All Jazz Ensemble and Harbor Jazz Composers Concerts Announced!

Harbor Jazz Composers: Concert Tuesday, June 8th at 7:30 PM.  Show will be held in the third floor theater and admission is free.  This ensemble will feature works by the Conservatory’s jazz composition students.

All Jazz Ensemble: Concert Wednesday, June 9th at 7:30 PM.  Show will be held in the third floor theater and admission is free.  The ensemble will be performing an evening of jazz standards, and the Harbor Jazz Ensemble will be making a guest appearance.

Hope to see you all at the shows!


Class Review Series: Drama Exposure II and Musical Theater Exposure II

Hello Friends,

This past weekend I observed two more classes, Drama Exposure II with Dell Howlett, and Musical Theater Exposure II with Damazi Williams.  Observing these two classes in one day was extremely interesting, as both the teaching styles and direction of the classes were very different.

The first class I attended was Drama Exposure II for kids 9-11 years old.  According to Theater Arts Program Director Michael Awusie, this class is designed to expose students to basic theater concepts, and help them use their imaginations to create and visualize different characters, situations, and environments.  At the conclusion of the semester there will be a performance where the students showcase what they have learned.

Dell began the class by sitting with the ten students in a circle and asking what they did during the week.  This exercise created a relaxed environment and encouraged the kids to express themselves in a low-pressure atmosphere.  Each student brought an item of their choice to the class, such as a book, toy, scarf, etc.  Dell then had the students line up and act out a monologue using their object.  The theme of this exercise was to express nostalgia about an item that rekindled an old memory.  Each scene concluded with the student “showing” the object to their mother.

After all the students presented their monologue, Dell sat the kids down and critiqued their individual performances.  His criticisms were constructive and kind, but clearly communicated the changes that needed to be made.  Dell possessed a unique ability to relate to the students, interspersing his time as a part of the group and as the leader.  A great class run by a fantastic teacher.

At the conclusion of Dell’s class, I ran over to Musical Theater Exposure II, another class for 9-11 year old’s.  This class introduces students to the marriage of dance, theater, and music in order to tell a story.  The students are challenged to go beyond simply creating characters, as they learn to sustain and heighten those characters through song and dance.

To begin, Damazi had the students practice singing and timing with a pianist to the song “Footloose”.  While the students are not trained singers, they were well prepared and Damazi challenged them to maximize their vocal abilities.  After concluding this exercise, the class advanced to dancing and singing simultaneously.  Damazi allowed the students to work through their mistakes, only stopping the group for major errors.  The kids are typical pre-teens, excitable and easily distracted, but Damazi completely controls the class and does an excellent job refocusing his students.

Damazi’s teaching style is completely different from Dell’s.  He is strict and driven, instinctively knowing when to back off and when to push forward.  The mood of his classroom is fun but stern, and wasting time is not tolerated.  His determination is infectious, and the students seem equally motivated to perfect their performance.

Watching these two opposing teaching styles back to back was fascinating.  Both teachers used vastly different techniques to facilitate learning and get the most out of their students.  Check back next week for more class reviews!

Daniel Schwartz
Special Projects Coordinator

GESTURES Save the Date

Mark Your Calendars Now!

GESTURES Dance Ensemble
Two evenings of Dance
June 18 and 19, 7:30 PM
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
Joan Weill Center for Dance

“If you’re interested in checking out stars of the next generation, Gestures is a good place to start.” – Elizabeth Zimmer, METRO

Class Review Series: GESTURES and LEAP

Dear Friends,

This post marks the beginning of my “Class Review Series”.  I will be attending a variety of our classes here at the Conservatory, and giving you my opinions on them.  As Special Projects Coordinator here at the Harbor, I have no professional arts training, and know little about dance or theater.  I am hoping these reviews give you an “everyman’s” idea of how the classes are run, especially for parents interested in learning about our classes here.  The reviews will occasionally be supplemented with an interview from the teachers, students, or whatever else we believe gives you the most accurate picture of what our classes are like.

Last Friday, I attended a LEAP class and a GESTURES class.  Lets begin with LEAP, a dance program for students 11-14 who are focused on gaining acceptance into specialized dance programs.  The class I attended was taught by Blanca Alonso, and focused on the ballet aspect of dance.  The class started with the students warming up on bars, which I found out from Naomi (Assistant to the Dance Director and another one of our instructors) is a typical ballet warm up.  Blanca quickly went through instructions, then turned on music for the students to do specific movements to, which seemed geared towards strengthening the lower body and developing better technique.  The students showed great focus, particularly for their age, while Blanca is strict but upbeat.  She gets her point across to the students very clearly, and her passion is palpable.  Blanca is fully aware of everything going on in her classroom, making general instructions to the class while correcting specific mistakes by individual students.  Overall, the class seemed like a great building block for these young dance students .

GESTURES, the conservatory’s pre-professional dance company, was completely different.  The skill level of these older, experienced students is breathtaking.  The pure physicality of their motions struck me immediately.  These students are strong physically and very, very talented dancers.  Their movements are fast and the choreography is complex, requiring incredible body control and focus.  I found myself wishing I could have that sort of body control for just one day.  Nina Klyvert Lawson (Artistic and Dance Director) is the teacher for this particular class.  Nina is a vocal leader, and immediately assumes respect from the class.  The students all know what to do, the instructions focus on how to do it.  While Nina is clearly a stickler for perfection, she has the rare ability to keep the mood in the classroom light, but serious.  There are lots of jokes and laughter, but a loss of focus is not tolerated.  I saw the group perform two very different pieces.  The group was able to channel intensity and drama to a classical piece (in the first piece) just as well as fun and energy to a Latin song (the second piece).  After each run through, the students discussed what they could improve amongst themselves before being critiqued by Nina.

I really enjoyed attending these classes because it gave me some insight into the world of dance at the conservatory.  While I knew we had many talented dancers here, it was fascinating to see exactly what goes into nurturing that talent.  The students are driven, and the teachers know how to get the most out of the dancers.

Harbor Conservatory in the Daily News!

Hello Friends,

Yesterday, the Daily News featured an article about the Harbor Conservatory!  The focus was the conservatory’s history of teaching and carrying on the rich legacy of Latin music.  Conservator Director Ramon Rodriguez, Director of External Affairs Nina Olson, and Berklee bound piano student Angel Echevarría were all interviewed for the article.  Click here to read it!


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