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District's Celebration of the Arts Earns National Award | Arts & Culture

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District's Celebration of the Arts Earns National Award
District's Celebration of the Arts Earns National Award

Williamsville East High School has been selected as the National Winner and Middle States Regional recipient of the College Board Award of Excellence and Innovation in the Arts for its Collaborations and Connections project.

The College Board selection committee cited the project’s emphasis on community and cross-disciplinary work, the engagement of professional artists, and the consistently high level of student work, calling the award-winning project “an exemplary model of arts education.” 

In 2000, English teacher, John Kryder, and Music teacher, Dr. Stephen Shewan, collaborated to create a program that celebrated arts education by showcasing student composers, musicians, poets, dancers, and artists.  Major published poets and professional musicians are invited to work with and perform with the students.  The initiative grew from a school-based project to a district-wide endeavor and, eventually, into a successful joint venture with the Buffalo Schools and the Just Buffalo Literary Center. Over the past seven years, for example, 30 schools have taken part each year, with as many as 2,000 students from first grade through high school participating.

Students come together to celebrate and honor the work of a featured poet by creating their own poetry, music compositions, art work, and dances inspired by the poet’s published work.  “Our program is not only unique for what students do, but for bringing students together in creative efforts that open up possibilities and relationships that otherwise would not exist,” Kryder said. 

The recognition includes $4,000 in monetary awards to support the continuation of the Collaborations and Connections project. This year’s program was held in April and featured Ted Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and former U. S. Poet Laureate.

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