Community Partner Supports Learning Through the Arts in Pasadena Unified Schools

Wilson Middle School sixth-grader Amani Williams recently stood up on the stage at Sierra Madre Playhouse describing what it was like to create a short film. “We had to work together. We had to make decisions about what to keep and what to leave out. It was hard and it took a lot longer than I thought it would.”

This is the third year that The Music Center has partnered with the Pasadena Unified School District’s (PUSD) three stand-alone middle schools to boost the district’s middle school arts offerings. At Wilson, actor David Guerra from The Music Center and Wilson theater teacher Shannon Mumolo collaborated as middle school students learned theater skills, wrote their own contemporary versions of Greek myths and produced short films in a “movie trailer” format. These films were then shown at a screening for proud parents, staff and community at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

David Guerra. Photo courtesy MusicCenter.Org

“For the students, working this way has really brought the academic content to life,” said Wilson Middle School Principal Sarah Rudchenko. “It’s in the sixth-grade social studies standards to study ancient civilizations. Learning through theater and film makes it exciting for students.”

The partnership between PUSD and The Music Center has provided classroom experiences in theater, music, visual art and dance to approximately 450 middle school students. A professional teaching artist is paired with English and/or history teachers as they work together to create and teach a project that will build students’ abilities to communicate, collaborate and connect to academic subjects. Additionally, in-school performances from professional actors reach an even greater number of students at each school.

At Eliot Arts Magnet, all students enjoyed a theater performance by Guerra and his group BOXTALES, through The Music Center on Tour program. Guerra also mentored drama teacher Janus Stechel and language resource teacher Julie Alvarez during academic literacy courses where students produced original plays based on themes related to bullying and graffiti art. The collaboration with The Music Center is one of several strong partnerships supporting the new visual and performing arts themed Eliot Arts Magnet.
“Because the students knew they would be performing plays based on their work, there was a stronger commitment to write authentic plays,” commented Alvarez. “I firmly believe that my students bought into the project because of the arts component which made the experience exciting for all of us.”

The public is invited to watch Eliot students perform staged readings of the work they produced through the The Music Center artist residency during their spring showcase Metamorphosis on Wednesday, April 16th from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. at Eliot Arts Magnet, 2184 North Lake Avenue, Altadena.

To learn more about the new Eliot Arts Magnet visit


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