What is Integral Steps and when/why did you decide to create it? Who are the core members?
Integral Steps was created in 2012 by Alejandra Hudon and myself, born out of a desire to provide interdisciplinary education and opportunities to families in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Region. It was clear that with our combined experiences - Alejandra’s as a clinical psychologist focused on infant and early childhood development, and mine as a flutist, Suzuki and Dalcroze Educator, along with my interest in the interplay of systems which led to my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology - we could develop an educational approach that could integrate multimodal learning that strives to address individuals, families and communities through kinesthetic learning, expressive learning as well as intellectual learning. We also felt that this platform could provide us with a format to bring our unique gifts into our communities, and also give our faculty and staff a unique environment to create dream collaborations, and develop their unique vision and gifts into living breathing passion projects.
Since then, we have created classes and programs that help families and children grow in healthy ways, encouraging curiosity and mindfulness. Our programs all include interdisciplinary studies, combining music and movement with basic biology, spanish language, and yoga. New members of our team bring fresh new ideas, from creative concert series to specialized workshops that vary from concerts the explore exoplanets (Boston, Oct 2019) to supporting families in the months after birth (Portland, Oregon), to The Integrated Flutist, which is now in its 3rd year in Vancouver and had its inaugural class in London, UK.
Integral Steps has expanded since 2012; our core team now has 6 administrative staff, 3 of whom are also flutists, and a number of instructors! Our flutists on staff are: Sorcha Barr-Deneen, Office Manager; Weronika Balewski, Director of Development; and Cora Crisman, Integrative Education Fellow. We offer classes in throughout Colorado, Portland, OR, and workshops and series in the Bay Area, CA, Twin Cities (MN), Vancouver, BC, Boston, MA, and beyond.
We’ve found that having so many musicians involved in Integral Steps has been instrumental in expanding our programs, in part because we have experienced first-hand how much of a difference music education can have on life, and saw those benefits roll over into the rest of our education! It’s easy to be passionate about a project or program when you’ve seen it work, and being able to combine music and movement with other fields and subjects makes it accessible to a larger audience.
What makes Integral Steps unique from other education non-profits?
Integral Steps is different from other education non-profits for a number of reasons, most importantly for our emphasis on arts inclusion and integrative, creative collaboration in all of our programs. With so many school systems cutting arts programs for budgetary reasons, we have leaned into the arts world, providing an active, integrative,and mindful way for children to develop their creativity and create more neural connections in the brain between different subjects. This helps them retain information and learn more deeply, as well as placing a premium on experiential learning. Although this overlaps with the world of STEM based programs, we find this approach goes beyond the world of STEM.
We also make our programs accessible for many styles of learning. By capping class enrollment and offering multiple options for many classes, we are able to customize how we teach for each group of kids. Our classes touch on all the styles of learning and our instructors are experts at meeting their students’ needs, adjusting learning to fit kinesthetic, aural, tactile and visual learning. We use all sorts of mediums to learn through including the joy of being in a social environment; visual, using pictures, signs and books; aural, using songs and music; verbal, writing and speaking in English and Spanish; physical, using Dalcroze Eurhythmics and yoga; and logical, using systematic learning for music and concepts. We not only work in a classroom format, but we also hold community events, professional development training, workshops, concert series, and now we have a fellowship program for professionals who are interested in training in integrative education, developing their own projects and learning how to apply these techniques into their own professional lives and passion projects.
Why is this important?
We believe that education through the connection and development of ourselves through all of these types of engagements also fosters our connection and engagement to our peers and communities. At a time where there is extra tension around our differences, this type of learning can instead show us how we are more similar than different, and how through collaboration between the parts of ourselves and each other, we truly are more as a whole than the sum of our parts. Through collaboration, there are more than enough seats at the table to create new and interesting ways to grow within our communities - whether its a new way of organizing a flute festival and developing as a musician, or a community event that is inviting to all ages and backgrounds and can bring many people together.
What is your background with Dalcroze? (and who is Dalcroze, for those who don't know?)
My first class in conservatory after graduating from Interlochen Arts academy was in Dalcroze Eurhythmics. It was required for all performance majors as a path towards developing and embodying our musicianship. For me it, it was a true ‘ah-ha’ moment - I couldn’t believe that people taught the way I learned! Through Dalcroze I learned that the body is my first instrument and my flute is an extension of this. Through exploring music in our bodies and moving our music, we can stand on a concert stage and move our audience. To me, this is the most powerful aspect of Dalcroze training and has become the basis how how I perceive developing my performances and learning my music in a way that I feel can connect to my breath, my self and my audiences. We crave the ability to communicate, and music truly touches all those who can feel vibration and hear sound. In a day when we can so often focus on shrinking audiences, I feel we must find a new connection to our music and the way we master our instruments and communication through our music. This development connects us to our audience, to our instrument (body and flute), and to our voice as a musician, collaborator, and performer. Since my first experience, I have gone on to become certified and licensed in this method - the equivalent of a master's in the Dalcroze work, which allows me to teach both children, adults, and professionals.
An experiential way of knowing music through the body, designed for adult professionals in music, dance, & theater, and was later developed for children.
