Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music pilots an Artist-Citizen Service Year program

Arts / Article

Photo: ArtistYear Fellows Arlen Hlusko, Alize Rozsnyai and Anna Odell perform outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Photo courtesy of  

In 2014, with the help of a $135,000 Knight Arts grant, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia launched its ArtistYear Fellowship. Aiming to engage underserved communities with the artistic education they deserve, the program embeds professionally trained musicians in specific communities for a year of service. Through partnerships with national service initiatives, these musicians work with at-risk young people to help instill in them an appreciation of art and music, as well as a sense of purpose.

The ArtistYear fellows join Curtis to work with local institutions including Project HOME; Knight Arts grantee Play On, Philly!; South Philadelphia High School; Thomas Jefferson University Hospital; and City Year (whose Miami branch is a Knight Communities grantee). With explicit mission statements in hand, the fellows strive to disseminate the three ArtistYear pillars. First, through national service, they seek to enable passionate young artists to build equity in their communities. Second, utilizing the arts, they encourage the development of citizen-artists who keep community perspective at the forefront. Third, they foster citizenship by strengthening the social and economic fabric of the United States through cultivating cross-sector partnerships.

This year, the fellows are oboist Alexandra von der Embse, soprano Alize Rozsnyai, harpist Anna Odell, cellist Arlen Hlusko and composer Gabriella Smith. After the ArtistYear fellows are placed with applicable community partners based on their interests and professional expertise, they can get to work acting as music teachers and mentors for the students they serve.

Community-minded youth impact is the name of the game for ArtistYear. The approach is threefold, exposing them to important leadership skills, helping to improve overall academic achievement, and encouraging students to become active members of their communities at large beyond the classroom. The fellows wear many hats as they set out on their year of service, acting variously as teachers, mentors, performers, community event planners and more.

ArtistYear helps bring arts and music education to students that would otherwise miss these opportunities in their regular curriculum. The fellows are not just teachers, but examples of what citizen-artists look like in action. Music is a powerful tool for bringing people together, and when musicians set out to build their communities with, and in addition to, their musical talents, the combination is unmatched.