Arts For the Schools | Bringing arts experiences up-close and personal |

Arts For the Schools | Bringing arts experiences up-close and personal

Third Coast Percussion delivers "Never Compromise, Collaborate," followed by a performance during a TEDxUND 2014 event. Third Coast Percussion combines a high level of artistry with STEM principals.
Courtesy Barbara Johnston / University of Notre Dame |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — The school year may have come to a close, but the staff at Arts For the Schools is already hard at work on next year’s performance season schedule.

“Planning the programing for AFTS is extremely exciting for me because I get to combine my experience as an arts educator with my passion as a performing artist to select programs that will educate, entertain and inspire audiences in this community,” said Jennie Pitts-Knipe, AFTS program director.

Pitts-Knipe joined the AFTS team in August of 2013, marking a new chapter in her lifelong journey in arts education. Since earning her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Colorado, she has taught in a wide variety of settings, including working as a creative movement specialist in a nationally recognized kindergarten through fifth-grade arts integration program, as an artist in residence and as a faculty member at various colleges and universities, along with spending time as a choreographer and performer.

“It’s a great honor to be a part of the Arts For the Schools legacy, which began 30 years ago through the hard work and vision of our founder Terry Yagura,” Pitts-Knipe said.

“Our goal is to present performers who bring a unique spark or vision to their work.”
Jennie Pitts-Knipe, AFTS program director

The top priority of the AFTS programing is to continue that legacy of hosting high quality, nationally and internationally renowned artists.

“Our goal is to present performers who bring a unique spark or vision to their work. We aim to offer art you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to experience in the Truckee/Tahoe area,” said Pitts-Knipe.


AFTS focused this year’s schedule on artists who also have a passion for education. “I have worked in elementary schools and have seen the value of arts education first hand. It’s a powerful way for children to learn to problem solve, to work collaboratively, and to express themselves in new ways,” said Pitts-Knipe. “Often times, it also grabs the attention of the students who sometimes struggle with maintaining focus in a traditional classroom setting.”

In addition to school assemblies, field trip and public performances, each visiting artist will offer an in-depth educational experience, from master classes and shared performance opportunities for local students to classroom workshops that put instruments in students’ hands.

An example is WAVES, a STEM/arts project offered by featured artists Third Coast Percussion, on AFTS’ line-up for the next academic year.


In this program, students at the fifth-grade level learn about the intersection between science and music as they examine the acoustic properties of percussion instruments. The musicians then use apps available on their iPads and iPhones to demonstrate the concepts of frequency, wavelength and amplitude as the students play a score on personal percussion instruments.

“This personal and investigative approach to learning is the exact type of interaction between the arts and other subject matters that makes our programing all the more exciting to the students and helpful in reinforcing classroom learning,” Pitts-Knipe stated. “Of course, the arts are extremely valuable as their own course of study, but making meaningful connections across disciplines is an effective way to utilize the arts as a gateway to deeper understanding. Plus, it’s fun!”

Pitts-Knipe also aims to communicate the public performances are not just for young people. “I was charged with finding performers who are hip and innovative. There is a lot going on in our area, and people have all kinds of choices of how to spend their free time,” she noted.

AFTS public performances are unique arts experiences aimed at adults who may, or may not, be bringing young people with them. Whether you’re going solo, as a date night or a family affair, it’s a fantastic night out for a reasonable price.

The 2014-15 Arts For the Schools performance schedule will be posted in mid July. In the meantime, “Like” AFTS on Facebook for a sneak peek of the performers and interesting arts information, and visit the AFTS website

Paula Rachuy is a board member with Arts For The Schools.

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