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Music Fills The Air At Boston Arts Academy

Music Fills The Air At Boston Arts Academy


>>JARED BOWEN:
Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only
public high school for the visual
and performing arts. If you remember
the old television showFame,well, it really is
kind of like that.>>So… (slaps out rhythm):
# Nobody, nobody… #>>BOWEN:
At Boston Arts Academy, as you might expect,
music fills the air. (playing piano) What is that experience like,
to literally hear music walking down the halls?>>At times it could, you know,
be frustrating. But I can testify for
a lot of my friends, as well, it’s been one of
the best experiences ever.>>BOWEN: Danny Rivera is a
senior at Boston Arts Academy and a music maker himself. I first met him on the WGBH
programSing That Thing!,where he was conducting the school’s
Spirituals Ensemble.>># King Jesus
is a-listening #>>BOWEN: Today, though,
Rivera is working on the backing track
for an upcoming performance.>>And then the lead vocalist…
(sings part) But this is just
to back up the band.>>BOWEN:
At Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only
public high school devoted exclusively to the arts, Rivera and some 500 students
like him are given the fuel to flourish.>>You know, I say I want
to do something, they’re, like, “Okay, what’s stopping you?
“Let’s do it,” you know? So they’re really…
they’re really big on pushing their students towards what they really
want to do the most.>>BOWEN: Have they ever
said no to you?>>Nope.>>BOWEN: School for Rivera is a mix of the music he loves
and the math he doesn’t. Although he’s found that music
now helps his coursework, too.>>I’ve been able
to write songs about books, I’ve been able to write songs
about different, you know, strategies and equations. I’ve really been able
to use my art to help me develop my skill also
as a student who’s learning academics.>>Music majors, for example,
when we opened the school, they all want to be performers
on the stage. Now a lot more are
interested in production, behind the scenes.
>>BOWEN: Really? Anne Clark has been at B.A.A.
since it opened in 1998. A teacher then, she’s now
the headmaster of the school, which counts
high-profile alumni like Diane Guerrero
ofOrange Is the New Black.>>It’s okay. I love you!>>BOWEN: But the idea
of the school isn’t necessarily
to produce Hollywood stars or even professional artists. Instead, Clark is interested
in what makes an artist.>>The ability to stand up
and represent yourself. The ability
to connect with people. This is a place
that takes questions like, “What’s the purpose?
What’s the meaning? How does it help
our greater good?” very seriously.>>BOWEN: Many students
come to B.A.A. because they couldn’t fit in
at other schools where arts programming
is an afterthought. Here, students must audition, but the admission process
is liberal.>>It’s academic-blind. That means we don’t look
at prior grades, test scores, discipline records,
even attendance records, or any special
education information, or anything like that until after students
are admitted. We understood
that they’re young people that maybe have not had
the opportunity to really do well in school because school did not
do well by them.>>BOWEN:
For the last two years, 80 percent of B.A.A. students
have been accepted to college, which Clark says
is a rate higher than both the city and state
average, especially
for low-income students. In the fall, Sasa Murrett Kam
will attend the Fashion Institute
of Technology in New York. She is among the first graduates of B.A.A’s. new
fashion design program, and received an Honors award
the day we met her.>>Thank you.>>BOWEN: The Honors ceremony
still happening just outside her classroom
and workshop, Murrett Kam walked us through
the look she was creating for an upcoming fashion show. She’s been working after school and even on the weekends.>>So my three looks here, the name of my collection
is called Petrichor. And petrichor
is the smell of rain. I was really inspired by blue,
because I really enjoy rain. And I want to do
a mixture of blue and kind of, like,
the dark clouds, so the black. But give it a sense of, like, sexiness, almost. You know, with
a little bit of skin, but not too much, because
I’m still in high school.>>BOWEN: Students like
Murrett Kam and Danny Rivera seem to be going far fast. Rivera has already
performed at the White House and caught the attention
of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley earlier this year with this song and video. It’s inspired by her first
speech to Congress.>># It’s our time,
we’re on our way up # # Our way up, yeah # I used that opportunity to not
just talk about the things she talked about in her speech, but to address some things that I felt were… needed to be addressed.
>>BOWEN: Like?>>Like… mass incarceration,
like being… One of the lines is, “Being a black man
is the world’s greatest sin.” The fact that, you know,
it’s just so difficult to be a man of color in society. It’s just like… It’s a setback.>>BOWEN: For the moment, Boston Arts Academy is housed
in an aging high school. But construction is now underway for a state-of-the-art
$125 million facility in the Fenway. Set to open in 2021,
it’ll be the first time the school has a building
to suit its needs.>>I have to tell you, the group that is most excited
about the new building is the alumni. They are the young people
who were the ones who were rehearsing in closets,
or dancing in a dance studio with a support beam
in the middle of it, or having to travel
all over the city to perform because we didn’t have
our own performance space, and they know how much this
means and how important this is. We would not
have this new building if it weren’t for our alums,
and I’m very proud of them.

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