Giving Thanksgiving to The Arts

“I’m a disabled woman who didn’t think I’d amount to much, but now I have an instructional hand drum DVD/Book published that just became an instant play on Carl Fischer Music published it in 2008.”

Jill Sager, a contributor to The First 100 Stories Campaign (Testimonial #17), lends her voice to validate the transformational power of The Arts.  We can be thankful for her tenacity, her courage, her contribution to our world.  And, why, on  this Thanksgiving celebration, we can all be grateful for the wondrous gift The Arts bestow on us as a people.

In thanksgiving, give yourself the gift of reading her inspirational story.  And then, let’s hear from you…Why are you thankful for The Arts?

Let’s keep The Arts the fabric of our existence.  Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Music and Me

by Jill Sager

I grew up in NYC and started playing piano at age 6 and loved it.   But I was also born with a disability and at age 9, I had surgery, which meant music, and just about everything else took a back seat.  From the age of nine to thirteen I was in and out of hospitals and spent 4th, 5th and 6th grades between home tutors and a segregated “Health Class” in a Bronx public school.

1966 was a time before a civil rights act for disabled people was even an idea.  It was a time before disabled children were mainstreamed in our public schools, and it was a time when being called “handicapped” was still the norm.  It was a difficult time for kids like me; kids who wore braces, used wheelchairs, or couldn’t sit still or stay focused in a classroom.

It was a time when I endured the gawks and shouts from my peers who yelled, “small fry, big shoe, and gimp” from across the playground.  I survived questions from adults, “what’s wrong with you?” and embarrassment from well meaning parents who scolded their children for staring at me.  I learned how to ignore the bus driver who asked if I was “mentally retarded” and learned how to cope with the deep hurt of rejection when my sister left for sleepovers without me.

My life as an outsider was sealed and so too were my worries about trying to compete in a world that didn’t accept me.  I spent hours alone pouring over album covers, listening to Beethoven, Joni Mitchell, and Ella Fitzgerald on a record player my mom traded Plaid Stamps for at the A&P.  Music was my sanctuary, my serenity, and my support.

At 14, the braces and crutches were finally gone and I took piano lessons again.  Playing music was something I could do.  It took focus away from all the things I couldn’t and all the things I had no control over, like the limp and disfigurements that remained.  By my last year of Junior High School I submitted an application to New York’s High School of Music and Art.

The world had been a challenging place and even today I have no idea how I found the courage to ride the subway into Manhattan and take that audition.  Even now I can remember all my fear, but I also remember that Music and Art represented freedom, and I needed to escape.

I waited for the letter and when it came I read it over and over.  The letter of acceptance from Music and Art helped me believe my life could be better and in the three years I was there I grew as a musician.  The real gift however, was how much I grew as a person.  Going to Music and Art expanded my awareness of the world and I was surrounded by people who valued unique expression.  I had new confidence and new hope.

I started to leave the Bronx for Manhattan on the weekends too.  I went to free concerts, museums, and galleries.  I discovered the library at LincolnCenter and the collection of instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I was still by myself, but it didn’t matter anymore.  With every new painting or score or book I found,  I was rescued from a world where I’d felt confined, to one brilliant with opportunity.  As I had expected, that time did bring a new beginning for my life and it did change my fate.

Playing music and all that I was exposed to couldn’t erase all my fears or self doubts as a teenager but I was lucky.   I had a place to go for High School where music and art were a revered common denominator.  A place where creativity, self-expression and individuality were encouraged.   I benefitted from that support and ever since, I’ve been the recipient of a life filled with that inspired grace.  A life where I do fit in.

Presidential Proclamation — National Arts and Humanities Month, 2012 | The White House

Presidential Proclamation — National Arts and Humanities Month, 2012 | The White House.

“When children read their first book, pick up their first instrument, or perform in their first play, they demonstrate the power of the arts to ignite wonder and imagination. This month, let us pledge to invest in America’s next generation by ensuring our children have the opportunity to participate in and enjoy the arts and humanities. If we give them the tools to create and innovate, they will do their part to disrupt our views, challenge our perceptions, and stir us to be our best selves.”

