ArtistYear Fellow 2015-2017
Alize was selected by her Alma Mater, The Curtis Institute of Music, to be one of the first ArtistYear Fellows to serve in a brand new national service initiative, bringing the arts to underserved communities which have limited access to artistic training and resources. ArtistYear is the first National Americorps program for artists to dedicate a year of service to the nation.
Alize was a resident fellow at South Philadelphia High School from 2015-2017, which graduated such prestigious alumni as Marian Anderson, Mario Lanza, and Chubby Checker, but the music program had completely dissolved in recent years due to lack of funding. The school had then recently experienced an all-time low graduation rate of 16%, ranked 83 of 83 in the School District of Philadelphia, and experienced crime and an extremely challenging scholastic environment. The school experienced tremendous racial violence and 100% of students came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Furthermore, students experienced incredible personal hardship including frequently not having a safe place to stay the night, limited access to food, and experienced violence against their family members and their communities at an alarming rate; the evening of our opening night performance of Dreamgirls, one student recounted that her cousin had just been shot earlier that day. She went on stage and seemingly carried on as normal, which was a testament to her unbelievably tremendous inner strength and perseverance. It was indeed an honor to share this life experience with young students who had experienced so many challenges, yet still strived to remain so focused and dedicated every day.
Read Alize's Blog Reflection on why music education matters.
Alongside newly appointed music teacher Louis Russo, Alize helped to build a new music program in its first year by leading vocal music. The two decided together that while extremely ambitious in its very first year, the school should perform a full musical, complete with professional orchestral members from Philadelphia and the Curtis Institute of Music, set design projections by Sara Marinich, a friend and colleague, costumes borrowed from University of the Arts, and set pieces and props borrowed from Philly Aids Thrift. The two knew that a full production would be the best way to inspire and unify the school, and quickly garner attention and funding for the budding new program.
After a successful year getting a choral program off the ground, Alize directed and choreographed Dreamgirls during the 2015-2016 school year. Absolutely triumphant, the students met great success with this production, making an appearance at City Hall, and attracting the attention and funding of the Alumni Association. After the program's first year in existence, the school saw improvements in all areas of scholastics, attendance, school pride, student confidence, and experienced a lower rate of violence.
Determined to continue this wonderful progress, Alize served as an ArtistYear Fellow for a second year, and directed and choreographed The Wiz, in spring of 2017. For its third year, after the completion of Alize's service years, the music program successfully performed Little Shop of Horrors with Alize's advisory, in May of 2018.
South Philadelphia High School Music & Theatre is a proud 3-time winner of the Picasso Project Grant from Public Citizens for Children + Youth, without which these musical productions would not have been impossible.
Alize is immensely grateful for her experience serving as an ArtistYear Fellow, and it is by far the most life-changing and rewarding experience she has ever had, reshaping her views on what it means to be human and artist. This rich experience will shape every single performance throughout her life and artistic career.
See a trailer featuring student feedback and reflections of their experiences participating in Dreamgirls here (below):
Watch the FULL VIDEO of the Dreamgirls performance, 2016 here.
Watch the FULL VIDEO of The Wiz performance, 2017 here.
Watch a video clip from PhillyCAM Voices about the second year's production, The Wiz here.