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The Association of Teaching Artists (ATA) is a not for profit advocacy organization in New York State that brings together artists who teach in schools and in the community to: Educate, Collaborate, and Communicate.

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Who We Are, What We Have Learned Through Our Work,
and What Sustains Us

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RICHARD MANNOIA
NEW YORK (New York City)
 
   

Photo by Michael Ahearn

 
Richard Mannoia, clarinetist, performs a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, folk and new music in diverse venues such as Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Joe’s Pub, Galapagos Arts Space and the Whitney Museum. A veteran member of the interdisciplinary performance collaborative, VisionIntoArt, he has been performing new music with theater, poetry, dance and film in NYC and abroad. He has been freelancing in the New York area since graduating from Manhattan School of Music and, in addition to local performances, has performed abroad extensively in countries as far reaching as South Africa, Nepal, Serbia, and Paraguay. Mannoia maintains a deep commitment to educational outreach and teaches and performs outreach concerts for the New York Philharmonic, including performances on the Philharmonic’s Asian tours to Japan and Abu Dhabi. Along with bassist/composer Jon Deak, Mannoia was invited by Venezuela’s renowned El Sistema to lead workshops and introduce composition to the Venezuelan model. Since 2007, he has been lead mentor for the Fellows of the Juilliard-Carnegie Hall Academy. As a consultant, Mannoia has trained musicians, curated concerts and designed curriculum for many organizations including the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York City Opera, 92nd St Y, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space and the Guggenheim Museum. Since 2008, he has designed and hosted the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Saturday Pre-Concert Adventures in the Kimmel Center. He has also taught at the Professional Performing Arts High School, coached chamber music at Juilliard Pre-College and coached graduate chamber music at Manhattan School of Music for educational outreach performances.

 


Photo by Gabe Palacio/Caramoor

 

What or who inspired you to become a Teaching Artist?

 

Since high school, when I had been a teaching assistant at a summer music camp, I have always had an innate interest in teaching and sharing my knowledge and experience with kids.  As far as Teaching Artistry, it wasn’t until I was recruited by Tom Cabaniss at the New York Philharmonic that I really got to see a true embodiment of Teaching Artistry as opposed to just traditional teaching.  The difference was a fully experiential approach to learning about music, infused with fierce creativity and provocative inquiry.

 

What has been most helpful to you in your work?

 

1. Receiving feedback from experts I respect.  Everyone agrees that being observed in the classroom is stressful and sometimes inconvenient.  We often feel that we don’t perform our best while being observed.  Despite these negative feelings, receiving honest feedback from an expert is invaluable.  

 

2. Once a Teaching Artist knows how to evaluate quality in the work, watching video footage of his/her own teaching is extraordinarily beneficial.  Although artists tend to be particularly self-critical, we are also uniquely equipped to self-evaluate and assess in similar ways to our art making training.

 

3. Observing other Teaching Artists.  In addition to seeking out great Teaching Artists, I was promoted very early on in my Teaching Artist career to do field observations of other Teaching Artists.  By seeing dozens of others work, I was able to survey a wide variety of styles and see what NOT to do as well as take away hundreds of successful ideas and techniques. 

 

What have you learned are the unique talents of a Teaching Artist?

 

Teaching artists are uniquely adept at engaging learners and audiences.  Through creative activities, inquiry, and engaging facilitation participants not just learn about music, but enter into a piece of music.  As teachers who engage in art making themselves, Teaching Artists can bring an unparalleled level of first-hand experience to the learners.

 

What have you learned that a Teaching Artist needs to know?

 

Organization – arranging one’s life, teaching schedules, lesson plans and materials is a lot to handle and most artists are unprepared in their training for the organizational demands necessary to be a consummate Teaching Artist.  Furthermore, the preferences towards “winging it” in the classroom are significant impediments to success as a Teaching Artist.

 

Relationship building and interpersonal skills – developing strong relationships with schools and ALL their staff (principals, custodians, teachers, secretaries, etc.) is crucial to the work.  Not only does this create better teaching environments for students, it will make a Teaching Artist’s job much easier when they have strong partners in the school buildings.

 

What have you learned is the most important thing a Teaching Artists needs to be able to do?

 

Relating to students/participants and finding relevancy in their lives and experience.  Since artists possess such a high level of talent and expertise in their art form, this creates a tremendous divide between them and their students.  Being able to reach your students means being able to understand them and how they experience art.  The biggest and most common problem I see in inexperienced Teaching Artists is the disconnect between their lessons and relevancy to students’ lives and the way students hear and understand a piece of music.

 

What or who has been your best teacher?

 

Tom Cabaniss – he has modeled virtuosic teaching, empathy for his students and audiences, risk taking, and commitment to both art making and teaching.  He also challenged me in countless ways to improve my own practice and to think and work in inspiring ways.

 

What is the most important advice you would give to a young artist about to enter the field?

 

Define what you are most passionate about in reaching students and audiences – teaching art content is great, but there are deeper goals that will sustain you for the long haul. Additionally, find out what your strengths are and be honest about your shortcomings.  Once, you’ve identified your weakness go the extra mile to improve them – no one is born a Master Teaching Artist!

 

Has there been one experience that immediately comes into your mind that changed the way you teach?

 

My audition training at Lincoln Center Institute had a weeklong immersion exploring four different art disciplines.  Being a dance student, theatre student, and art student brought me the experience of being an “art outsider” and, in turn, profoundly changed my relationship to teaching music as a music Teaching Artist.  I cannot recommend more highly that Teaching Artists seek opportunities to simulate being an art novice.

 

What sustained (s) your practice as a Teaching Artist?

 

Exploring great repertoire in meaningful ways.  I recommend Teaching Artists find programs and opportunities to bring complex and challenging works of art to their students.  There are “easy” pieces and lessons, but everyone involved gets more out the challenge and it is artistically nourishing to a Teaching Artist, which is a crucial aspect to sustenance.