Kids’ Orchestra Choir Director Presents at NAfME Music Research and Teacher Education National Conference
Kids’ Orchestra would like to send congratulations to Jason Bowers for his research on the values and benefits of Kids’ Orchestra’s after-school choir program on African American students. Bowers presented at the 2016 NAfME Music Research and Teacher Education National Conference in the Social Justice and Cultural Diversity category. The conference took place March 17-19 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bowers began his research last spring, using traditional ethnographic methods to obtain data, such as observing rehearsals and performances, interviewing students, parents, directors, and KO staff, as well as studying material culture including the KO website, El Sistema website, etc.
Bowers has worked with Kids’ Orchestra for 2 years teaching choir.
Bowers says of the conference:
It was a great experience and led to me meeting a variety of other people interested in El Sistema-inspired programs. I am hoping to develop this project into my dissertation and expand it to look at the perceived values and benefits of all people involved in the organization, including the community. I would also like to pair it with a case study where I would follow one student’s journey through the program and its affect on their personal, academic, and home life.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Jason holds a Baccalaureate degree in vocal music education as well as a Master’s Degree in Music with an emphasis on choral conducting from Louisiana State University. Jason served as the Director of Choral Activities at Zachary High School for seven years where his groups traveled to San Antonio, Chicago, and New York and consistently received superior ratings at contest. Jason was named Zachary High School Teacher of the Year for 2008-2009 as well as Baton Rouge Symphony Music Teacher of the Year for 2010-2011. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in music education at Louisiana State University. Jason is also highly involved in the musical community in Baton Rouge as a member of the Kid’s Orchestra staff where he supervises and directs the Kid’s Orchestra Choirs. Mr. Bowers is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, the Louisiana Music Educators Association, and the National Association for Music Education.
This ethnographic study extends the research on previous studies that focus on perceived values and benefits of choir participation to specifically look at African American students. Kids’ Orchestra (KO) is a non-profit organization serving underprivileged school communities based on the El Sistema model that was inaugurated in the 2011-2012 school year with less than 50 students in two schools. At the time of this research, the program served approximately 800 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at 24 schools and employed 70 teachers. During their two hours once a week at the KO site, students receive a healthy snack, help with homework, and music classes. The benefits of membership in KO for African American students were explored focusing on two separate choral ensembles: one with students in kindergarten through second grade (n=30) and the other comprised of third through fifth-grade students (n=20). Observation with field notes of weekly and/or bi-weekly rehearsals including three performances was completed. Semi-structured interviews with choir members, faculty members, staff members, and parents were performed to provide insight into the experience from multiple perspectives. Emergent themes included musical benefits, personal benefits, and social benefits. Throughout the process, a variety of organization and ensemble goals and challenges also surfaced. These were included to contextualize and to communicate an accurate account of the overall student experience. Findings are discussed in terms of ideas for future lines of research that could help to positively inform and increase beneficial choral experiences available to children.