Canterbury After School: Arts Enrichment at Its Finest

At a recent piano lesson, instructor Catherine Lamb told Charlie White (2nd-Sacco) that the next piece he learns would be a little more difficult. He’d been doing great on the easier, beginning pieces, and Catherine felt Charlie was ready for the challenge. “Are you up for something more difficult?” she asked. He looked up at Catherine and smiled. “Hard is my middle name.”

Catherine Lamb works with a Canterbury 2nd grader.

Catherine Lamb works with a Canterbury 2nd grader.

Charlie represents what Catherine hopes all students will say or think while progressing on the piano. Catherine is one of 10 instructors in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. In addition to piano, Canterbury offers after school instruction in guitar, flute, voice, percussion, violin, viola, yoga, dance (jazz, ballet, tap and lyrical), drama, and creative writing. Classes in the visual arts – Young Rembrandts and pyrography (wood-burning) –  are also available.

Director Kevin Brenner, lower school science teacher at Canterbury, is constantly looking for ways to broaden the program. “The After School Fine Arts program affords Canterbury and non-Canterbury students alike the opportunity to experience top quality fine arts instruction on a state-of-the-art campus,” he says. “Our instructors are among the finest in the area, and they are committed to quality instruction and building their programs and studios at Canterbury School.”

Looking ahead, one of Kevin’s main goals is to grow the scholarship fund established just this fall. “The vision for the program is to provide programs and instruction that meet the needs of all families who are seeking these types of offerings,” Kevin says. “Thanks to a grant received by our own Karen Niegelsky, our program now has a scholarship fund from which a committee will award some partial scholarships for students who make requests.”

Third grade teacher Penny Summers, founder of the After School Fine Arts Program, remembers the excitement around launching in 2009. “We had just celebrated the opening of our beautiful new Stafford Arts Center, and we wanted the building to be fully utilized,” she recalls. “We wanted it to be ‘humming’ with art activity! We knew that a vibrant after school program would be a great complement to our already strong arts curriculum, from which students benefitted during the school day.”

At the end of each semester, Andrea Crossley Spencer (right) and her creative writing students host a public reading of the students' work.

At the end of each semester, Andrea Crossley Spencer (right) and her creative writing students host a public reading of the students’ work.

Many research studies have confirmed the correlation between participation in the arts and enhanced academic performance. “In my experience, great benefits stem from engaging with challenging material over a long period of time, learning that failure is an integral part of success, and developing the discipline you need to sing, draw, paint, act, or write well,” Penny adds. “I have always found the arts to be a great source of joy and purpose. What a gift to give to a child!”

After school programming allows Canterbury to tailor instruction to the needs and interests of each student. The school has been diligent about hiring instructors who bring to Canterbury a great deal of professional success in their disciplines. For example, Catherine Lamb came to Canterbury from Charlottesville, VA, where she had a thriving piano studio for 10 years. Mark Charles Smith is active as a professional composer and classical guitarist, and he teaches music at New Garden Friends School and Guilford College. Viola instructor Kate Middel performed with the Liberace Quartet, among many other honors. Professional ballet dancer and instructor Kristi Fedor has had several ballet students who have won scholarships for summer intensive programs to the most prestigious ballet schools in the country.

The program is one more way that Canterbury lives out its commitment to the whole child. Instructors seem to enjoy teaching at our school as much as their students enjoy learning from them. It is exciting to imagine how the After School Fine Arts program will evolve to meet student interest – both at Canterbury and within the greater community.

Registration for Spring 2015 after school programming will begin Dec. 4. View the full list of offerings, and contact an instructor to secure a space for your child.

“In my experience, great benefits stem from engaging with challenging material over a long period of time, learning that failure is an integral part of success, and developing the discipline you need to sing, draw, paint, act, or write well. I have always found the arts to be a great source of joy and purpose. What a gift to give to a child!”

 – Penny Summers, 3rd grade teacher and After School Fine Arts program founder

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Spencer_2014_073Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (4th-Hoover), a freelance writer, and a creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, chocolate peanut butter shakes and listening to all kinds of music, from Harry Connick, Jr. to David Gray.

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