CSMA Artistic Intelligence: Helping students find their unique, creative voices

Town Crier File Photo
A student in the Community School of Music and Arts’ Artistic Intelligence program exercises her creativity through the use of clay. Approximately 100 students annually attend the special classes at CSMA’s Mountain View campus.

• Mission: The Community School of Music and Arts ensures that the arts are accessible to all, including special-needs participants of its Artistic Intelligence program, which has existed for about a decade.

• 2018 update: Approximately 100 youths and adults from Abilities United of Palo Alto and the Morgan Autism Center of San Jose take dance, music and art classes at CSMA three days a week between September and May.

Artistic Intelligence students come to CSMA with diverse backgrounds and challenges, but the curriculum provides them with an opportunity to shine and discover their own unique voices, according to Vickie Scott Grove, CSMA executive director.

“We see them experience joy and self-confidence through their creative activities,” Grove said. “And an important component of the program is the close relationship they develop with their teachers.”

Teachers like Kyle Sofman, a music instructor.

“Some of the things I love most about teaching the Artistic Intelligence music classes are the participants’ willingness to try anything and their unabashed excitement when they achieve something they didn’t know they could do,” Sofman said. “They are smart, funny and interesting people who come each week to learn music, but what they don’t realize is that they teach me more than I could ever teach them.”

Sofman related an anecdote about a student from the Morgan Autism Center who loves the song “You Are My Sunshine.” Knowing this, Sofman asked the student to hold up visual clues during a rendition for the other students to see, but she took the assignment a step further by standing up in front of her peers and reciting all of the lyrics, too.

“Although it’s been years since the first time she did this, I still stand in awe every time,” Sofman said. “Her friends applaud her every time as she takes a bow when she’s finished. She deserves more than applause.”

• Why the Holiday Fund is needed: Holiday Fund donations form a subsidy to make Abilities United and Morgan Autism Center participation in Artistic Intelligence classes possible.

“The organizations that bring the participants here are pretty small and, I think, financially challenged, and so we provide this at almost no cost to the organizations,” Grove said.

Community School of Music and Arts

Location: 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View

Founded: 1968

Annual budget: $6 million

Staff: 160 staff and faculty members; approximately 30 volunteers


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