Volunteer Spotlight: Midori Samson

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Midori Samson! Get to know Midori, and learn about her experiences with ASTEP below.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon and that’s where I continue to call home. I went to Juilliard for my undergraduate degree in bassoon, which is where I got involved with ASTEP in 2010. Amid my college stress and burnout, I needed to get back in touch with my inner child-Midori and get back to why I started music in the first place. Meeting ASTEP and the children we work with was the perfect remedy. I’m so thankful that ASTEP is so connected to the Juilliard community.

Upon graduation, I moved to Austin where I got my master’s degree in bassoon at the University of Texas. During my brief 2 years in Austin, I organized an ASTEP chapter with some friends and we hosted a camp with a local youth shelter for two weeks! At that point, it was probably the proudest thing I’d ever done. 

For two years after going to grad school, I lived in Chicago, and performed in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (the Chicago Symphony’s training orchestra) and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I thrived in my position in Civic and that was completely because of the work I had previously done with ASTEP! The position involved simultaneously performing in the orchestra and curating musical community engagement projects around the city. I helped organized residencies at schools, shelters, a prison, and at a refugee center. I was living my best teaching-artist life, and constantly fell back on the training I got as an ASTEP teaching artist and facilitator. 

My ASTEP experiences continue to influence all parts of my career, musicianship, and life. I co-founded my own organization, Trade Winds Ensemble and our music curriculum is very much inspired by ASTEP teaching philosophies. In addition, I just travelled to China to perform and teach with Yo-Yo Ma, where he asked us to always use our child-like imaginations to perform music (a skill I feel I’m an expert at thanks to ASTEP!) Currently, I’m working on a doctorate degree in bassoon, and I’m minoring in social work, to help me improve even more what I can contribute in an ASTEP classroom. 

Through moving all over the country and changing situations so frequently, ASTEP has been one of the few constants in my life. Because of ASTEP, I have internalized the value that my music has in the world. I love myself for what I can offer with my art form!

Thank you, Midori for volunteering with ASTEP! We could not do our work without incredible people like you.

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP, email our Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi, at sami@asteponline.org 


Celebrate. Explore. Create!

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Thank you to our incomparable team of Volunteer Artists who led our May 2015 Art Camp at Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project: Kalee Burrows, Gabby Deede, Carolyn Fry, Harrison Fry, Brian Gnojek, JJ Krehbiel, Lauren Morris, Lizzy Rainer, Midori Samson, Aaron Umsted! Working together for three weeks in May, these volunteers helped wind down the academic year by transforming the school into a place of play, creativity, and ol’ fashioned silliness for the 300+ students at Shanti Bhavan, a school and home for children of the lowest caste, located south of Bangalore.

The camp theme: Celebrate, Explore, Create!

The volunteers taught classes in the visual arts, music, dance and theatre with concentrations in areas such as musical theatre and even comic-book creation class! In addition to the classes, there was a focus on “camp-fun activities” such as scavenger hunts, water balloon fights, and even roasting s’mores, a first for the kids!

Beyond simply teaching artistic skills, the focus of ASTEP’s Art Camps provide the children with a safe space to develop important life skills such as creative problem solving, self-confidence, leadership, and collaboration — skills that will help them on and off the stage. Plus, a chance for a child to truly be carefree and play will do so much for their overall health and wellbeing.

The art camp culminated with Shanti Bhavan’s graduation ceremony where the students showcased their artwork and special performances for the community of staff, family, friends and supporters!

Project Philippines 2014

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In 2008, a group of six dancers from The Juilliard School journeyed to the Philippines for four weeks, performing, teaching in schools, and creating new pieces with students in several different communities. Project Philippines returned in 2012, adding music and visual arts to the programming and in 2014, began a collaboration with ASTEP. A team of 8 Volunteer Artists are currently on the ground for five weeks and will serve communities on two separate islands and teach at four different schools: Catarman National High School, Philippine High School for the Arts, Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School, and University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Through contemporary dance and improvisation, students engage in workshops to express themselves through movement.

“Dance has enabled me to be disciplined and focused today … I can communicate better with others and am a better person because of dance.” – Student, Project Philippines 2012

Through a variety of music workshops, students concentrate on different techniques and individual training through private lessons, master classes, a cross cultural-exchange, and performance technique.

Visual arts focus on journals and a large community project specific to each site. Everyday the students are asked to reflect and draw about their day. Visual arts incorporates self portraits, line contour drawing, painting and set design. Understanding that some students communicate best through the visual art form, these projects allow students to become more confident in their individual talents and connect to their peers through a collaborative art project.

“You could see it in their faces, writing, and drawing, that this freedom of expression was bringing a flow and light into their lives. Whether they were a part of a family or community or group of friends, they were coming closer together with smiles and laughter and encouragement.”
-Tighe Kellner, Volunteer Artist | Project Philippines 2012

Drama is incorporated in every art class through theater games and exercises. By focusing on performance, improvisation, and vocal training, drama supports each student on their journey to the stage. The training also uplifts each student in their self confidence, individual voice and community building skills off the stage.

Thank you to the 2014 Volunteer Artist Team! Chelsea Ainsworth, Kyle Netzeband, Tyner Dumortier, Allison Gibbons, Blake Wales, Brian Gnojek, Midori Samson, and Francesca Betancourt — you help make it happen!