Testimonial #45 Adam Crane: StringQuest.com

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?

Thanks, Mom!

I was very much a “newbie” at playing the viola, starting in 7th grade. My  school orchestra director suggested that I go and try playing with a  regional youth orchestra. I do remember, vaguely, that trains were delayed,  we arrived late, and the orchestra rehearsal had already begun.

Powerful and “professional sounding” music echoed down hallways in the huge  building. I turned to my mother and said “…well, it was fun getting here, we’ll  be turning around soon.” She said, “You’re here — why not give it a try?” I  unpacked my viola and sat down in the last chair of the viola section,  trying not to bring any attention to my presence, since I had no business
being there at my “newbie” status, let alone arriving late.

Star Wars (the first one – released in 1976), had just come to theaters, and  it was the craze at the time! I knew how the music sounded, at least the  melody, but didn’t know the background stuff. But hey, it would be cool one  day to play it!

There was a fuzzy copy of a Star Wars viola part on the music stand. It  looked like alphabet soup! There were about 50 things written on the first  page, in what seemed to be different languages, all mixed in with the music.

I saw numbers, and brackets, and notes that I never knew existed, somehow  connected on the page. There were arrows and exclamation points, squiggly  lines, and to top it all, in Bold Capital letters, “WATCH-OUT HERE!”

At this point the Conductor tapped on his stand and said, “Okay everyone,  stay with me and let’s see what we have to work.” Remember, I was just down  the hall hearing them sound pro, or at least to my “newbie” ears they did.  This sound was triggering a loud thought in my head: I want to go home and  organize my baseball cards.

The Conductor then made some bird-like gesture, waved the stick he just  tapped assertively on the music stand, and within seconds, (which seemed  like a day and a half to me) he exclaimed, “STOP!” This frightening looking conductor then turned and looked directly at me and  bellowed, “VIOLAS! I’m so happy you are all here to join us.” He pointed to  me and to an empty seat by the second music stand. Still pointing, he said  “You are?” My voice cracked as I said my name. He then said, “Move up to the second  stand.” Without hesitation, I practically ran to my newly assigned and  unwanted seat.

Within seconds, (just after I bumped my viola, hitting nearly everyone in my  path), he gestured more enthusiastically than the first time. This time, his  motions resembled the wing span of the largest eagle imaginable and the  orchestra soared.

As the orchestra began to play, I tried hard to keep up with the bigger kid  next to me. I moved my bow and fingers on the strings when he did, trying to  keep a very low profile. I admit that I was practically hiding behind the  music stand, hoping to be shielded from any more undesired attention.

Again a voice in my head reminded me that I was looking forward to sorting  my 1976 METS cards when I got home and ironically, I had just gotten some  new cards including a “Victory Leader” card, with some bubble gum.

About a minute passed and the conductor stopped the orchestra, exclaiming  louder than before, “VIOLAS!” I should mention that at this point, in  addition to violinists and cellists, there were people with trumpets,  trombones, flutes, clarinets and drums the size of more than half of my  room, and some holding an instrument that looked like a stove pipe, (that I  learned later was called a bassoon). All of these strangers were looking at  the violas. Their glares felt like Star-Wars style laser beams directed at
the violas, and you guessed it, at ME! The conductor went on to say “You (pointing at me, the ‘viola player’),  repeat after me, DIG-AH-DIG-AH, DIG-AH, DIG-AH, DIG AHHHHH!”

Everyone in the room burst out into hysterical laughter, and even I giggled  a little. I began to believe I might make it unharmed through the  experience, or I hoped. He continued by saying, “I’m serious – repeat after  me,” and then he went on to display the most articulate and energetic  performance of the background of the Star Wars Theme.

I couldn’t believe it! I recognized the rhythm from the movie. Then, he  asked me to repeat the “DIG-AH etc.” I even survived his making me do it  again, and then asking me to perform it yet again more clearly and loudly.

Thankfully, I lived to share this story. He told me that when I see parts of  the music that looks like traffic jam on the page [to] just say the words in  your head. He performed it once again to really emphasize his point: “DIG-AH-DIG-AH, DIG-AH, DIG-AH, DIG-AHHH.” He continued and said, “Okay, ALL  of you players laughing, be prepared to say EVERY RHYTHM! I refer to, each
and every page, of every piece, of each and every passage, by the end of  today’s second rehearsal.”

At this moment, everyone in the room immediately fell silent. The Conductor  then tapped the stand again. With a new-found respect for our conductor,  what followed was an incredibly productive and fun rehearsal. Students were  paying attention with much more focus than before the above experience. No  one wanted to have their own public, “Dig-Ah Moment.”

During the break, students and their families ate lunch and studied their  music. Some kids were really helpful to me, since they had much more  experience than I had at the time. We all were sounding out the music in our  own way, doing as the Maestro requested. The second rehearsal was even more  amazing!

