Lessons learned through art

There’s a lot to be said about learning by example. At least that’s what the parents and educators at Puesta del Sol believe.

That’s why, during the first three weeks of March, the Bellevue-based Spanish immersion school will welcome well-known Puerto Rican musician and educator Angel “Balancé” Reyes and his son, Otoquí Reyes, as part of their new Artist in Residence program.

The idea of bringing professionals into the school is not a new one, said María Feliciano, who is a parent coordinator on the Spanish Immersion through the Arts committee. In fact, the school has been bringing artists - of all mediums - in to the classroom, for the past three years.

“Every year, we [bring in] between two and three artists,” said Feliciano about the PTA-sponsored committee.

However, the Artists in Residence program will allow the artists to spend an extended amount of time with the students.

The idea to bring Angel and Otoquí Reyes to the school came about after a number of teachers and parents on the committee were introduced to Angel during a short educational trip last year.

“Some of the teachers went to his classes and thought he would be perfect,” Feliciano said.

Angel is a multifaceted artist, drawing connections between traditional Bomba drumming and his early training in other percussion instruments. In addition to traveling the world with his ensemble, Agüeybaná, Angel has recorded  several Bomba albums and continues to teach dance and music.

Otoquí’s first professional experience with Bomba music came very early in his life, with his father’s ensemble. Currently, Otoquí teaches Bomba music and performance in various cities in Puerto Rico and is the founding and creative director of his own group, “Hijos de Agüeybaná,” an innovative effort that seeks to retain traditional song and dance and project it internationally.

For the artist in resident program, the Reyes will work together with Puesta teachers Ricardo Güity Blanco and Dr. Sharon Cronin, to lead students in an ethnomusicological discovery of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and their influence on contemporary culture. While the curriculum is most heavily aimed toward the fourth and fifth grade classes, who will be working with the artists twice a week, grades K-3 will work with the artists as well.

“The main goal is to enhance the immersion setting for kids who live in [the Seattle area],” Feliciano said. “The other one is to reinforce critical thinking skills through art.”

In this tradition, Feliciano said the committee is already brainstorming ideas for which artists to invite next.

“We found a group in Mexico - a husband and wife team, who do music and art together,” she said.

Angel and Otoquí Reyes will be introduced to the community during Puesta del Sol’s International Festival, taking place at Newport High School on March 2.


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