Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – November 2016

November is the month of Thanksgiving, so it is fitting that this issue of The Beat is all about giving thanks.
Included are stories about teachers who inspired and influenced, parents who instilled a love of the arts. Ann Marie Miller’s blog post captures the influence of a special teacher and a parent. In all, we are highlighting mentors who share, teach and open windows to new experiences and learning. It is so important to reflect on those influences and appreciate the lessons learned.
I am thankful for my father who took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time and started me on my journey.
I am also thankful for the amazing NJ arts community that cares about the importance of the arts in the education of our children and continues to make this state a model of working collaboratively and creating programs that are seen as exemplars for the rest of the country.

We are Thankful for the Clearmountain Festival: Interview with Cody Fitzgerald of the band Stolen Jars

In July, Gail Prusslin, Vice-President of the Board of Outpost in the Burbs contacted the NJAEP with the news that the Partnership was the organization selected to benefit from the proceeds of the Clearmountain Festival. Outpost is located in Montclair with the stated mission to build community through music, community service, and cultural programs.

The Clearmountain Festival was a showcase of Montclair based musicians and was organized by Cody Fitzgerald of the band Stolen Jars and Daryl Shelton of the band Werebears.

Of course, we were curious to learn how this benefit concert came about and how the NJAEP was selected. I reached out to Cody Fitzgerald, currently of Brooklyn, to find out more.

Tell me what kind of work do you do. Or are you in school?

I’m a songwriter and composer. I graduated from Brown University about a year ago and that’s when I started doing music full-time. I write music for Stolen Jars, which is a personal music project and a collaboration with Molly Grund and other friends/band members, I write songs and produce for other artists through SONGS Music Publishing, and I also do film scoring work.

Tell me about your early years. Where did you go to school growing up?

I grew up in Montclair, NJ and went through the public school system there, starting with Nishuane, then onto Hillside, Glenfield and then MHS.

   Tell me about your musical career.

When I was really young, about 7 years old or so, I started taking piano lessons outside of school. To be honest, I hated them, I didn’t like practicing and I felt like they were really cutting into the time I was supposed to be spending watching Saturday Morning Cartoons. Later on, I started taking guitar lessons, and though I didn’t fall in love with those either, I did begin to play music on my own outside of the lessons, learning songs to play for my parents using tabs on the internet. In middle school, I started playing in a ska/punk band with my friends called Crucial Party. That project evolved into the indie band Screech Owls, which we recorded an album for in the beginning of high school with the help of our teacher Mr. Frye. That was the beginning of my serious interest in playing music. From there on, I recorded an EP with my friend Rachel Ishikawa as part of her folk band Sumi and I also started Stolen Jars, my own personal project. I put out an album under that name during my Senior year of high school and that was the album that started my career as it stands today. I was lucky enough to have a song from that album placed in an iPad commercial while I was in college, and my second album under that name landed me the publishing deal with SONGS and a lot of good press, including some nice write-ups from NPR, Stereogum, and Consequence of Sound to name a few. I also started doing film scoring during college, working on the feature film The Rewrite starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei, and the indie film Hard Sell starring Kristen Chenoweth with my friend and scoring partner Clyde Lawrence, as well as many shorts including Open 24 Hours which was accepted into Cannes Film Festival last year. Now I spend my day-to-day working on new Stolen Jars music, producing and writing for and with other artists, and working on new scoring opportunities. I feel very lucky to be doing all of that.

      How did you get interested in music?

I became interested in music because my parents always were. My first favorite songs were ones that my parents introduced me to. “Blue Chair” by Elvis Costello was something my dad and I would dance to in the living room when I was very young. “Ode to My Family” by the Cranberries was on repeat in the kitchen when it came out. Later on, my brother would make me mix CDs every Christmas to show me what he was currently listening to and from there I sought new music on my own.

   Tell me about a teacher that you are thankful for.

      What influence did that teacher have on you?


Although I have already mentioned him, I would have to say Mr. Frye. Mr. Frye was my freshman year English teacher. Not only did he help me and my friends record our first album, he also taught me how to write. He was truly one of the best teachers I have ever had and actively changed my life for the better. I don’t think I would have done as well as I have without his influence on my writing.

            How else did your arts education influence you?