Remember, the Maestro is the teacher. Your orchestra director is your  Maestro. They are your best knowledge resource, having learned from other  Maestros. Sharing music knowledge is a tradition that has been passed down  from generation to generation. Be attentive to the knowledge you are  acquiring. In this way, you will continue the tradition.

By the way, I’m glad I stayed. Thanks, Mom!

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

In case you are curious, how this story came about — While composing the  Rhythm Worlds in a unique music curriculum the topic of how to count understand and notate rhythm sub-divisions triggered this fond memory among others. Not only did Mom instill in me the want to try my best, but now, at 21+, she has helped me by  editing thousands of pages of curriculum content from before there was a  title or a cast of characters.

StringQuest.com is an extensive music curriculum e-learning platform that shares this spirit of enthusiasm and offers quests for students, educators, music lovers and  experts. Lots of free stuff for everyone, so please stop by and signup free!
Come Play Your Part!


Testimonial #44: Victoria Orvañanos Archer, Writer Televisa


“Every time my mother punished me, locked me in my room and hit me yet again, I would listen over and over again to ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ to ‘Music Of The Night’ and I would smile between tears. I just had to find the way to become that beautiful swan just like the Phantom did and turn all my pain into beauty. I was eight-years-old and fell in love with art.”

I am a writer in Televisa, I write telenovelas and tv series and right now I’m breaking into film and theatre. So my story begins when I was six years old…

I am the oldest of four children and the only girl. Music has always inspired me to create great stories and complex characters that can outshine during crisis for what makes a man is what he does when the storm comes. I had a rough childhood and music was always my shelter. One day, my parents came home from a trip to Toronto where they saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest musical “The Phantom of The Opera” and brought me the soundtrack tape and vinyl disc as well as the Playbill of the time; it was 1987. When I first read the story I immediately identified with “The Phantom” a man suffering the cruelty of the world due to a mother’s rejection and was hiding underneath the Opera House where “the monster” grew up to become The Angel of Music. My heart stopped.  My soul was frozen as I was listening to the music and reading the lyrics. How can it be that so much grief could turn into something so magical and fascinating?! That’s when I decided I wanted to become a writer and tell stories that would ease aching hearts such as mine. So every time my mother punished me, locked me in my room and hit me yet again, I would listen over and over again to “The Phantom Of The Opera” to “Music Of The Night” and I would smile between tears. I just had to find the way to become that beautiful swan just like “The Phantom” did and turn all my pain into beauty. I was eight-years-old and fell in love with art.

Years went by and I was never picked for my school’s musicals or plays.  My mother was still in rage by my existence and by this time I was a teenager crying alongside my piano, which I learned quickly to play. I was sent to a boarding school in England for a year where I saw for the first time my beloved disfigured genius “The Phantom Of The Opera” in London!!!!! When I first saw the man behind the mask I found myself crying tears down to my neck as I understood he was but a vulnerable man crying for help, hiding behind a mask of strength, just like me. That was me on stage before the world to see, a wound opened hearted yearning for love exploiting in majestic music! I had to find my mask.  I had to find my strength. I had to find my angel and I did… The Beatles!

Lennon and McCartney’s words empowered me to dream big and aim for the greater goals. I got into UCLA and graduated and then I was offered a job in Televisa for writing the script of an entertainment news and interviews show for Telehit Channel called “Activon Tv”. I was doing great! Finally I was writing about music and art. Paul McCartney came to Mexico City and I got tickets on row number 5!!! It was the best day of my life, I shall never forget the entire stadium singing at the top of their lungs:  “Hey Jude, don’t be afraid, take a sad song and make it better, remember to let it into your heart then you can start to make it better. And any time you feel the pain, Hey Jude reframe, don’t carry the world upon your shoulder.”

And I thought to myself – I will make it through- And I did! When I incorporated the story of my life into a soap opera I was writing at the time, the ratings flew over the roof and I was receiving tweets from fans all over the world telling me how my story was changing their lives and now they were doing amazing things they never thought they could do. I was thriving with joy and suddenly all the grief I had gone through was unexpectedly worth it for it has made me who I am.

I wanted to push myself to the limit and I started writing a musical and created a non- profit organization where I teach orphan children to speak English through Beatles and Broadway songs to lead them to a world of new opportunities to build a prosperous future. These children are now dreaming of being someone great, of becoming a leader of achieving the unachievable! They laugh, they sing, they thirst for knowledge and they have become brothers. Thank God I went through that depression because these boys’ lives are changing with art and music! They want to be actors, singers, and football players and by God they will. I am teaching them to sing because we will form a children’s choir that will perform in schools and small theaters singing in English aiming for one dream: College. Every earnings will be funded to their college education. This is what it feels like to be alive!!!!!! And I would go through it all again a thousand times to find art in my way and do magic with it drawing smiles and planting dreams in lost little souls.

