Lorrie Heagy is a music teacher and librarian at Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska, where she works with community, parents and teachers to integrate and advocate the arts for all kids.
Named "music teacher of the years," she initiated the Art is Elementary program, which won the Kennedy Center’s Creative Ticket National School of Distinction Award, an honor given annually to only five schools in the country. The instrumental music program she helped initiate at Glacier Valley spread to other Juneau elementary schools through grants and school district funding.
Lorrie also teaches at University of Alaska Southeast for its MAT Program in Elementary Education, and at the Basic Arts Summer Institutes for Alaskan teachers. She accompanies for local arts organizations throughout Juneau and was one of fifty teachers selected nationally as a 2009 Yale School of Music Distinguished Music Educator.
A Talk with Lorrie Heagy
How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?
I subscribe to TED and received an e-mail announcing Dr. Abreu¹s TED prize wish and the fellowship that grew out of it to bring the El Sistema program to the US.
Why did you apply?
Often music opportunities are available only to children whose families can afford them, but ALL children deserve access to music and its life-long benefits. El Sistema is one proven way to help make that happen.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?
This fellowship offers a unique blend of skills in music, education, leadership and organizational development. By applying these skills to internships in communities where El Sistema-inspired initiatives have already begun, this program gives its Fellows the practical experience they need to confidently guide every aspect of forming a new community.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?
Working with and for children will be a necessary component of whatever work I do; they keep me grounded, inspired and always on my toes! I also hope to continue working with schools and the community to ensure that the arts are an integral part of every child’s education.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?
Music helps form friendships through teamwork and shared goals, builds discipline through practice and delayed gratification, and engages both mind and body as part of the learning process. All children deserve the emotional and creative outlet that music provides, as well as glimpses of what life can be like when approached with an aesthetic eye.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?
High stakes testing in reading, writing and math forces many schools to reallocate a finite budget and school day away from their music and arts program and towards these tested areas. The result: only families who can afford music lessons are able to give their children this opportunity. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan states in an August 2009 letter, “the arts play a significant role in children¹s development and learning process.” Hopefully his words usher in the desire for the federal government to play a more significant role in funding music education at the national level.
How did you learn about El Sistema?
I learned about El Sistema through the 2009 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools. One of the discussion topics focused on how this system would translate in the U.S.
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?
These three guiding principles set El Sistema apart from other programs: Passion before Precision, Real Repertoire, and Community Engagement. Its success relies on the intensity of its directors, the power of group experience and peer mentorship and participation at an early age when life is consumed by music!
Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?
I have been fortunate to work with children from elementary through high school as a classroom and music teacher, librarian, accompanist and fellow artist. I'm particularly drawn to creating opportunities that give students multiple ways of expressing themselves. From African drumming, drama and digital storytelling to ballroom dancing, band and choir, I enjoy watching what progresses through the rehearsal process: students gaining confidence through risk-taking, revision, self-expression and public performance.