“And if you walk through the club you see them drumming on their desks in anticipation, waiting for their next drumming lesson with Mr. Eddie,” Samantha Johnson, Director of Programs Development with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Anaheim-Cypress, tells us. When the class ends, she sends pictures of masked students with hand-drawn “thank you” notes for Mr. Eddie Drayton, the Arts & Learning Conservatory’s Drumming Instructor.
In the midst of the pandemic, ALC worried about it’s survival – about the mounting operational costs of an empty studio and a team of employees and artists to care for. However, they saw how important an artistic outlet had been to their students, whether in online classes, free master classes, participating in a live radio play or their innovative and nostalgic Drive-In performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and renewed their commitment to providing arts education to the most affected members of the community.
It was kismet then, when Founder and CEO, Debora Wondercheck, was introduced to the COO of the YMCA and later, Education Director, Dorain Cassell. The YMCA’s doors had remained open, despite pandemic challenges, offering a safe place to learn and grow for all children, especially those of essential workers. While their services were already changing lives, ALC noted a lack of consistent performing arts and musical education,and began a partnership to bring such artistic instruction to the YMCA.
At the start of the year, the YMCA, in partnership with the Arts & Learning Conservatory, offered their first instrumental classes. Ms. Cassell of YMCA Orange County enthused that, “they have really helped us to create an opportunity for these children to experience something that they, typically, would not be able to afford, especially throughout the time of COVID.”
During this budding partnership, ALC also continued talks with the Boys and Girls Club. They requested a music class that could adhere to pandemic policies and keep their children engaged. The solution was simple. Therapeutic Drumming instructor Eddie Drayton could teach drums. Masks could stay on, and students could easily socially distance, while still creating together and learning valuable skills like collaboration, coordination, and confidence. “I’m really impressed with the quality of the drumming program. It’s been a huge benefit to our kids. They definitely have increased confidence, their skills have grown exponentially…” Ms. Johnson explains, “it’s been a great benefit to our program both socially [and] emotionally.”
Arts & Learning is grateful to have survived one of the toughest years in its history and looks forward to further collaborations with both the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA to continue providing equitable arts education to the students who need it the most. Together they believe we can cultivate confident and creative adults of the future who, in turn, invest in their own communities.
The Arts & Learning Conservatory caters to k-12 students in Orange County and beyond, providing high quality equitable and accessible arts education. They are currently innovating new ways to equip students with creative skills to become better performers and community members during the pandemic.