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What arts education did you have as a child?

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A companion to the reading threads. I wondered what was taught in schools -- and is being taught now?

Aside from finger painting, I had no art education. We had something called "poem and picture study" beginning in third grade. No music education at all in the classroom (I took piano lessons from 1st through 11th grade). Dance? We did one or two folk dance days in gym.

Anybody have better luck?

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Some, though not tons in school (music and arts classes were constantly being snuck in and cut out of the school budgets depending on the coffers)

I think the most important thing was they were in the home. There was always classical music (Bach and opera were Mom's preferences) when I was a child. And Mom was an art teacher. I think my uncle had the most influence on me in terms of fine arts. Lord only knows how I discovered dance. Quite honestly (and given what I said in another thread, I say this embarrassed. . .) but I'll bet I first saw it as a child on TV. I think seeing Villella. One year at seder (I was five) I announced to the entire extended family I was going to be "a male ballerina".

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I had art and music throughout elementary school. Music was mostly singing, and if you were lucky, you got to play the xylophone or the triangle. In junior high, we had to take 3 arts: music, art, and drama. In music I played the flute because it has the smallest case, and I took the bus. Everyone fought over the drums though! In high school I only continued with art, which was mostly seen as a 'bird course'. We did get a nice text book and learned a bit of Art History, but it was never serious. We did square dancing once in phys ed, and in grade 9 history we learned the charleston... that was pretty much it. We did put on a musical production every year which was a lot of fun. Outside of school I had voice lessons for a number of years, which is where I first learned to read music.

As with Leigh, my love of the arts has definately come from my home environment. My mom and aunt are piano teachers, my uncle conducts and his wife is a violinist, most of my family has been in a choir at one time, and my dad, well he thinks he's the fourth member of Peter, Paul, and Mary. I have grown up with classical music at home (I woke up every saturday morning to amateur renditions of Chopin that gradually improved) and I also had a kids subscription to the symphony. Although, I never really appreciated classical music until I began ballet (age 13), and after that I got interested in everything else- film, visual arts, theatre, even literature, as they can all be connected to dance.

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I had music and visual art classes in elementary school, and I played the violin and piano. In middle school, I was in chorus (we were given a choice of music classes, but I don't remember what the other choices were). At the public high school I went to, I took Drawing and Painting to fulfill an art requirement. Even when I went to a private high school specifically for children in the performing arts, a visual art class was still required :).

I agree with Leigh, though, that it's most important to have it in the home. I didn't listen to anything but classical music until high school, when a friend drove me to ballet class and played pop and rock in the car. (I still love rock, but cannot stand pop music :).) My father was a professional musician, and still plays three instruments, so there was a lot of music in our house.

Editing to add: I forgot to mention that in elementary school, I was privileged to learn calligraphy and the minuet as part of a unit on colonial America :). I still enjoy calligraphy, but unfortunately cannot remember the minuet.

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In the third or fourth grade I had a teacher who'd bring in phonograph records (78s) from time to time and initiate us into "music appreciation." She caused a sensation once by bringing in Rossini's William Tell Overture. Imagine our surprise when after some interminable (so it seemed at the time) slow, dreamy music, on came the theme song from The Lone Ranger! I think Rossini became my favorite composer that morning, and I still love his operas and their overtures. The one other composition I remember music-appreciating was Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. That seemed to have Lone Ranger connotations too. It's seldom heard anymore.

Aside from drawing pictures (which I enjoyed and was good at), the only other artistic activity I remember from my school days is having to memorize two poems -- Invictus and The Highwayman. Memorization gave me a real feeling of accomplishment.

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In parochial grammar school, practically no arts. But the city I grew up in (Stamford, CT) funded money for an organization called "Project Music", designed to bring music lessons to poor inner city kids. I qualified and was given, at the age of about 11, a guitar and private weekly lessons. During the summers, there was a music camp for several weeks. I took those lessons for free for several years and in high school continued on with classical guitar lessons and taught at the summer music camp.

Those initial music lessons gave me my future. Much of the path I later chose wouldn't have been available to me had I not had them.

The one good thing about the Ukrainian Catholic girls high school I attended was its choir. It was mandatory for all 75 girls in the school. We recorded an album each year and when I listen to it all these years later, I still marvel at how good we sound. Most of the songs were religious - I can still remember every word and note of "Slava vo vishni bohu" (Glory to God in the Highest). I learned to sing harmony in those daily choir practices and I love it to this day.

