Each summer Audubon Arts brings a one-of-a-kind joy to Audubon Street for so many families.
The program holds a special place in the summers of my family, too, as for almost fifteen years my own children, nieces and nephews, cousins, and children of close friends have attended. This year my youngest returns for his eighth summer. I am truly amazed at his evolution from the scared four-year-old who refused to enter the Recital Hall, to the confident child who willingly participates in multiple activities that feed his artistic soul, and which inspire him to be brave in the everyday world.
For those of us who work at NMS, it inspires us, too. For six magical weeks we are entertained daily with hallway songs, creativity, friendship, wacky clothes, and hysterical productions. It is a reminder that when people are seen, cared for, and engaged in what they do, the learning and joy will follow.
Anna Wootton first came to Neighborhood Music School as a toddler, and she never left. Today, Anna works at NMS, as a member of the Audubon Arts staff.
Like so many students who grew up at NMS, Anna participated in a wide variety of programs:
“When I decided to play an instrument I started with a year of percussion taught by Gretchen Hary. I joined the DoSo band, which was directed by David Mills. After percussion, I took piano for seven years at NMS. I was taught by Victoria Reeve. I took a mixed year of voice and piano, taught by Cybil Jones-Juarez. When I took up the bassoon during my freshman year of high school, I knew there was no better place to learn it than at NMS with Sue Zoellner-Cross.
“I have been an Audubon Arts participant for the last thirteen years and this summer will be my first summer working as a counselor!”
Anna, a sophomore at the University of Vermont pursuing a major in secondary education English with a minor in anthropology, reflected on how NMS has shaped her life:
“During my time at NMS I’ve learned that it’s important to challenge yourself and give everything your best shot even if you think you aren’t good at it. I’ve also learned that there is no shame in reaching out for help regarding anything. I’ve always been able to mention any challenges I have, whether it’s with a technical music thing or something that’s bothering me in life, to someone at NMS and they always lend a helping hand, a hug, or great advice.
“NMS has also taught me that life is better with music, dance, drama, and art. I’ve found I’m always happiest when surrounded by my NMS community. It’s accepted and encouraged to break out in song and have dance parties during lunch. There isn’t judgment but only encouragement to continue creating and to continue sharing it with everyone. It’s an encouragement I like to think I’ve continued in my life even when not at NMS.”
“There are so many wonderful things about NMS but I think the community is a highlight. Not only is everyone so welcoming and talented, but everyone is very accepting and caring. Teachers and fellow musicians push you to try new things and to work hard. With my teachers I have formed wonderful relationships all while they pushed me to try new things and become a better version of myself. When I suggested that I would switch to bassoon from piano, my teachers urged me to pursue that instrument rather than hold me back.
“The Audubon Arts community specifically has felt like family to me. From my group mates to counselors and senior staff I have always felt loved and appreciated every time I entered NMS. It’s a community I keep in touch with even when it isn’t summer and will continue to do so for hopefully the rest of my life.”
With gratitude, Anna concluded:
“I’d just like to give a big thank you to all my teachers at NMS and a huge thank you to the Audubon Arts community who shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve always described Audubon as my second home and I know many people feel that way, too. So thank you!”
Audubon Arts Music Director Greg Bell has taught at Audubon Arts for 19 years.
During the school year, Greg is the Choral Teacher at Cheshire High School. He held previous positions as the Band and Chorus Teacher at Great Oak Middle School in Oxford, and the Music Teacher at Wexler-Grant Community School in New Haven.
In this video, Greg speaks movingly about Audubon Arts:
While adjustments had to be made to Audubon Arts this summer due to Covid-19, much has remained the same. One tradition that has carried on: “The Austrian Yodeling Song.”
“Yodeling,” as it is affectionately called, has been a part of Audubon Arts as long as anyone can remember. A few years ago, Greg transcribed the song so anyone can play it on the piano. You can find the sheet music here.
Here, Greg and the Audubon Arts staff teach you this much-loved song: