Christyana Cabal | October 2015
Hometown: Corona, California
Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.
A: My name is Christyana Cabal, I’m from Corona, California, and I graduated Spring 2015 with a degree in Ethnomusicology and a minor in English. I’m a harpist, composer, and singer-songwriter.
Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an artist teacher?
A: As an only child for the first twelve years of my life, I had to improvise different ways to keep myself company. Playing music, writing songs and skits, and getting involved with the art programs at school was a way to do that. It was through art I connected and learned more about the world and about myself.
I was ten years old when I realized I wanted to pursue something involved with arts education. By the time I was that age, two words from my great-grandfather had been drilled into my mind: the arts. A teacher himself, he understood the value of a quality arts education and believed I saw the same. Then, when I went with my father to a convention I had my “aha!” moment. I was staring at gigantic poster of a world map when I thought to myself “If I point my finger on a place on the other side of the map, it is still part of the world. If we’re all part of one world, then shouldn’t we all have an arts education?” I have always held onto my great-grandfather’s words and that moment at the convention center. When I became part of the VAPAE program at UCLA, my passion for arts education was solidified. I’m not sure if I want to be a teacher, but I do enjoy making lesson plans and connecting with other teaching artists. Over the years, I have grown a heart for the schools in Los Angeles and their art education programs.
Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.
A: I was recently hired as VAPAE Afterschool Program Coordinator, which means I’m not currently teaching, but rather, overseeing VAPAE’s different afterschool programs. We kicked off our fall session with six afterschool programs, ranging from visual art to music to dance. The theme for our dance program at University High is “Building Community.” Students are learning how to create community by practicing moves individually and then in pairs across the dance floor. Meanwhile, at our visual art program at UCLA Community School, students and their parents are creating different items from etched stamps to watercolor landscapes of their loved ones in honor of the Mexican holiday, Dias de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: Participating in enrichment opportunities teaches students that the process of making art is just important as the product and that reflection of a work is just as important as the accomplishment of it. As a product-oriented person myself, I tend to forget the value of embracing the process and reflecting as I go. These enrichment opportunities give students to not only create a piece of art that is tangible, but also to create an experience. I believe students will learn (as I have for myself) how to be thoughtful and intentional about a piece of art from beginning to end.
In addition, I believe these sessions provide students many avenues to express themselves as individuals, while helping them build skills to understand and respond to the real world. I’m grateful that our teaching artists, using their wisdom, positive attitudes, and unique individual experiences, create safe spaces for students to learn without being judged or discouraged for making art. It is through art students are taught to observe thoughtfully, think critically, ask questions, and come up with creative interpretations of a piece of art.
I believe art teaches students to be courageous, vulnerable, thoughtful, and kind in their everyday life, both in big and small ways.
Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?
A: I was blessed with such amazing teachers when I was in elementary schools. From writing skits about saving the environment in third grade to coordinating world “food feasts” in fourth grade, my teachers, if anything, grew my appreciation and curiosity for all types of arts and cultures in the world. More importantly, each of them possessed a positive, non-judgmental attitude towards art and created a classroom culture where everyone’s art was valued.
Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself? What do you personal gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: If anything, being a teaching artist has taught me humility. I came into UCLA as an ambitious college student, seeking anything I could to build my resume, create a name for myself, and be validated in this workaholic city of Los Angeles. It’s not that being ambitious is a bad thing – I believe everyone should pursue their goals, but the way I was going about things was for the wrong reasons. You see, being a teaching artist this past year, taught me that you cannot serve your community if the end goal is to only serve yourself.
As a teaching artist, I learned that the greatest satisfaction is making connections with people while doing what you naturally love to do. I love interacting with others, hearing their stories, sharing my stories, and ultimately building a community through creating a piece of art.
While learning how to be a teaching artist, I began to realize how ignorant I was towards people’s struggles with identity, status, economical hardship, beauty, worth – the list goes on. They say “to better learn, you need to teach” and it’s true. In my VAPAE classes, I learned that teaching is not the only goal. A teaching artists is always learning, always listening, always growing to better communicate and relate to other human beings.
Overall, I’ve learned that serving my community means not putting on my fix-it hat, but putting on my empathy shoes. As a teaching artist, I learn that to better express myself, I need to not only listen but understand others, too; that to better teach, I need to not only instruct, but also create a safe learning space so my students can be themselves and hopefully teach me a thing or two; and to that to find more beauty in the world, I need to appreciate what’s right in front of me first.
Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?
A: Even if arts education was something I did not want to pursue after graduating UCLA, I would have been grateful enough for the authentic tight-knit community the VAPAE sequence provided. At such a large population school, having a group I saw every week helped me feel more connected to the campus. Furthermore, I appreciate the structure of the VAPAE sequence, in which students first learned pedagogy, then observed a classroom and created lesson plans, and finally ending the sequence with teaching their own class. Students thinking of pursuing arts education will benefit from the VAPAE program, because it exposes you to a wide array of art disciplines, fosters community through weekly meetings, discussions, and team building activities, and paces students to thoroughly think through their craft, how they will teach it, and who they will teach it to.
Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a break‐through with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.
A: On my first day of teaching sequence, I showed my students a video of different music genres. I didn’t expect students to recognize all the different genres of music, but I wasn’t anticipating them to recognize only two of the seven genres. I remember feeling discouraged looking at the confused faces of my students while teaching my lesson. After discussing with VAPAE class the following week, I realized that students don’t have to “go deep” to learn something. Sometimes exposing students to new material in a fun and approachable can be the goal of a lesson. And it’s a good goal. A couple of weeks later I rented 14 instruments from UCLA’s Music Department and created a hand-on instrument museum for my students. Then, we learned how to conduct to a Beethoven song using small wood sticks. Once students saw the instruments for themselves and played around with them, they began asking more questions about music and realized that they know more about music than they thought they did. I learned that children were more receptive to hands-on activities and that, if anything, being exposed to new material was a good start point for their music learning experience. In my reflection for that week, I wrote that sometimes less is more and starting conversations and working our way through material at a reasonable pace is better than coming up with critical solutions and interpretations right off the bat.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: I’m applying for graduate school for a Master’s in Library and Information science. I’m still discovering what type of librarianship I want to pursue, whether it’s being an archivist or public librarian. However, I do know that I want to tie-in education to my library work that way I can do something in enjoy while having the opportunity to share it with others.