Learning From the Inside Out

April 16th is recognized nationally as The Week of the Young Child™, an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. As we prepare to close out the week, Living Arts Detroit Wolf Trap teaching artist, Alesha Nicole, shares below recent gleanings about the process of learning through newly opened eyes as a mother of a young child. Alesha leads Detroit Wolf Trap experiences for families every week at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

It is an innate desire, an intuitive harmony, and an inexplicable fulfillment of an inherent need. “In” – the prefix of each descriptive word here. It is a phenomenon that takes place IN us. Our connection to music is something that translates, traverses, and transforms, all the while uniting and relating one being to another. So often we forget how early this begins for us. It truly is part of our make-up, a gift given to us by our Creator, and once we are born, we begin to explore that gift in our earliest years of development. This is the awesome wonder of music in early childhood education.

 Alesha Nicole teaching a BabyArtsPlay!™ class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Alesha Nicole teaching a BabyArtsPlay!™ class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

In everything that we model for them, we are teaching our early learners so much about themselves and being a part of society. My son is now seven months old, and he has been part of both Living Arts’ In-School and Out-of School programs ever since he was an embryo in my womb.  It is amazing to watch what he is picking up on his own with not only developmental milestones, but also with his own connection to music budding in his twenty-six inches and sixteen pounds of joy and fervor. While he’s with me in the three-to-four year old classes, I see what I have to look forward to in a few years. They are using their imagination, singing and playing at the same time, and recognizing music’s contribution and participation in stories and playtime.  My son also joins me in an after school music program with kindergarteners, and I am currently preparing them for a performance. As they eagerly get ready to demonstrate skills they’ve learned in music class for their families, they are having many “aha” moments.

The series of classes, “From the Inside Out,” has been centered on the understanding that music begins inside of us and then reveals itself in performance, expression, and creativity.  The children are using what they’ve learned about steady beat, rhythm, using the head voice, chest voice, and diaphragm to implement all of these concepts in a medley of songs. It is amazing what their five year old beings are uncovering. There are musicians inside of all of us. 

Early learners remind us so much about the enthusiasm and excitement of just being alive. Every new skill is delightful for them. Whether it be clapping, stomping, singing, playing an instrument, or keeping the beat, it is something to be happy about!

One significant experience comes to mind. I was six months pregnant, sitting at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center for a day of family involvement classes that I lead with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In between spoonfuls of greek yogurt and other brand new cravings, I was having a thread of beautiful moments with young children as they explored music in brand new ways. It was as if they and I were simultaneously sharing that pure, innocent, new zeal for life.

I was teaching a mixed age group from infants to three year olds. We were in the middle of a series called “Sounds All Around Us,” in which we explored musical elements like steady beat, rhythm, tempo, pitch, and tone through objects in our surroundings, and body parts.  Every class begins with singing our Hello Song, written by Ella Jenkins, circled around our big drum as we open up the experience through a sense of community and togetherness. On this particular day, part of our main activity was using the colorful lightweight balls to discover sounds with the drum in unconventional ways.  As we had done before, we set the balls on the drum, and the sweet tots took much delight in watching as the balls bounced off of the drum like popcorn when they hit it with their hands. The harder they hit the drum, the higher the balls bounced. The more hands we had hitting the drum, the more power we had. This was so enjoyable for them. We continued to play with the drum in new ways. I sat on the floor, flipping the drum over and tilting it up, and I asked them one leading question:

“How else could we use the balls to get a sound out of this drum?”

There was silence as they thought hard about this question.  I took one ball in my hand and, with much anticipation, threw it inside the drum--this was very exciting! Two twin brothers grabbed the balls and began throwing them with all of their might.  Not only was this supportive of gross motor development, but they were learning so much about cause and effect. The booming sound of the drum was a like a special rewarding treat every time they hit it using their pitcher’s arms. What a neat way to make science and music into a fun game!

In a world full of iPads, video games, TVs, smart phones, and other technology, it is so encouraging to be a part of moments of like these. We have to remember what it’s like to interact and interconnect with the people and tangible things around us. Music is just one method of doing this--it’s our shared language and the miracle of sound evolving into a sensation we do not have words to explain.

About the author: Alesha Nicole is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and arts educator. Along with working as a Teaching Artist with Living Arts, Alesha writes, produces, and releases her own music. She released her first album "Smiling Through Tears" in 2012 and her second album "Spread Love, Share Joy" in 2014. She will release her third album, "In Spirit In Truth," this year through a live recording event. She truly enjoys empowering youth and adults through the arts. It is the perfect combination of creativity and interconnectivity that inspires her to share her gifts and her fun-loving spirit with the world. She dreams of using her musical talents as a tool in spiritual healing, self discovery, uniting communities, and bringing reconciliation to families at a full-time capacity. AleshaNicole also serves as the worship leader at her church. Alesha is a bilingual artist, with a B.A. in Spanish from Oakland University, and is currently teaching the Baby Arts Play family involvement classes. She loves this company and all of its amazing people. This weekend on Saturday, April 21st 11am-1pm, Alesha can be found leading a music-centered Detroit Wolf Trap experience at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center (Mexicantown Mercado) at Detroit Public Television’s “Word Ready, School Ready” event for early learners--please join us at 2826 Bagley St. Detroit, MI 48216. http://www.dptv.org/education/word-ready-school-ready/

Living Arts Students Make Artful Chocolate with Bon Bon Bon

Youth artists from Living Art's Out-0f-School Arts programs visited Bon Bon Bon's beautiful new location in Hamtramck on Friday, April 6th, 2018 to create the chocolates that will be given to our VIPs during our annual fundraiser, An Evening For Living Arts.  Many of the participants were artists in our teen visual art open studio, The SPOT, which focuses on exposing teen artists to a variety of art forms and professional artists, experimenting with materials, developing their own artistic voice, and deciding the direction they want to take with their own projects. The Bon Bon Bon workshop was a perfect fit because it allowed our students to put their skills to work exploring a new art form. And what art form is more fun than chocolate?! 