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In Germany, both art and music lessons are compulsory from grade 1 - 8.

The music lessons mainly dealt with music theory and we were also encouraged to listen to and later analyze classical pieces by Mozart or Beethoven. This was always fun because we could bring our own CDs and discuss the music during the lessons. Later on, we also talked about musicals, operas and even pop music.

In grade 12 we have to take either music theory, drama, choir or orchestra for one year.

Oh, we also had a school choir, but it was dissolved because the teacher didn’t want to do it anymore (our teachers really were not into extra-curricular activities).

The art lessons were really popular at our school, not so much because of the teacher, but because of the fact that we were able to draw or paint AND talk during lessons. We used watercolours, crayon and we even made stamps out of potatoes which was fun. Art history was not part of the curriculum at all.

Apart from this, my parents also encouraged me to listen to music at home. I remember my father showing me his LP-Collection and how I fell in love with the “White Album” by the Beatles. My mum also loves opera and Bach, so my sister and I also listened to classical music.

Later on, I started to play the piano and took singing lessons; and after that, I discovered my love for dance and have been dancing ever since ;)

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Florida. Need I say more? :( Not only was there little to no art emphasis in the schools, I did not have it at home either. I did have drama in junior and senior high school, but no music or art courses at all. How did I get into classical dance to this extent? Who knows? I was considered a total freak by my family ;)

But, they supported me, and started my ballet lessons at 4, and from 13 on I was scholarshipped, so I guess I was one of the very fortunate ones, even without some of the things others had at home or school. I educated myself, with the encouragement of my ballet teacher. Ballet can be an education in all of the arts, as long as some one opens the doors and shows you the way. The appreciation and love for music came early, and I used to play opera and classical music in my bedroom at home. My parents did not like it. Knowledge and appreciation for other arts came later, and developed over the years as a dancer and even more during the years of becoming a teacher. The most important was the ballet teachers, and there I was very, very fortunate.

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Svemaus, I spent the summer following my high school graduation in France and one surprise I had while there was that virtually all the young folks I met could draw quite well. They were very matter-of-fact about it, stating that it was compulsory in school. What a gift! I wish we had that here in the States.

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I guess we all remember the protest, "But when will I ever use algebra???" and the usual response, "It doesn't matter. It teaches you a way of thinking." I believe it. And I believe it about arts education. Children who do not have that opportunity -- even at a rudimentary level -- are not developing certain right-brain functions, a deficit that will likely be with them throughout life, even if they find an interest in the arts as they mature.

I was fortunate to attend a public school in which we all had at least a weekly art and music class through grade 8. From grade 6 on, students were allowed to choose an instrument or to remain with the majority of the class' singing sessions. Only one or two lessons that whole time was spent on appreciation and only those with instruments learned to read, unfortunately. I truly believe, in retrospect, that the teacher was bored. She was, at any rate, unenthusiastic. More like a semi-musical stereotypical gym teacher. But better that than nothing.

Our art teachers were better, encouraging creativity.:(

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Ahh, The Highwayman. My 3rd class teacher introduced our class to poetry with this. We had art music and dance from Kindergarten through to Year 10 when due to University prerequisites I had to leave art and music behind (mostly) to persue other subjects. We did all kinds of art and craft in primary school from chalks and charcoal to paint and basket weaving even macrame! Dancing was done in our daggy sports uniform, a tunic and bloomers. Does anybody else remember that uniform? We would dance the Mexican Hat Dance and The Pride of Erin don't remeber the others. We also learnt the Charlston and my mother made a fringed dress for me to wear for a school show. In high school we had art and music lessons each week, sometimes for sport we would have dance, Pride of Erin again and the Mexican Hat Dance! My friends roped me in for the Choir, bad idea because I have a terrible voice but they needed more choir members, i would sing very softly so i wouldn't offend anyone. I was also in the school band and played the piano or clarinet. Australian schools still have a strong arts curriculum.

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Like many other Ballet Alerters I got much of my arts education (and all of my love for the arts) at home. My mother taight drama and my father lived in London during the Nureyev years, so there was a great love for the arts in general and ballet in particular. I started ballet when I was 4 and continued until I matriculated and was conscripted into the Army (not a joke). At elementary school both in South Africa and in Israel, there were art classes and arts and crafts classes and to a varying degree, very basic music classes. Israeli folk dancing was not exactly taught at school, but it was a part of school life either in gym lessons, or as part of break/recreation activities or included in school shows for the end of year or holidays, etc.

