About LP Writer
Shipley Robertson Salewski
Lesson Plan Writer
Shipley Robertson Salewski
My love affair with the arts began as a literary one. From my childhood enchantment with books (I can still remember reading late into the night by the aid of a flashlight, so my mother wouldn’t know I was awake) to my more recent experiences as a graduate school student and an English teacher, art for me has always been about stories: other people’s stories, preferably from far-flung places and times and perspectives, and how those stories intertwine with my own.
When I joined MusicUnitesUS in 2005, I was in the midst of grad school, doing a lot of theorizing about how to best teach these stories, and the opportunity to work with musicians opened a new world of possibilities for me as an educator. Music, perhaps even more so than the literary arts with which I had long been enamored, allows us to confront cultures on their own terms, in a way that is self-consciously contextual and personal. It can provide an untranslated line of communication from one to another, a medium that often highlights the parts of people’s stories that are lost in media reports, textbooks, and the like. A moment from one of the first MUUS performances I attended illustrates this concretely: performer Yuval Ron was introducing a ballad his ensemble was about to play and mused, “Ah, you probably know very much about the war in Iraq, but how many of you have ever heard an Iraqi love-song?” His question was a poignant reminder to all of us in the audience that music can give voice to neglected emotions, experiences, and histories, fleshing out--giving life to--what students learn in the classroom setting. (It also has the added benefit of appealing to “multiple intelligences”, provoking and affecting students who learn in varying ways.) Ultimately, though, music’s deep value here is its ability to draw us in: just as fiction captured my imagination as a child, allowing me to engage with stories other than my own, so too a culture’s music can bring us a bit closer, granting us the intimate experience of otherwise distant worlds and lives.
Probably the greatest pleasure for me in my work with MUUS is the collaboration with the Waltham teachers, a partnership that takes these exciting ideals and puts them into action in real classrooms multiple times per year. Without the teachers’ valuable knowledge of the context of the courses and the students themselves, it would be impossible for us to integrate the MUUS performances and lessons with the work that is going on every day. Our hope is that the value of MUUS extends, through these talented teachers, beyond the performances and related lessons we create to a broader use of the arts in the classroom as tools that can encourage an empathetic and critical understanding of our ever-changing world.
Shipley Robertson Salewski began her career as an educator by teaching a Survey of World Religions class to high school freshmen soon after the 9/11 attacks, an experience that made clear to her the deep need for inventive and authentic ways of teaching students about varied cultures, religion, and understandings of the world. This experience also affirmed for her the ability of even young students to grapple with the difficult questions such studies can provoke. Since that year she has completed a teacher training program through Harvard Divinity School’s Program in Religion and Secondary Education (PRSE) and received her Initial Licensure to teach English in Massachusetts to grades 8-12. She has been working with MusicUnitesUS since 2005 and is currently living and teaching in San Francisco.