Contribute your submission to The First 100 Stories for National Arts & Humanities Month!

Testimonial #18: Georgina Galanis

Georgina Galanis, The COLORS of LIFE, Creativity Consultant Creative Life Design

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?

I was acknowledged and “seen” for the first time by my Fashion Arts, Production, Design & Merchandising Teacher– Mrs. Sylvia Fox. She was enthusiastic, creative, a forward thinker ahead of her time, and allowed me to be unique in her class — in fact, she encouraged each of us to find and express our own style and imprint. We became friends during and following my 3 years with her and I was invited back to speak to her new class about my own experiences and career (then in my early twenties as a clothing buyer for an upscale privately owned high fashion store). We remained dear friends and she asked me to accompany her students as a mentor to New York City to visit the Fashion schools that could be choices in their college selection.

She influenced me in that she treated my work and my spirit with respect, and inspired me to grow — Her life was shortened by pancreatic cancer when she was in her early 40’s and I remain forever saddened by the loss of an incredible lady and teacher who changed my life.

As the founder of The Colors of Life concept: a progressively expanding lens of compassionate awareness from which to view and manifest creative potentials , I have integrated my background in design, art and spirituality as a Creativity Consultant and Sacred Space Ensemblier, guiding non profits and individuals to deeper expression and authenticity in life and work.  

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

Teach the teachers the method of Spontaneous Painting….how to use the gifts you were born with –your Innate Authentic Multiple Intelligence. Art technique is not a focus with this method yet it uses non judgmental expression through the act of painting. In addition empathic listening, safe space interactive sharing, movement and meditation is applied to release suppressed creative energies and view new perspectives.  This method can then be applied to any subject, in any class, to any willing student, any age group worldwide.

Creative self-expression is a natural human gift we ALL can develop if given the opportunity. Whole Brain Learning programs, such as spontaneous painting, provide people – from the advantaged to the homeless, and populations with or without special needs – with effective tools to develop their innate authentic Self. When large numbers of people actualize their authentic Self, they align with their unique potentials, life direction, and develop their Together, as each individual emboldens their inner greatness, we form a critical mass and, there will be an evolutionary breakthrough in human consciousness.

Learn more about facilitators and teachers training courses–From the Organization for the Arts and Whole Brain Learning

Testimonial #17: Jill Sager

Testimonial #17:  Jill Sager, Hands On Rhythm and Drum School

Jill Sager is a Toca Percussion Artist, Recreation Therapist, and author of the popular instructional DVD and Book; Beginning Hand Drumming: A Guide to Recreation and Wellness edited by Joe Bergamini and published by Carl Fischer Music.

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?

A teacher that touched my life…..
Creativity values THE ARTS and participation in THE ARTS feeds our creativity and our community.  I had two drum teachers who understood, supported, and encouraged this which helped me nurture a creative life. They understood a life that favors creative acts favors ideas, passion, risk, courage, confidence, imagination, innovation, inventiveness, resourcefulness, problem solving and productivity.

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on” Albert Einstein

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

The arts are re-igniting my community by….

Here I am, passing along the creative torch

Testimonial #16: Margot Knight

Testimonial #16:  Margot Knight , Djerassi Resident Artists Program

The Djerassi Resident Artists Program is internationally recognized as one of the eminent artist residency programs. We strive to provide the best possible residency experience for artists of superior talent from a diverse range of backgrounds and geographical locations.

As stewards of a unique and beautiful property, we also seek to preserve the land and use our facilities wisely and efficiently for maximum benefit to the artists and with the least impact on the environment.

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?

Mr. Carroll was the senior drama teacher at CrosslandHigh School in Camp   Springs, Maryland. I auditioned and got a role in the chorus of Sophocles’ Antigone my sophomore year. The rehearsal process was transformative. We learned about Greek history, culture and poetry. I can still recite my opening lines:  “Oh light of the rising sun, brightest beam that ever shone on Thebes of the seven gates.”

The beam was bright indeed.