I went to a performing and visual arts high shool, but at the time there wasn't much artistic interaction between the departments. Most of my classmates were not interested in any aspect of ballet and dance besides the actual dancing and composition/improvisation classes. I was the only one who stayed awake during 'History of Dance' classes.

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I went to four grade schools and three high schools in four states, parochial and private, and none of them had much of an arts program. School #2 had "social dancing" once a week, taught by two old ladies who hated kids. I enjoyed it anyway: it gave me a chance to hold hands with my girlfriend. #4 had "note singing" once a week. All the grade schools had art class once a week, which was a pleasant break in the routine but otherwise of little interest. In high school I focused on math, science and languages and didn't have time in my schedule to try what arts courses were available. I suspect I didn't miss much. In general, what I know about the fine arts I've acquired on my own.

I did take piano lessons for a year or two, but they didn't take. (I've since remedied that.) Ironically, although my mother taught ballet, the one time I suggested that I take class, my parents said "no" so quickly I was startled.

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Most of what I would consider my arts education came from my parents.

My mother had studied art and worked as an artist until the birth of her second child.

My father had first studied music, but had then decided to become a medical doctor.

Both of them loved music, especially classical, and ballet.

My Dad loved opera, too.

I grew up during the "Beatles" era, so my siblings and I of course listened to that a lot; but it was classical music which was mostly heard on the home stereo.

When we lived just outside of Manhatten, my Mom used to take us kids (ages 4 to 8) to the museums: Met. and MOMA, plus anything else she could find.

I remember that we (kids) did NOT like the modern art.

We said, "But _we_ could do that!"

To which my Mother replied, "Then do it."

I do not remember there being any inspiring art or music lessons in school, though.

In junior high (in Calif) we had about a week of folk dancing during P.E. (Physical Education); and in one of the high-schools I attended there was a bit of "modern dance" - also during P.E.

Music was either chorus or band, usually.

The band played mainly for the football-games, so I was not interested.

Chorus was not bad, I guess.

As for art class, I was always disappointed.

I wanted to practice drawing and painting - from life, if possible - as I saw my Mom do almost continally at home.

This was not what was wanted.

Most kids insisted they "couldn't draw", so drawing was not part of the curriculum.

There was a lot of what I call "following directions" types of "crafts".


My own children (here in Germany) have much more scholastic instruction than I did in the arts. (not dance, but music and a bit of visual arts)

Needless to say, I drag my own offspring to the museums, operas, plays and ballets when possible. :D ;)


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We had both music and art classes from grades 4-8. If my recollection is correct we either had each one every day or they alternated days. That was a long time ago. Had a wonderful elementary school music teacher for grades 4, 5, and 6. She also taught arithmetic. She tried to encourage everyone to play an instrument. I remember really wanting to play the drums in 4th grade, but my mother wouldn’t let me. She didn’t want the noise in her house. Though my father had played the trombone in his youth, my family was essentially non-musical.

My elementary school teacher was very good at recruiting musicians. I recall her school orchestra had three violin players and that was from a pool of about 150 students. Everyone was required to audition for the school chorus, a frightful experience for a male whose voice was changing. We read biographies of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and a few other composers. Each year the local symphony orchestra would play a concert for elementary school kids. Our teacher made us practice listening to the music they would play. I think we probably heard each piece they would play 4-5 times before the concert. We always took great pride in knowing when to clap as I recall.

Art and music in 7th and 8th grades were uninspiring. But then of course not much inspires 7th and 8th grade students.

I do remember doing square dancing in 6th grade PE class. My recollection was that we either had PE and recess every day or they alternated. We also had social dance in PE in grades 7-9.

What I find so interesting about all of this is that compared to students today, we had a lot more music, art and PE. I graduated from high school in 1962. You know the graduating class with the highest SAT scores ever was the class of 1963. We were just a tad behind them. I guess all the art, music, and PE didn’t hurt us much academically.

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My primary school was very arts-orientated. Being a Church of England school we did a lot of hymn singing by default. It's quite strange, as an adult, being a strict atheist and evolutionist but knowing all the words to all the hymns. Everyone at primary school played the recorder for at least a few years, and most people were in the choir. We took part in a local music festival every year and performed a musical such as Joseph every year. I started piano lessons when I was 10. We did a lot of art classes and messed round with pottery and so on. But there was little or no dance as far as I remember. I went to secondary school never having had a proper science lesson ... and now I'm a scientist!

