“At least I can still make you laugh.” That simple statement from my oldest daughter last May amid a growing pandemic captures this simple fact: no amount of darkness can snuff out our light. The same can be said for the light within each Vista student and resident who employs the arts to express their deepest feelings, experiences, and joy. Amid the tumult of 2020, the dedicated staff of our Music, Performing Arts, and Music Therapy Programs found savvy and innovative ways to keep the beat going for Vista kids.
“Music can save lives, especially here at Vista Del Mar,” said Music Therapist, Elizabeth Campbell, and captures just how important our Music Therapy Program is to our residents on campus. Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals. The therapeutic relationship between residents and therapists has proved crucial to their emotional development and ability to process complex emotions. To keep this essential program active, Elizabeth transitioned all group music therapy sessions to individual sessions, adding that she was thankfully able to show residents that singing can be just as cathartic with a mask on as without.
For our Vista Arts Enrichment students, nothing puts a smile on their faces quite like rehearsing a dance or learning the latest choreography for an upcoming performance piece. This program has helped Vista students with learning and behavioral challenges connect with their bodies and form bonds with their peers. To keep the virtual spotlight shining during the pandemic, Arts Enrichment Coordinator, Felicia Scott, had students write, direct, and showcase commercials and dance videos via Zoom.
If you are sensing a theme that creative problem solving was the key to our program’s continued success, then you are not wrong. Deborah Klinger, Director of our Instrumental Music Program, worked diligently to ensure the program continued throughout the pandemic. Transporting instruments out to middle and high school students, Deborah and her assistant, Julio, provided online, individual instructions to as many students as possible. However, Deborah wanted to reach even more of our one hundred music students. Thanks to a generous grant, she obtained 35 ukuleles. Deborah and her staff have just completed their first six-week session of classes with 35 students and are gearing up for their next group.
Thankfully, everyone involved in our Arts Program could see a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the almost complete Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Center. This brand-new space will be a focal point to the campus, demonstrating the forward-thinking, innovative nature of Vista Del Mar. This state-of-the-art facility includes a 300-seat theater, rehearsal space, classrooms, and several gardens to enhance the building and the campus. The new center will enable Vista Del Mar to increase and maximize the impact of our arts programming, especially for students who are developmentally delayed. For Vista students on the Autism Spectrum, therapeutic arts education classes provide a tremendous impact on developmental growth and are effective in enhancing motor, speech, and social skills.
In addition to providing a spotlight for Vista youth to shine, I am also thrilled for the opportunities that the Performing Arts Center will provide to children throughout the Los Angeles community. The vision has always been to provide an inclusive performance and classroom space designed for all to shine. When we share the stage, we broaden the opportunity for youth to feel seen and heard.
The arts will continue to impact our lives because the artistic expression gives a vessel and voice to who we are beyond the reality presented to us. For Vista students and residents, the arts are an invaluable vessel for depicting who they are as individuals to the outside world.