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"The Bon Bon Bon workshop was one of the most amazing things I've tried. I liked mixing the different types of chocolate and toppings, then decorating the bon bons and trying them afterwards. There were so many different combinations you could choose from. It made me think about ways I could turn it into a career and it's definitely something on my bucket list to try again." - Dearya Williams

The Bon Bon Bon instructors expertly described the different flavor profiles of the chocolates and fillings and what combinations paired better together based on the flavors. In addition to the flavors, there was an visual element to their creations in the how the final product looked. The toppings ranged from dried strawberry dust, purple sugar, dried cherries, saltine crackers, nuts, and even chocolate pearls. The artists had two hours to sample and experiment with a wide variety of chocolates, fillings, and toppings to get the perfect decorations for their eyes and perfect fillings for their taste buds. We hope the VIPs enjoy the treats made with love by our young artists. Thanks Bon Bon Bon! 

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About the author: Zack Bissell is our Out-of-School Arts Program Manager. Zack grew up in Frankfort, MI, a small beach town up north near Traverse City, which makes him a true beach bum at heart. He has a BA in Arts and Humanities with a minor in Spanish and a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean studies from Michigan State University, where he graduated with high honors. Music, travelling, culinary arts, and languages are some of his biggest passions, taking him to many countries around the globe. Besides English, Zack also speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and can understand basic Korean. Since graduating from MSU, he completed a year of service with AmeriCorps in Albuquerque, New Mexico working in HIV prevention and education, followed by 7-months of teaching English in Korean public elementary schools.

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Living Arts featured by NBC

Living Arts was excited to be featured by NBC and attn: on the following segment regarding the importance of arts education. The video is produced in support of NBC's new show Rise. Debuting this month, Rise tells the story of a town transformed by the local high school theater program. Our In-School Arts residency at Western International High School is highlighted in this short film.

ITC grants Living Arts $10,000 for their Out-of-School Arts program

We are excited to announce a $10,000 grant from ITC Holdings Corp. (ITC) to support our Out-of-School Arts program in Southwest Detroit. This funding will help provide 400 Detroit youth with classes in dance, music, visual and multi-media art. Supporters of our OSA program enable Living Arts to give discounts and scholarships to families in need, ensuring no student is ever turned away due to financial concerns.


As the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, ITC believes that community commitments extend well beyond providing reliable energy. ITC takes an active role in developing long-lasting community relationships and partnerships, providing support for programs that are important to those we serve.   “ITC is proud to support Living Arts, and the engaging arts programs that it offers to young people in the Southwest Detroit community,” said Donna Zalewski, Director, Local Government & Community Affairs and Philanthropy, ITC Holdings Corp.

“It is so heartening when corporate partners like ITC see the value in the work we do at Living Arts”, stated Living Arts Executive Director Alissa Novoselick. “We are very grateful for their support -- so that we may bring arts education to more children in Southwest Detroit.

Out-of-School Arts Classes Cancelled This Evening (3/1)

Due to the snow, all classes today (Thursday 3/01) are cancelled. We will have makeups on Thursday 4/05 (during Spring Break) at their regular times. Please be safe tonight! 

Debido a la nieve, todas clases hoy (jueves 01 de marzo) están canceladas. Tendrémos clases recuperativas el jueves 5 de marzo (durante las vacaciones de primavera) a sus horas regulares. ¡Por favor tengan cuidado esta noche! 

Living Arts Program Manager Zack Bissell Guest Lectures at MSU

Sharing his experiences working in youth arts education, our Out-of-School Arts Program Manager Zack Bissell presented at Michigan State University in Professor Estrella Torrez's class "Childhood and Society - Focusing on Working Alongside Youth".

An alumnus of MSU, Zack created a lesson plan and presented on our programs, including an in-depth look at our OSA program. Zack also discussed our educational program philosophy, and the elements and policies that bring deeper meaning and engagement to our programs. The class concluded with a Q&A session. 

Nice work Zack!


 Program Manager Zack Bissell on the far left, with Michigan State University students. 

Program Manager Zack Bissell on the far left, with Michigan State University students. 

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A strategy to bring arts to schools throughout Detroit

"Countless studies show the necessity of arts education - for things such as improved academics, social-emotional development, and stronger attendance."

Living Arts Executive Director Alissa Novoselick shares her thoughts on the importance of arts education in classrooms, and her ideas - building on the successes of Chicago and Boston - for bringing the arts to students across Detroit. 

Read the article in the Detroit Free Press

 Alissa, Novoselick, executive director of Living Arts. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Alissa, Novoselick, executive director of Living Arts. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Teatro Chico Returns with Moving Forward Through the Past

Our community performance series Teatro Chico (Little Theater) returns on Saturday, February 24th with Moving Forward Through the Past, an evening of music, theater, and dance that takes a modern twist on beloved classics from Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde. The performance will feature Ivalas String Quartet, Black & Brown Theatre, Inside Out Literary Arts' City Wide Poets, Morgan Breon, and Living Arts' Youth Dance Ensembles. The show begins at 6:00 p.m. at the Ford Resource & Engagement Center and is appropriate for ages 13 and up. A suggested donation of $10.00 per adult is appreciated to support Living Arts' community programming. Youth 18 and under are free. 



Press release


Teatro Chico is generously sponsored by

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