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TFO adds second teaching artist for Pinellas schools

In less than two years, our Teaching Artist partnership with Pinellas County schools has become so successful that we’ve hired a second musician. Violist Kaitlin Springer joins violinist Kristin Baird to work with orchestra programs in Pinellas public schools.

In honor of National Arts in Education Week, we’re shining a light on this unique program, in which two professional musicians split their time between schools and performing on stage with The Florida Orchestra as extra musicians. The teaching artists are embedded within existing music and arts programs and provide expertise in artistry and education to teachers and students in as many as 40 schools throughout Pinellas, mostly middle and high schools. This is the second full school year for the program.

“This partnership is important because it supports orchestra programs that were completely cut in the 1990s,” said TFO Community Engagement Director Erin Horan. “Thanks to the support of the school board and Superintendent Michael Grego over the past few years, music and art programs have seen tremendous support. Since our partnership began, the level of the county’s string programs has increased and teachers report they are more confident in their work and enjoy more job satisfaction overall. We are improving the cultural life in Pinellas County through this program.”

Pinellas County Performing Arts Supervisor Jeanne Reynolds agreed. “We felt an immediate impact from this innovative Teaching Artist program,” Reynolds said. “Student achievement at all three partnership schools increased dramatically.  We are excited about what this program is doing for our schools!”

As part of the program, schools can apply to receive intensive instruction as one of three partner schools. This year’s partner schools are Palm Harbor High School, Clearwater Fundamental Middle School and Lakewood High School, which will work primarily with teaching artist Baird. Springer will work primarily with last year’s partner schools, Dunedin High School, Tarpon Springs Middle School and Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School, to help provide consistency in the face of teacher turnover. Both Baird and Springer also will work with teachers who are new to strings instruction or who request extra help. Typically extra time is spent coaching for Music Performance Assessments, All County auditions, or before a school concert.

The cost of the partnership is split between the Pinellas County School District through referendum funding and The Florida Orchestra, which has several generous sponsors for the program.

Pioneer teaching artist Kristin Baird, who was hired in 2017, studied violin and Suzuki pedagogy at the Cleveland Institute of Music. After more than a year as a teaching artist, she sees how the program makes a difference.

“Our job is to provide comprehensive strings instruction, but the personal connections we build between teachers, students and musicians of the Florida Orchestra are what ultimately add real value to our community,” she said.

Kaitlin Springer, who started as a teaching artist in August, was previously artist-in-residence at The Conservatory School in North Palm Beach.  She studied viola at Boston University, the Hartt School of Music, and Lynn Conservatory.

“The work that we are doing in the community is a great model for what should be happening everywhere,” Springer said. “Pinellas County is recognizing that creativity and the arts add to the core values of the classroom.”

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