With the first annual Arts in Education Week now underway from September 12 to 18, The Hub caught up with a musician who is committed to the arts in public education. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein lives in New York City, where she produces a Neighborhood Classics concert series open to the public and hosted by New York City public schools; performing musicians donate their time, and ticket sales benefit the schools’ Parent Teacher Associations. The series began last year at PS 321, the Brooklyn public school that Dinnerstein’s son attends and where her husband teaches. (Dinnerstein also attended the school, and her mother taught there.) Dinnerstein also spoke about the sometimes surprising impact public-school arts education has had on her own family.

 “I have always felt a strong connection with schools, and I’ve played in many across the country. Those are always lovely, memorable occasions. But it’s through the daily work of a public school, which I’ve seen through my eight-year-old son and my husband, a fifth-grade teacher, that I’ve learned just how important the arts can be.

“One of the subjects that my husband teaches his fifth graders is 19th-century immigration to America. The primary way the children access the material is by reading about it, but it’s in the dance production they put on—a version of Ragtime—that he sees that material really come together. The dance helps them to integrate everything they’re reading, develop a real understanding of immigrants’ challenges, and finally make sense of the topic. Even the most reluctant children are involved enthusiastically by the third session.

“My son has had similar experiences. Long a reluctant writer, he has recently begun to write prolifically, using his school sketchbook to create ornate, obsessively detailed drawings. The writing has unlocked something in his drawing, and the drawing has unlocked something his writing. Together they show just what Arts in Education Week reminds us of—the importance of teaching the arts as an integral part of the school day.”

Current federal education law states that the arts are a core academic subject of learning. Take action during National Arts in Education Week to help ensure that the arts aren’t just named, but actually implemented as a core academic subject.

Posted September 14, 2010