Art is not a thing; it’s a way. That’s what writer Elbert Hubbard believed, and the same could be said of an arts education: It’s a way of learning—a lesson in how to look at and think critically about the world. The arts are vital to educating the whole child.

As a former trombone player, I know the arts can be transformative. They taught me discipline and perseverance and expression. Music was my ticket to college. It was the key to a life with more opportunities.

March is Youth Art Month and Music in Our Schools Month, and it’s a good time to celebrate all the art disciplines in Vancouver Public Schools. As part of our core curriculum, the arts are alive and well.

In February, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus stopped at VSAA. A group of students got an insider’s view of the bus’ state-of-the-art audio and video equipment. They wrote and recorded an original song called “Two Dimensional” and a music video.

Speaking of VSAA, our own Ann Medellin, a National Board Certified music educator who also teaches at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, recently was recognized. Ann was named the 2016 Outstanding Music Educator by the Washington state chapter of the American String Teachers Association! She was selected for the award by her colleagues across the state, a testament to the professionalism and dedication she brings to her work. Ann is a ROCK STAR!

But it’s not just music that is thriving. The visual arts also are flourishing, from the district’s elementary art show to the ESD 112 Regional Art Show. Artwork by six of our students received awards in the ESD 112 show, selected from among 267 entries from students in six counties.

And hundreds of elementary and middle school students took the stage on Feb. 16 for Vancouver Public Schools’ 19th annual Dance Festival, coordinated by teacher Sheyla Mattos. The festival is a showcase of the dance classes that are offered in every VPS elementary and middle school.

It’s no small feat for these kids to perform in front of a crowd of their peers, teachers and parents. One of the performers, Damian, described it this way:

“It was a little bit scary at first. … But then you know that you’re comfortable and then you just go with the flow.”

For some of the students, the festival is an important moment: It’s their first time on stage and it’s the moment when they feel the true power of dance—and sometimes when they discover their passion for it. Felida Elementary third-grader Allie Snead said it well:

“You can speak your mind. And there really is no limit to doing it.”

I think it’s in this unlimited potential that art shows its value. It’s the potential for expression, for synthesis, for growth, for truth. And it’s the potential for unlimited learning. An arts education is one of the most valuable things that we can give to our students.

Take care,

Image: Steve's signature