Chautauqua Arts Education

         Chautauqua Institution Arts Education, a year-round arts education                    resource for youth, teachers and families in Chautauqua County, N.Y.                  and neighboring communities, provides authentic, inspirational, and                    engaging artistic experiences in drama, music, play writing, literature,                 opera, and visual arts.

Chautauqua Institution (CI) is committed to serving as a year-round arts education resource for the youth, teachers and families of Chautauqua County and neighboring communities. Our vision for arts education is to enrich the lives of students, teachers and families with authentic, inspirational and engaging artistic experiences. Reaching beyond the summer season and Institution gates, CI promotes excellence and creativity in engagement with the performing, visual and literary arts for our region.  Through national partnerships with organizations such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Florida Studio Theater, CI fosters relationships with local educators and schools to provide enriching and best practices arts education opportunities.

CI began its first arts education residencies outside of its nine-week summer season in the 2014-2015 academic year. Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts, Deborah Sunya Moore, brought her extensive experience leading arts education programs to Chautauqua Institution and started three core programs in 2014-2015: the Residency Programs for students with disabilities, the VACI Art Galleries Field Trips, and the Young Playwrights Project.  During the Chautauqua Institution 2015 summer season, Education Day was created, enabling all Chautauqua County teachers, staff and students to attend all events at CI free of charge on any Wednesday of the season.  In 2016-2017 Chautauqua Institution became an official partnership team with Chautauqua Lake Central Schools and Jamestown Public Schools and became a Kennedy Center Partner in Education, providing professional development workshops for classroom teachers in Chautauqua County.  By 2017-2018, Arts Education programs had grown beyond the capacity of the current staff.  To fill this need, CI hired Director of Arts Education Suzanne Fassett.  During the 2017-2018 school year, two additional Arts Education programs began: the Chautauqua Opera Invasion Opera Outreach and the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet Field Trip. 

 The programs have grown from serving 2 schools and approximately 511 students in 2014-2015 to serving over 7,000 students in 14 Chautauqua County schools in 2017-2018.

Programs and Activities:
Residencies for Exceptional Students
Currently provided under contract with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Chautauqua Institution Residencies for Exceptional Students offer underserved students with disabilities extended engagement and experiences with music and the arts.  Students with disabilities who attend the Erie 2 Cattaragus-Chautauqua BOCES Educational Centers are not offered any arts curriculum as part of their normal course of study.  CI assessed that need and offers two residency programs that provide opportunities in the arts that seek to enhance social skills and personal development.

Sing Me A Story, Play Me A Book
The Sing Me a Story residency, led by Deborah Sunya Moore and Manager of the Schools of Performing and Visual Arts, Sarah Malinoski-Umberger, is based on Deborah’s curriculum created for The Kennedy Center. The program focuses on the integration of vocal and instrumental music and stories with an end goal of increased music and reading comprehension as well as the ability to work as a team through ensemble.
Sample Arts Integrated Lesson Plan : Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea, recommended for  Grades: Pre-K – Grade 1, excerpted from Sing Me a Story workshop led by Deborah Sunya Moore

I Can Drum
The Chautauqua Institution “I Can Drum” residency program, led by Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Principal Percussionist Brian Kushmaul and Director of Arts Education Suzanne Fassett, seeks to develop social skills and self-confidence through ensemble drumming.  Teaching artists use three primary musical techniques to accomplish this; unified steady beat drumming, call and response pattern development and improvisation. When engaging in unified steady beat drumming, teaching artists demonstrate steady beat and ask students to join in using various tempi, dynamics and drum sounds. The teaching artist models the sound; the students then join in the group, requiring them to listen, focus and follow instructions.  Call and response pattern development is encouraged by modeling short rhythmical patterns for students and asking them to echo the patterns back, imitating as closely as possible the exact patterns and sounds they heard. After this process is modeled by the teaching artist, each student is given the opportunity to create their own patterns and be the leader.  This aspect allows students to build self-confidence by experiencing a feeling of control and acceptance, as their unique patterns are embraced and imitated by all.  Lastly, teaching artists encourage musical expression through improvisation. Teaching artists model solo improvisatory playing for the students, then the students are given the opportunity to solo, if they wish.  Any music they make is embraced and encouraged as whole and a valued contribution to the group.  This experience builds self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth, as students are shown that whatever music they bring to the experience is valuable and precious – just like they are.

From the inception of this program, the number of schools served has expanded from 2 BOCES Educational Centers in 2014-2015 to 3 BOCES Educational Centers, 1 private Pre-K serving students with disabilities and 4 public schools serving students with disabilities in 2017-2018.  This has increased the number of students served from 130 to 350 over the same period of time.


Battle of the Books
Battle of the Books gets Chautauqua County fifth-graders excited about reading.  A lively academic competition, the program improves reading comprehension, builds vocabulary, and teaches teamwork and good sportsmanship.  Teams of five students and one adult coach each read the same 12 pre-assigned books over five months.  Selected in conjunction with Chautauqua Institution’s CLSC Young Readers Program, titles include a wide range of reading levels and subjects.  Thanks to generous donors, all teams receive a set of books.  In addition to reading the books, teams choose a team name then dress accordingly.  During the “battle” on the CI Ampitheater stage, a moderator asks approximately 50 trivia questions that relate to one of the following: a direct quote from one of the book characters; a statement about something that happens in the book; a passage taken directly from the book; and details about an illustration or picture.  Winning teams receive prizes and all celebrate their joint success.

