In this installment of Notable Neighbors we highlight two people whose connections to NMS exemplify what we are all about. Amity Doolittle and Alex Vlassenkov have also both shaped and enriched my own and my family’s experiences at NMS in innumerable ways.
Amity has been our Board Chair for close to three years now and her guidance, wisdom and generosity have set the tone for the steady leadership I have needed to get through this rocky time. The partnership between a non-profit’s Board and its Executive Director is critical to every institution’s success and I am so grateful Amity is leading the charge. It has also been wonderful to watch her embrace the gift of music for herself, since she gives so much to our community.
Alex is part of our incredibly dedicated faculty and has been teaching at NMS for almost 19 years. He inspires the same type of dedication from his students, and frequently his former students attend his studio recitals to watch the youngsters, often joining in performance.
For the last eight years, I have been fortunate to have Alex as my son’s teacher. Their lessons include a wide range of classical, jazz, rock, technique, theory, and sight reading, and are always filled with joy. At a time when we all are working hard to keep our children connected to the outside world, watching my son get excited for his lesson each week has been a true blessing.
I hope you enjoy this installment of Notable Neighbors,
Chair of our Board of Directors and NMS student, Dr. Amity Doolittle is passionate about the power of the arts to change the world.
“Only the arts and our youth have the vision to dream and the power to ultimately reshape the world to be a better, kinder, more just place,” said Amity.
NMS has been a second home to Amity, Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist at the Yale School of the Environment, and her family since 1994.
“I used to think three decades was a long time,” said Amity, “until I realized that NMS is full of teachers and students who have called NMS their home for even longer!”
Amity’s daughters, Eliza and Georgia, grew up at NMS. Between the two of them, they participated in early childhood music and movement classes, Preschool, dance classes and ensembles, Audubon Arts, and individual lessons in both piano and voice.
“It took a huge leap of faith for me to start music lessons at 50 and I could have only had that courage knowing Mary Bloom would be there to catch me. So I learned to be courageous, patient, and trusting. I learned humility, and, through being a student, I have gained insights into how to be a better teacher….The [NMS] teachers bring so much care, talent, and expertise to each and every lesson. They meet the student where they are in their studies and lift them to the next level.”
Being a part of the NMS community has had a profound impact on Amity and how she views the world.
“I have pivoted mid-life to appreciate the power of the arts for both personal rejuvenation and for a flourishing community….Education through the arts resonates so strongly with my commitment to social justice and human rights.”
Amity went on to reflect on NMS moments that have stayed with her.
“Watching the joyous creativity and self-expression the little kids bring to their acting, singing, and dancing in their self-devised work at Audubon Arts. Experiencing the passion of ATLAS students as they make the powerful connections between history, present day social justice issues, and the role of artistic expression in paving the way for change. Being in the presence of true genius at the schoolwide events when talented students move the audience through their performances. Watching adoring parents and grandparents all so proud of their children’s accomplishments, big and small.”
Amity is glad that she now has the opportunity to give back.
“Through my daughters and NMS I have learned new ways to bring joy and creative expression into all the work I do….I am thrilled to give my free time and labor to NMS (on the board) and to support [NMS] programs that benefit the New Haven community with my charitable donations.”
We are equally thrilled by—and grateful for—Amity’s leadership and dedication to our mission and community. The arts bring people together, and we are so glad that the arts brought Amity to NMS.
Guitarist Alexander Vlassenkov has advice on how to approach studying any instrument.
“There are three key words: Practicing, Patience, and Persistence,” said Alex. “By practicing correctly and regularly, we learn and reinforce new skills. Patience helps us to take small steps in learning, and practice them at a slow tempo. Persistence allows us to continue practicing in spite of any difficulties.”
Alex has been teaching classical and Suzuki guitar at NMS since 2002. He holds two Master of Music degrees in guitar performance and teaching: one from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, and one from the State Academy of Music in Minsk, Belarus.
In addition to teaching, Alex is an active performer. He has presented concerts in Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as in the United States. He is a prolific composer, arranger, and recording artist.