Portrait of an Arts Advocate: David Bell

David Bell 14 (002)David Bell
Co-Chair, Greater Cincinnati Alliance for Arts Education
Instructor, Miami University 
Retired, Public School High School Choir Teacher

Q: How did you participate in the arts as a child?

A: I grew up as a “PK” or “Preacher’s Kid.” My father was a minister and my mother was a Kindergarten teacher. As a child, I spent countless hours hanging around the church waiting for my parents to finish up meetings. Music was the part of that environment that first grabbed my attention as an overly-energetic, primary student. My mother had basic piano skills and we would often play duets together. My father also had music skills and, prior to my birth, played percussion in the West Point Marching Band during WWII.

Q: Describe your favorite “a-ha moment” in arts education.

A: The moment that comes to mind was the first opportunity my high school students had to perform with Maestro Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. We were on the program to perform and record the “Dedication and Wind Song,” from the Disney movie, “Mighty Joe Young,”  (Mega Movies, Telarc Digital, 2000).  As these students, many of whom had never before had the opportunity to visit Cincinnati’s Music Hall, stood on the stage preparing to rehearse with Maestro Kunzel, I realized that for the rest of their lives they would return to that special place, not as “guests,” but rather as “owners” of an irreplaceable musical memory and an intimate connection with a world-class orchestra. I realize now how brilliant Erich Kunzel, and his successor, John Morris Russell, are, to bring these students to the stage first as active participants, rather than passive audience members.

Q. How do you practice creativity in your own life and / or what inspires you?

A:  Since retiring from 35 years of public school teaching, I have been working with student teachers for the past four years at Miami University, Oxford, and teaching a class designed to improve student literacy through the musical and visual arts. I am also currently serving as Co-Chair for the Greater Cincinnati Alliance for Arts Education. The GCAAE is an organization of the arts education administrators for Cincinnati area arts organizations, such as the Cincinnati Symphony, Ballet, Art Museum, Shakespeare Theatre, etc., formed to “advocate for the arts in people’s lives.” GCAAE is a pilot member of the Local Arts Education Network of the Americans for the Arts.

Q: Name one puzzle, or problem, you are working on in the field right now.

A: I have always been intrigued by the power of sensory engagement, particularly in video games. Video games trigger neurological chemical responses that help to raise the level of engagement in processes that are often like learning processes that occur in the classroom. Recently, I have been investigating ways that we can capitalize upon neuro-sensory immersion to promote student engagement in the classroom. This is, undoubtedly, one of the great strengths of arts infusion in education and lesson planning.

Q: Name an arts educator who impacted you and how they influenced your younger days.

A: The choir director at our church, Rev. Paul Waters, was a talented organist who had graduated from Northwestern University and built an enormous choir program at the church where my father was assigned. The holidays were memorable times when all the singers would join together in one massed choir with brass, organ, hand bells, and percussion. Dr. Waters would conduct the combined forces of over 350 people by simply nodding his head while playing at the organ keyboard. It was a pivotal time when I learned the ability of music to overpower the spoken word and speak directly to the heart.

Q: What can the average person do to advocate for more and / or stronger arts education in local schools?

A: One of the best tips I learned about advocacy was from a former Winton Woods City Schools Superintendent. Dr. Thomas Richey. As he was helping me to prepare to testify for the Ohio State School Board, he shared that his most effective approach was to figure out “who influences the influencers?” He taught me not to worry so much about directly influencing a legislator or elected official, but think about who influences them–it may be their spouse, their family, their staff, their funders, etc. Build a relationship with the person who influences the influencer and help them to see the value of strong arts education through your personalized lens.

Portrait of an Arts Advocate is a monthly feature profiling an OAAE member active in advocating for arts education in Ohio. If you’d like to submit your information, or recommend an #artsed advocate to us, email akruse@oaae.net.



About OAAE

It is the mission of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education to ensure that the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. We believe that: * All children in school must have quality arts education provided by licensed arts educators * All Ohioans have the right to expect quality arts education * All arts programs must have adequate resources * All arts and cultural organizations and artists have a critical role in arts education Learn more at www.oaae.net.
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