3 core branches:
● Eurhythmics: provides training of structural and aesthetic elements
● Solfège: trains the eyes, ears, and voice
● Improvisation: enables students to create music
2 applied branches:
● Pedagogy and Methodology: teaching through and into music
● Plastique Animée: visual analysis of a piece of music with the body
Dalcroze (1865-1950) Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, a Swiss pianist, composer, and educator, created his method of teaching advanced conservatory students using “rhythmic gymnastics” early in the Twentieth century. Later, he developed these principles for children and young adults. In a typical Dalcroze class, the instructor will combine the elements above using rhythm games, songs, gesture, and movement as the key teaching media so that the joy of music is experienced and understood. As a precursor to or in tandem with private music lessons, Dalcroze Eurhythmics creates a platform for accelerated and deep learning in all musicians.
In your opinion (and statistically/scientifically, if you know), how does music and movement help in the development of early childhood?
A significant amount of research has been done on how exposing children to music, especially at a young age, can help them build neural bridges, which helps the brain organize thoughts and behaviors. Music and movement education enhances fine motor skills, can aid in language learning and builds a social understanding for children so that they are prepared for a well-rounded and fulfilling life! Music involvement has also been shown to help older students perform better on classwork and standardized tests.
For example, the body is the first tool to learning, and the direct experience of music through movement can change our relationship to music in a joyful and interactive way. I have personally seen the enormous difference that music can make on the development of my students. Many young kids are nervous or shy around new people but over the course of the year, they blossom into sociable, incredible artists who have a message to share with the world. They’re more aware of their bodies in space, have a more developed emotional intellect, and pick up languages and communication skills faster. This develops their concentration, communication, and comfort as performing artists making this aspect of instrumental and ensemble learning a joyful process and also a deeply artistic process where they feel they can truly communicate through the expressive language of music. It’s really remarkable!
As someone very involved in the non-profit and fundraising world, how do you balance raising funds for each of your projects?
We take it one step at a time and are sure to share what makes us passionate about each project. Each of us needs to feel connected on a human level to the organizations we give to, and every little bit counts! For me, I know that each one of us has met an incredible teacher who shifted the course of our learning because they saw beyond the subject matter to support our growth as a whole human - this is what we try to bring to the fore at Integral Steps for our families and students. You can support our mission by visiting www.integralsteps.org/donate
How do you work with your local community and raise awareness?
We sponsor local community events that integrate crafts, great food, holiday cheer, and music for all ages at one of our favorite spots, Moxie Bread Co, in Louisville, Colorado. We also host special flute classes at Ellen Ramsey Flutes, which include not only recitals and masterclasses, but also community meet-ups and coffee hours to encourage all ages and levels to see the best in each other. In addition, we spread awareness by reaching out to local businesses are willing to support our scholarship programming. I create a custom roast for each partner that they sell in store with all proceeds going directly back into the community, sponsoring students in our programs.
How can you reach underserved communities and help them?
We are fortunate to work in collaboration with the Louisville and Longmont city governments, through libraries and their recreation centers to bring our programs to a broad swath of the community.
This year we will welcome the Play it Forward Scholarship programming into our Integral Steps family. In 2012 we collaborated with flutist Jessica Sherer to formulate this scholarship and was the winning recipient of the National Arts Venture Grant Competition from the National Flute Association. Play it Forward fosters citizenship and social justice through music by empowering motivated young musicians, regardless of financial status, to earn private lessons through hour-for-hour volunteer work with local service organizations. Integral Steps will now expand this scholarship programming to include families. We have been so proud to be part of this program from its roots, and are excited to continue its growth into Colorado and to serve as its guardian into its future growth.
What did this season look like, and what is in store for you next season?
This season was busy and so rewarding! I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to travel, perform, give classes at flute festivals, universities and conservatories about the connection of the integration of movement, performance, audience engagement and flute. Most recently, we presented the inaugural Integrated Flautist in London, which is a branch of our Integrated Flutist Festival that occurs in Vancouver, British Columbia every spring. In addition, I performed with the Steamboat Springs Symphony Orchestra, which is always such a delight! I taught at the UW-Whitewater Flute Camp, the Opus Ithaca Spring Flute Workshop, the Lamar University Flute Day, among others and performed in Philadelphia with Dawn Werme Pratson for her performance project "If We Listened to Birds Sometimes” sponsored by Wm. S Haynes. I started the season off by becoming an Ambassador Clinician with Wm. S. Haynes in September 2018, which has been a remarkable experience - being part of the Haynes flute family is true honor!
Next season will be equally busy, I’m still a member of the Steamboat Springs Symphony Orchestra and will be teaching at a number of flute festivals across the country. I’m especially excited for the 2020 Integrated Flutist in Vancouver, Canada May 30-31! You can get all the information about that at integralsteps.org/Vancouver-flute. I will also spend more time in Europe collaborating with research and performance colleagues about how music and movement affects the brain.
What advice can you give to flutists who want to start projects relating to social change?
I feel that we need to remember that we connect to our own personal story the best. I always ask myself, what has music given me? What does this way of creating music move me and how can it move my audience? What has Dalcroze and Integrative education changed for me in my relationship with the flute, my colleagues and the role of the arts in my life and my communities? My real feeling is that we grow through collaboration and the way forward in our communities is to approach our projects and collaborations as an opportunity to grow more opportunities for all of us. In this way, instead of fighting over the same piece of cheese, we create more cheese!