If I’m honest, I did not really take many art classes in school. I learned how to play music outside of school and my arts education was mostly community-based, with organizations like Terry’s Serendipity Cafe (a student group that puts on local shows every month) leading the way. Being a part of that DIY community really enabled me to act on my own behalf and move forward as a songwriter and musician. Obviously, I did take Music Theory when it was offered in High School and that was a huge help, but it wasn’t where my main arts education came from. I would love to see a bigger arts presence in public education, which is part of the reason I donated money to NJAEP.

      What do you want to pass on through your music?

When I write music, my hope is that it will speak to someone and become an important part of somebody else’s life. I think music has this incredible ability to become attached to specific moments, to specific places or times, it has this inherent and immediate nostalgia. I would love for my music to be as important to someone else as so many songs were to me, helping to guide them, or just making them feel closer to someone else, becoming inseparable from a certain Summer or year, a piece of something they hold onto.

How did you learn about the NJ Arts Education Partnership – and why did you select it as the organization to benefit from the Clearmountain Festival?

We learned about the NJ Arts Education Partnership when we were researching NJ-based arts charities online. We had this idea of doing a festival with a number of bands from the Montclair music scene to showcase the talent that had come out of the area and to, at the same time, give back to the community in some way. Molly Grund, my bandmate, was actually the one who found NJAEP and it just seemed perfect to everyone involved. It wasn’t based solely in Montclair, which was a requirement for us since Montclair already benefits from great schools, and it sought to do exactly what we did, to give arts education to all students in all communities and share the same opportunities that we were already lucky to have.

Thanks Cody. Your commitment to the arts and your belief in the importance of giving back is applauded and much appreciated.

Interview by Kristin Wenger

BLOG: Thank an Art Teacher! with Ann Marie Miller, ArtPride NJ.

When I think back over my 30+ year career in the arts I wonder, “Who is responsible for jumpstarting my love of the arts?” I often credit a high school teacher, Edith Henig, for requiring her class to keep a daily sketchbook. Mrs. Henig reviewed sketchbooks weekly, and mine contained what would now be considered doodles–over interpreted paisley and flowers reminiscent of Jefferson Starship album covers. Mrs. Henig left handwritten comments like “keep at it,” or “fantastic, you’re doing a great job!” Whether or not this was true, her notes certainly prompted me to continue and paved the road to pursuing the arts more seriously throughout high school.

I was lucky to be a student at East Brunswick High School, now designated a NJ model school of the arts, with amazing art teachers—Ken and Judy Koppel, Bill Murphy, Bill Marsh, Roy Risley, and Bette Lerner, teaching commercial art, printmaking, drawing and painting, ceramics and jewelry making. It was the 70’s and EBHS was way ahead of its time in developing an exemplary arts curriculum, and while I was there I had no idea they were trailblazers. I just knew art class was a place where I felt at home. There were 650 students in my graduating class, so it was easy to get lost in the shuffle, but not in the art room. At the same time, chorus was practicing down the hall in Building 3, and the now infamous Elliott Taubenslag, “Mr. T,” was coaching young drama students for the next EBHS theater production. It was art nirvana.

Before East Brunswick High School, I was a Catholic school student where art was poster contests and interpreting classic masterpieces, “picture studies” on postcards with essays. The Bernadine sisters were not big on art, but my penmanship remains testimony to their academic priorities. Back then it was my Mom who helped me with poster contests and reports on lives of the saints complete with statuary photos of all 12 apostles. Mom really was my first art teacher and loved painting—oil painting, ceramics, and up until her dying days a master of amazing needlepoint and crewel embroidery that grace my household today, so there was osmosis at work at an early age.

Post high school I entered Moore College of Art and Design, and Moore graced me with outstanding art educators including the late Deborah Warner who showed me that you can be an educator and maintain an accomplished artistic career as a fiber artist. I majored in Art Education with a goal to become an art teacher back at EBHS. That wasn’t in the cards, though I taught for a few years both privately and at 2 public high schools. There were other mentors yet to come to mold a career in public service.

During this season of thanksgiving, please thank an art teacher when you consider all who make a difference in the lives of students. You never know where their influence will lead, but you can safely bet that their creativity will breed an appreciation for beauty, discipline, skill, constructive criticism, history and much more that form the fiber of personal values and will carry them through their adult lives.

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