Testimonial #36: Yvette Heyliger, Playwright/Individual Artist/Teaching Artist

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

When I was growing up, I had the benefit of a holistic education–one that included instrumental and vocal music (where we learned the National Anthem and other songs as well as how to play them on instruments given to us in class), visual arts and electives, like “drama club” or “orchestra.” We even had prayer (or a moment of silence) and recited the Pledge of Allegiance daily. These activities planted seeds of patriotism in my heart that have stayed with me and shaped my character. (Yes, I have been known to tear up at the singing of The Star Spangled Banner!)

I attended a newly-formed performing arts high school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Circumstances resulting from decisions made by a very conservative school board in reaction to the activities and functioning of the arts school necessitated that I become an activist. As president of both the junior and senior class, I fought for the artistic freedoms and philosophies my school championed which were unheard of at any other school in the District of Columbia at that time (to my knowledge).

As I reflect on my career as a student, I can say that the early marriage of arts, activism and love of country within my youthful heart continued into adulthood, resulting in life-long fidelity as a citizen artist.

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