At secondary school I took up flute. The school had a "peripatetic" system where a different instrument teacher came in every day. So I used to miss half a history class every wednesday to go to my flute lesson. You had to buy your own instrument (unless you played double bass or something!) and payed a minimal charge for a class with two or three other people of a similar standard to you. I was still in choir and playing recorder in a baroque music group. There was still no dance, but the national curriculum meant that we had to take at least one arts subject until we were 16. I did music, but the other options were art, drama and english literature. And there was orchestra too - we made a dreadful racket but it was fun.

I kept the flute and recorder up until I was 18 - and I really think it was a useful thing to do, even though I don't play any instruments now. I wish we'd had dance lessons at school - then I wouldn't have had to wait until I was 22 to get hooked!

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My Arts education was similar to Farrell Fan's. 20 records and a wind-up phonograph were shared by all classes. In the sixth grade I had a teacher who loved the old Civil War songs, and to this day I can sing "Do you ken John Peel" But better than any school arts program I had (and still have) an older sister (by ten years) who took me to see everything from her favorite movies to operettas, operas, musicals, and yes, ballet.

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I am so impressed by the fact that so many of you remember such details about your elementary school education...of course, some of you are probably not all that old, either. ;)

I've really enjoyed these insights into the past and it's been a real eye opener as to how diverse the "arts education" is in different countries, types of schools and during different times, too.

atm711 yours really made me laugh with that Civil War song... And I loved Farrell Fan's epiphany about The Lone Ranger theme song! :) :)

I was pretty fortunate, though I didn't realize it until much later in life when I saw what goes for "arts education" in some places. As far as my memory serves me - I always had Art in school...also Music, though it was basically singing and "flutofone" practice. The school also had a drama department and up until high school just about everyone would get involved...but the senior play was always the highlight of the school year.

If my last two years of high school and college fall under the "as a child" part, then I really lucked out in the arts department.

But all this said, I, too, have to credit my parents with exposing me to the arts - a brief stint at piano lessons, visits to The Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC and all sorts of art museums in cities we visited.... Was taken to the big musicals of the time such as Camelot and My Fair Lady and practically wore out their soundtrack albums on the "Victrola" - but sadly no classical music...though my mother did play the piano pretty well.

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I feel pretty fortunate about the amount of arts education I received as a child. This keeps turning out really long every time I write it... so please bear with me! :)

Outside of school - my first real exposure to music came when my parents took me to an orchestra concert when I was 3. I have no memory of this event... but what came out of it was me begging to be allowed to play the violin. No teacher would take me until I was 4 and I was too small to even play a 32nd size instrument (!) so someone recommended that my parents construct a 'saltbox' violin for me... yes, a saltbox with a ruler for a fingerboard and a line of colored tape for the bridge.

I spent the next decade of my life in what would probably be termed a 'pre-pro' track of music training but ended up stopping due to various reasons which I will spare the details of here. :D Although some people have said that I 'lost' my childhood due to this serious study of music... I would instead say that I gained so much more in terms of dedication, work ethic, and appreciation for the arts... skills that I hope to use for the rest of my life. I never remember being devoid of friends, books, or playtime, either - perhaps my time was just well-organized (?) maybe I didn't watch enough TV :D.

I attended public school (in Canada) and I think the arts education was fairly good. I remember the teachers always were complaining about funding cuts and lack of supplies... but I think they did a good job anyhow.

Art was once a week until grade 6 and was a lot of drawing and painting but also things like batik and printmaking. I think there was the option to take extracurricular art classes over the lunch hour some years too. After grade 6 art became an 'option' but was several times a week if you chose to take it. In the later years of high school art history was included. In the earlier years, art history was a sub-unit of social studies.

Music was also taught fairly regularly until grade 6 - mainly singing and theory but also handbells and other basic instuments. After this music became either band or choir. I always wished there was an option for string players. Band was a fairly heavy commitment for students (and parents) as there were early morning practices before school in addition to class time. Choir was extracurricular - not a class.

Drama was barely studied in the early years - but both the junior and senior high schools I attended had excellent programs. I remember in grade 8 we were even studying lighting design. The drama teacher at the high school (grades 10-12) was truly an inspiration. There were 2 major productions a year - one was taken on the road to both another school (for an exchange) and to the city highschool drama festival. There was a theatersports (improv) team that had weekly rehearsals and performances and we travelled to the city championships as well as other performing opportunities. In addition to this the graduating grade 12 students were required to direct a 15 minute work for performance in front of a general audience. This was a great experience for those students (I was merely an actor). It is nice to see that so many people I knew who went through this program are now working in TV, film, and stage.

