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Fostering Community Through the Arts
Isabelle Dom

Started as a small initiative by former AOS parent Sonja Bruzauskas, pARTnerschools is now a certified non-profit organization whose goal is to create stronger communities through art. pARTnerschools believes that by making art together, students learn that they are more similar than they are different, which helps shape their understanding of diversity being a strength and an asset. Each year, pARTnerschools connects the music departments of two different schools. Each pair collaborates on interactive projects such as workshops, teacher visits, virtual visits, and joint rehearsals. Each collaboration culminates in a shared concert.

After a three-year-long partnership, Annunciation Orthodox School Middle School Chorus Director Natalie Gray and Yellowstone College Prep Choral Director Tiffiny Reckley share how this program not only positively impacts the students but also them as teachers.*

“My favorite thing about pARTnerschools is getting to meet and sing with kids from other schools, and the final concert - which was awesome!” - Cecilia F. ‘19, Annunciation Orthodox School

What is the biggest benefit of this partnership for the students?

I continue to hear students reminisce about their experience working with the Yellowstone students and teachers as well as their visits to Yellowstone. The socialization is significant but so is the collaboration. By working with Tiffiny, they experience different choral direction which challenges them to be attentive, flexible in their practice, and patient in the process. These are not just choral lessons or music lessons but life lessons.

TR: I think that the biggest benefits are truly the experience, the exposure, and, more importantly, the friendships. They share phone numbers and keep those connections outside of singing together. I know the YCP Choir members have run up to me
the past two years at the beginning of the school year asking, “Are we going to pair up with AOS again this year?!” I love that they’re so excited about singing but also about spending time with their friends while doing something positive.

As a teacher, what have you learned through this program?

It provides a significant opportunity to meet other teachers in the fine arts community who want to make important strides in student life through music. Personally, my experience directing both AOS and YCP has challenged me to develop a variety of choral practices that connect with a wider audience. I continue to find that music and its different styles transcend race, socio-economic differences, and communities. In this day and age, it is so important to see that we can all connect in
some way.

TR: It is very easy to become used to teaching only your students. In turn, it’s easy for your students to become used to only your style of teaching. Through pARTnerschools, I have learned so much from the other music directors on how to continually grow my style and how to make it more effective for my students. I’ve also learned that it is okay to be more creative in musical choice selection.

“Music has no barriers at all. It doesn’t matter your ethnic background or if you can’t sing because together we all sound good!” - Ne’leh K., Yellowstone College Prep

*Tiffiny Reckley’s interview formerly appeared in a Yellowstone College Prep publication.


This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of The Delphian

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