already knew: when we work together and share, even during difficult times, beautiful things can blossom.” -Will Thomason, Program Facilitator + Volunteer Teaching Artist

Click here and here to see some of the worksheets!

 

#artathome: Try these ASTEP games!

Need some game-spiration for your time inside? Look no further! We are happy to share some of our favorite activities from the ASTEP Games Guide, courtesy of our incredible Volunteer Teaching Artists! We will be adding to this list, so stay tuned for more on the ASTEP blog, as well as on our social media pages!

 

∴Word Connect
Listening, Improvisation, Creativity, Quick Thinking Storytelling

Requirements: ​2 or more players.

  1. Start this activity in a circle
  2. The activity begins with one person saying any random word.
  3. Turn by turn every person says another word which is related to the previous one.

For example: if someone says red, the next person can say apple or blood etc. It is wise to give content parameters around this game so that it remains appropriate for all students.

This game allows the students’ impulses to fly. It’s a great way to not overthink and just say the first thing that comes to your mind. Certain choices made by the student can help us understand their unconscious thoughts/likes/dislikes/fears.

 

∴Move the Hat
Imagination, Creativity, Use of Space, Storytelling

Requirements:​ This activity is great for any age group and size.

  1. Establish a “start” and “stop” line around 10 feet apart, or just enough room for them to work with!
  2. Students Individually or in small groups are told there is an object in front of them on the floor, in this case: a hat. For the purposes of the exercise, it can be any manageable object that is around or even invisible/imaginary.
  3. The student is then instructed that they are to move the hat from the start line to the stop line, but they have to move it according to the prompt the teacher gives.
    a. Some examples: it weighs 500lbs, it’s on fire, it smells very bad, etc. Anything the instructor can come up with! Optional addition: rather than announcing the prompt out loud, the teacher can tell only the active student the prompt and the students in the audience guess what it was! There is no “wrong answer” to this game, and it can be adapted in a variety of ways depending on the students’ needs.

∴Zombie:
Silliness, Teamwork, Silliness Storytelling, Character work

Materials:​ 1 chair per student. Requirements: ​4 players or more Similar to Musical Chairs

  1. Everyone begins sitting in a chair. To start the game we need one volunteer. Place the volunteer some distance away from their chair in the room. (Remind kids to be safe!) 
  2. The zombie wants to sit in an empty chair and everyone else wants to prevent the zombie from getting to an empty chair. The only way to prevent the zombie from getting to an empty chair is to sit in the chair yourself, thus creating a new empty chair!
  3. Once you get up, you MUST find a new chair. Zombies must move like a zombie (slow shuffle, low moaning etc), but all other players may move freely at whatever speed they wish. 
  4. If the zombie reaches and sits in a chair, he becomes human again. Anyone remaining standing becomes the new zombie. If there are multiple people standing, the last person standing must be the new zombie.
  5. All new zombies MUST get down on the ground in body or spirit and pretend to come back to life.

 

Additional Resources:

Check out more of ASTEP’s go-to games! 

“Learning from Home: NYC DOE Aligned Curriculum”

“11 Tips for Starting to Homeschool in a Hurry”

 

What are your favorite games right now?

Share them with us by tagging us on social media!

 

 

 

One lucky koala


Karina Sindicich, a Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing blog posts about her experiences teaching with ASTEP through our NYC program, ASTEP on STAGE!. This program give children access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

BLOG POST

There is no hiding the sheer JOY I feel every time I see my name signed up on the ASTEP program calendar! This fall was no exception, as I have been placed for the next few weeks in a program at a WIN site! YAY! ***Cue fireworks***

Walking toward the WIN site on my first placement back for the fall, I am excited and a little nervous, trying to sort out all the jumbly thoughts in my head. Do I have enough sharpened pencils? Is the speaker charged? What if we run out of paddle-pop sticks? All those wriggly thoughts that squirm their way inside your head and have a habit of putting you outside yourself and out of the moment.

However, there is no mistake that whenever the delightful ASTEP Volunteer Teaching artists and myself open the doors to the community room on site and see the students smiling faces and hear the shouts of glee as they exclaim “YAY, ASTEP!”, all those thoughts about getting things “right” just float away and a warm feeling of gratefulness washes over me, bringing me back to the present.

The next couple of hours go by like the blink of an eye and are filled with learning, sharing, laughing and dancing together! We all do some moving and grooving on our feet, creating our own unique choreographed dances with zumba, and after, make our way to our tables where we engage in some creative craft and make some fun art pieces for ourselves or those we love!

As we glue, tape, draw and color, gradually bringing our art to life, before we know it, it’s time to go! We sit down for our final goodbye and high five one another, thanking each other and our wonderful teachings artists for the sparkle they brought to our day!

As I walk home with an extra skip in my step, my soul is overflowing with gratitude for the day I’ve just gotten to be a part of. As always, the privilege of working for ASTEP puts so many happy thoughts careening through my head like, that was so much fun! Those young people are so super talented and open! Doesn’t art make everything feel so much brighter!? When I get home, I can’t wait to look at my calendar and scan down to the date next week when I get to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! I am one very lucky koala indeed.


Firing up the engines of imagination

Jasmeene Francois, a 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, shares this blog post about her experiences teaching through the ASTEP Arts at Refugee Youth Summer Academy. A team of 16 ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists are leading the creative arts classes at the International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy, which supports the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education of multicultural refugee youth and helps them successfully transition into the US school system. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.

ASTEP’s Team of Volunteer Teaching Artists model collaboration during their training sessions!

Magical Play Dough

By: Jasmeene Francois, 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

How time flies!!! It is almost time for graduation and students will be showing their newly gained storytelling skills they have worked on for the past 5 weeks. This is my first experience with RYSA and I co-teach Storytelling for Lower School with the awesome Aaron Rossini. Even though I have been teaching for a few years, I was nervous about the first day of RYSA. The information we gained during the training laid a strong foundation before we started, but would I remember everything? What if I forgot the lesson plan?

However, my teaching partner, ASTEP and IRC colleagues were always at the helm with support and encouragement.

The students brought so much energy and creativity to storytelling class every time. I was able to witness many students in Lower School 1, 2 and 3 come out of their shells. There was an activity that I did during my full time theatre teaching position called Magical Play Dough and I was able to introduce and implement it for the class warm-ups. There are multiple aims of this activity. It serves as a movement activity while firing up the engines of imagination. With the Lower School classes we created rockets ships to outer space and beyond, mystical (and real life) creatures, and cars and boats to take us to our dream destinations. Usually an activity I did with the youngest of my students, I loved the enthusiasm of the older students as they molded this imaginary piece of play dough into something they might use everyday.

As the last week of RYSA draws to a close, I am full of joy and gratitude for my students, teaching partner, and ASTEP and IRC team. Thank you to the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for the incredible opportunity to work with the wonderful and
creative students at RYSA.

 

Bringing the arts to South Florida

This summer, four ASTEP Guest Artists joined a team of local artists in Homestead, Florida for the 4-week Art-in-Action summer camp, run by enFAMILIA, a community organization that builds healthy family relationships among the immigrant, migrant, and farm worker communities of south Florida.

Thank you to Faith Jones-Jackson, Jennifer Kessler, Chelsea Tapia, and Alexander Zacarias for dedicating your heart and spirit with the community in South Florida this summer!