And now, in six months I am moving to New York City to bet on myself I can do it! I will take musical theatre writing and I will become the best writer there ever was. I will produce my musical in Mexico and I will continue to deliver happiness to children through art for as long as I live. Art has always brought up the best in me, has always led me to hope, to regain strength and fight till the end. Art has given me happiness I wish everybody out there could experience, it has given me peace and a higher understanding of life. It has made me the artist I am and the artist I will become. In my world, art has made me My Own Angel Of Music.

And that’s my story.

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

I have done exciting projects with my non- profit organization “Levantémos México” such as:

A photography exposition in The National Museum of Art titled “Black & White” 

I created an art photograph contests in several universities in Mexico: Ibero, Anáhuac and Tec de Monterrey, where students had to capture the different paths one can choose when crisis strikes: “BLACK” turning yourself into drugs, alcohol, prostitution, lust and hated with it’s consequences and “WHITE” Mediation, forgiveness, therapy, strength, faith and art with it’s results.

The project was sponsored by Domecq None profit organization, Kodak and Convivencia Sin Violencia.

KARAOKE NIGHTS FOR HAITI: I invited people to sing songs of praise and hope every Thursday for one month in a karaoke bar called REC. We gathered four thousand US dollars, which I gave to the Haiti Ambassador in Mexico City.

ORPHAN CHILDREN: We teach orphan children to speak English in order to ensure them a better future through the music of The Beatles and Broadway hit songs. These children now want to become actors and singers and are anxious to one travel to New York City and see all Broadway shows, but there are 2 in particular that became quickly very popular among them: “Les Misérables” and “The Phantom Of The Opera”. The children are now hoping, dreaming and finding their own voice and importance in life in a world that had closed the doors to them. Schools across Mexico City are helping sending their students to teach and sing with the children and an environment of joy and hope has been developed in the hearts of every one that take the lessons and teach them as well.







Testimonial #39: David McGinnis, Theatre Professor

I would never have finished high school without it. Period. I have no idea what I would be doing without theatre.”

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?

To be blunt, I only finished high school because of arts, and I definitely only pursued postsecondary and further education because arts were an option. Focusing on high school, though, I was not what you might call the “well-behaved” student…or even the usually present one. I attended when I felt like it and did what work I felt like until I discovered the interconnectedness of the arts with other disciplines. I then studied physics in high school because I wanted to learn how to build better set pieces and operate/repair lighting equipment. I buckled down and focused on my writing and literary studies because I kept stumbling upon references in the theatre and I wanted to understand them more fully. I worked harder on math because of its usefulness in the shop. I even began to care more about PE because I needed to stay fit in order to keep performing some of the work that the theatre required. I found myself more interested in my economics and civics studies because of the prevalence of such thought in theatrical literature, and beginning my 11th grade year, I even began to opt into courses like psychology for no more reason than the curiosity that I developed because of arts, theatre in particular. I would never have finished high school without it. Period. I have no idea what I would be doing without theatre, but because of what I gained from it, I am now a theatre professor, and I find that what I received is not at all an uncommon gift. Education without arts quite literally is education without passion, and education without passion prepares the learned arm for bondage.

The First 100 Stories Campaign

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.  In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories:  “One story makes you weak.  But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts.  Here’s how:

First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists!

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? Click here.

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

Here’s the first testimonial…contributed by one of my favorite high school students…

Testimonial #1. Edie Falco, Tony-Award winning Actor

“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a school kid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.”

What’s your story?  First Online With Fran wants to hear what you have to say…

Testimonial #35: Alice Christy, Voice Building/Piano/Speech & Acting Teacher

This true story is an example of how art education and passion for your dreams can lead to overcoming personal challenges and create a productive happy life.

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?

My daughter and I were literally kept in school by their respective art programs. The dance program at Cardoza High School, in Bayside, NY, was instrumental in keeping my daughter interested in “hitting the books”. She was very well known in the school because of her involvement in the school’s dance recitals and musicals. Today, she teaches dance at the Huntington Y on Long Island.

I was always interested in singing and throughout my school years was involved with the school choirs. At Hollywood High School, in LA, I was the Drill Captain for the marching unit, that “strutted its stuff” at all the football games, and marched in the Santa Claus Lane parade down Sunset Boulevard during the Christmas holidays. I was a member of the choirs, and participated in all the school musicals as well as attending choir competitions. All this kept me in school and out of trouble. I continued this path at Marymount College and UCLA working with the internationally renowned choral director, Roger Wagner and became a member of MU PHI EPSILON, the music honorary society.

Because of our love and participation in the art programs in our schools, my daughter and I have been “paying it forward” to the people in our communities through our teaching and performing. Wouldn’t change a thing!

Art is the core of our souls and should be a standard part of all children’s education. I am constantly reminded, by my students, how our diminished educational budgets have let our students down. Frances McGarry’s message and presentation will encourage the future inclusion of arts programs in schools once again. Thank you, Fran, our students deserve such programs and I totally support you in your work. Just let me know how I can help.