Professional Development for Teachers
This program serves teachers by inviting them to participate in professional development workshops and to observe demonstration teaching for students in the classroom. Teachers attend a 3 hour professional development workshop in which arts integrated teaching techniques are described and modeled, with the participating teachers experiencing the work as students, learning first-hand the effect of arts integration techniques. In addition to these workshops, teachers observe Master Teaching Artists in schools and classrooms as they model these techniques with students. This allows classroom teachers and arts specialists to observe how the strategies work with students in the classroom setting. The idea is to move from conceptual ideas to practical strategies.

 In 2016-2017, Chautauqua Institution, along with partner school systems Chautauqua Lake Central Schools and Jamestown Public Schools, became a Kennedy Center Partner in Education. This program teams Kennedy Center teaching artists with partnering organizations and schools to bring arts integration techniques to Chautauqua County classroom teachers, with the goal of advancing both arts and Common Core learning standards in an engaging, resonant way. The efforts of this program focus on development of teachers as a means of reaching more students on a more consistent basis, encouraging classroom teachers to integrate the arts into their everyday classroom activities.    

Core teacher teams from Chautauqua Lake and Jamestown collaborate with Chautauqua Institution to develop the areas of emphasis, allowing the program to be driven by the needs expressed by educators in Chautauqua County. The impact of this program is wide-reaching and growing from year to year. In its first year, the program reached 40 teachers and 8 schools, and by extension, 437 students. In its second year, the program involved 64 teachers and 12 schools, serving 693 students. In addition, the techniques instilled in the classroom teachers will go on to serve more students as time passes and these teachers use these techniques with students in years to come.

 Opera Invasion in the Schools
One of the newest programs developed by Arts Education at Chautauqua Institution is the Opera Invasion in the Schools program. The goal of this program is to provide immersive experiences in opera, making opera more accessible, and using arts integration techniques to advance learning standards in music and English Language Arts.

This program includes two elements – an intensive classroom session with 4 classrooms in each school followed by a performance of an opera for the entire student body.  In 2018, the opera presented will be “The Bremen Town Musicians.” 

This experience also includes the popular game-show style activity premiered by the Chautauqua Opera Company during the 2017 CI summer season “So You Think You’re Louder Than an Opera Singer.” 

This program will be presented for the first time in June of 2018.  Reservations have been made by 16 Chautauqua County elementary schools – 11 of which have not previously been served by a CI Arts Education program. Including homeschooled students from Chautauqua County, this program will reach over 4,000 students.
Use links to view:
1) Sample Curriculum Guide: Chautauqua Opera Invasion: the Bremen Town Musicians:

2) Sample Opera Invasion Classroom Visit Script:

Other Programs:
Young Playwrights Project – in partnership with the Florida Studio Theater, teaching artists work with over 600 students, teaching the art of playwriting. Every 3rd grade student hears their play read aloud; 10 winning plays are performed at Chautauqua Institution for participating students and as part of the CI “Family Entertainment Series” during the CI season.

VACI Art Gallery Tours – one of the core programs started in 2014-2015, this program has now expanded to include over 700 students who experience the art galleries on a docent-led tour.


Chautauqua Amphitheater Field Trip–Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet – new in 2018, over 600 students will visit the CI Amphitheater to enjoy a preview performance of the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet’s Spring Gala.

Education Wednesdays – Beginning in 2015, all Chautauqua County K-12 educators and students are granted free admission to the grounds during the summer season. 

Recommendations for Replication and/or Adaptation
Three Main Areas of Focus   We have found that it is important to serve students directly and to provide professional development. While an arts organization can offer inspiration and experiences through the arts, these experiences leave as students leave. It is important to create a generational and more sustained impact by training teachers, who are able to continue affecting a large number of students.
1. Direct programming for students that focuses on deep impact
These residencies feature regular, repeated classes with a limited number of students. Chautauqua          examples: include:

  Residencies for Students with Disabilities:

  Young Playwrights Project:

2. Direct programming for students that focuses on maximum exposure
These performances feature broad reach and one-time experiences. Examples include:

  Art Gallery and Ballet Field Trips
  Opera in the Schools engagement

3. Professional development for classroom teachers:

    • Empowers classroom teachers to work through the arts as new teaching strategies are mastered, allowing for new pathways to learning
    • Encourages teacher buy-in; increases understanding of the value of the arts in education by taking a deep look at learning goals and integrated curriculum

 Keys to Success

    • Adhering to a program development plan that serves the three focus areas above
    • Understanding if a particular focus is on quality of service or quantity served during the development stage
    • Developing relationships with area arts educators and administrators by building trust in providing quality programs
    • Accessing school/teacher relationships to play a lead role in determining what the needs of community

To best replicate or adapt these programs:

    • Develop a big picture with partners – what goals are your programs seeking to attain, and why?
    • Develop programs that will serve your joint goals, focusing on depth and breadth.
    • Develop programs that empower teachers to serve these goals daily in their own classrooms.
    • Partner with organizations that encourage quality, best practice techniques to be utilized and instilled in your own organization, teachers and students.
    • Build relationships and trust with educators and other stakeholders in the community by providing quality offerings in limited capacity, in the early stages

Contact Information:
Suzanne Fassett Wright
Director of Arts Education
Chautauqua Institution

Deborah Sunya Moore
Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts
Chautauqua Institution