Musician Randy Armstrong continued his creative empowerment of youth through the arts in a residency at New Hampshire’s Hillside Middle School, and also at the community’s BRINGIT! after-school program. The workshops were held at the Manchester school during the months of January and February 2014.
The World-Music performance artist engaged more than 400 students, including ESL students, over a four-day period. Participants in both the residency and the after-school sessions included those whose families have come to the US from Iraq, Honduras, Nepal, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
Fifteen students attended Randy’s BRINGIT! after-school program, offered in six weekly sessions in which the artist used African Drumming to address themes of world unity and world citizenship. Fifteen college interns from Southern New Hampshire University also attended the sessions.
Emphasizing music as the universal language that can bring all cultures together in peace and understanding, Randy’s residency at Hillside Middle School encouraged students to value the musical and other contributions of all cultures, including their own, and to explore what it means to act as a world citizen in the world today. Randy’s curriculum also facilitated the students’ teaching each other about their cultural backgrounds.
Social-Studies teacher Patrick O’Neil, who observed Randy’s workshops at the school, noted that, “Randy meets every student individually, asks his/her name, the country he/she is from, and his/her native language while connecting his own adventures and travels to their homelands. This cultural connection to the students makes for a pleasant and engaging atmosphere, making the students even more enthusiastic to participate in the activity.
“The students pick up on Randy’s love of all kinds of music, including their own. … He has a unique ability to recognize the diversity in our students and identify their interests and talents, all while connecting music to their culture and traditions. It’s no wonder that the students who have participated in the activity in the past were so excited to be part of it again this year. You know you’ve got something good going when the veteran students are all fired up to explain to their newcomer classmates what they are about to experience with Randy.”