The one thing that was truly missing was dance! This seems depressingly common to most people's in-school education. Aside from square dancing and line dancing in gym (yee-haw) there was really nothing. I'm sad that I was not exposed to it sooner in my life... but truly happy I stumbled upon it eventually.

If anyone is still reading... I was just wondering if it was common (or not) for schools to have 'assemblies'. I remember in grades 1-6 that several times a year (mainly holidays) the whole school would put together a production where each class would prepare something - a poem, a short play, a song, etc. Anyone else have this?

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We had assemblies in high school -- my grade schools didn't have auditoriums. (We had May Processions, an honorable medieval pageant tradition.) I wrote and directed a few plays for mine, and was campaign manager for several candidates and did their skits. We had an odd graduation tradition, too. The evening began with a play, which the students wrote and directed, and then we put on the cap and gowns.

I can't remember much about the assemblies, but the ones I do were about current events or politics rather than the arts -- but that might be because that was what I was interested in then rathre than reflecting what they did. Wonder if they still do assemblies?

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We didn't have assemblies as such but had the occasional "special event" and often was included in mufti days. This happened mainly in high school. I remember our Italian class writing a play and performing it along with dancing a tarantella and singing Italian songs. The French class performed a similar program. The school band and choir would also perform (boy, did i have some quick changes!). On these days we usually had classes in the morning and the production in the afternoon and they were fund raising events. My school sponsered several children overseas and we all paid a "fine" for the privilege of wearing mufti. The fine was double if we forgot and wore school uniform. Other times we might fund raise for a special school item like new stage curtains etc. The only other times we had performances at assemblies were Year 12 Farewells where they would put on a show, usually very silly and the end of year Awards and Presentations where only the choir, band and language classes (singing traditional songs) would be on the program.

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Preschool: the usual drawing, fingerpainting, etc.

in Virginia - public school:

1st - 5th grade: one art and music class per week.

IMO, these were 'real' art/music classes b/c they'd teach history w/it. In art, we'd start by learning (anywhere from reading, watching videos, viewing works) about a particular artist of the month (or whatever the time period was) and then we'd do an art project reflecting that artist's 'motif' or works that they did. We'd also learn different techniques and styles, etc.

each project, students had an opportunity for their work to be taken and viewed in a mall, and I was chosen in 3rd grade. :)

3rd grade: a music 'field trip' to the Richmond Ballet's The Nutcracker --my first live performance.

music classes would consist of hands on playing of many instruments and reading music and learning basics about time periods and composers. We'd put on singing performances that had to do with the social studies we were learning.

5th grade: we all had a plastic flute and learned how to play and read the music.

Phsyical Education: the normal with several times getting together w/ friends and making up dances to music or playing games with a large parachute and different 'fun' activities.

We had those assemblies throughout elementary school.

In California - private school:

6th grade: one music class per week during one semester that taught more in depth about composers, classical music, opera, the great tenors, and instruments. One semester of 1 elective - I chose drama and we learned a skit.

7th - 8th grade: one art class every other week for about a semester. We were just assigned drawing projects.

public high school:

9th - 10th grade: I chose drama as an elective for both years. (we'd perform monologues, learn techniques, learn about some theatre, have opportunities to live plays, etc.)

11th grade: I chose art and advanced dance/choreography. Though, I vowed never to take art here b/c they only taught you how to draw and not why. Adv. chor. is basically what it is, having different inspirations and excercises for what you do. (like finding an object that'll reflect your movement, using a poem, dancing to a significant event in your life, etc.)

Had about 4-5 years of piano lessons starting in 3rd grade.

I thought maybe where you are living depends on what you learn. In VA, I was lucky at this public school. In CA, even at a private school there was pretty much nothing. In high school, it's just normal standards.

Pretty much nothing came from home, I danced outside of school, learned ballet/music/art history on my own.

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I thought maybe where you are living depends on what you learn. In VA, I was lucky at this public school. In CA, even at a private school there was pretty much nothing. In high school, it's just normal standards.

Pretty much nothing came from home, I danced outside of school, learned ballet/music/art history on my own.

Thank you, artist, for reviving another old thread. Yes, when it comes to public schools, so much depends on where you live. I know of instances where parents have pulled up stakes and moved to get their children into the school the parents wanted.

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