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A Faculty Member and Parent Pays Tribute to the Hartt Community Division
Associate Professor of Psychology Lourdes Portales Dale wrote the following article for UNotes.
As a member of the University community and as a parent whose children take classes in the Hartt Community Division, Dale felt compelled to write about the tremendous impact that the Community Division has had on her own family and on the community at large.
Following is Dale's article.
Hartt Community Division Embodies the University’s Committment to Community
By Lourdes Portales Dale
As a faculty member, I truly enjoy sharing the University with my daughters, who are students at The Hartt School Community Division. My oldest daughter, Sarah, is enjoying her second year as a member of the Overture Choir of the Connecticut Children’s Chorus. Not only is she learning how to sing but she is also feeling better about herself. This is due to the positive, encouraging attitude of her teacher, Cheryl Tierney, who is constantly thanking Sarah for being so wonderful in front of me.
As a clinical child psychologist, I am certain that this teacher is doing so much more than teaching our children to sing. She is helping our children to love music and themselves, and to feel comfortable performing in front of large crowds. Ms. Tierney’s success was evident on a recent Sunday as I witnessed a group of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders perform complicated songs masterfully while still having fun. Ms. Tierney is the kind of teacher that we all hope our children will encounter and a wonderful addition to the Connecticut Children’s Chorus. She joins an accomplished group of musicians who love teaching the children within our neighboring communities.
Because my daughters differ in their talents, I have also had the opportunity to witness the excellence within the Dance Department. My youngest daughter, Caitlin, takes primary ballet classes and has been fortunate to have Samantha Dunster as her teacher. Ms. Dunster is part of the amazing changes that have taken place in the Community Division Dance Department over the last few years. Similar to the situation in the movie Field of Dreams, when we built the field – the Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center – the truly talented flocked to join the Dance Department. Ms. Dunster is a shining example of the talent that has joined the Dance Division. Under her artistic leadership, the Dance Department has taken on truly amazing challenges. They have gone from providing a mini Nutcracker performance in a studio to running a full-scale production of The Nutcracker that rivals the one put on by the Nutmeg Conservatory at the Bushnell.
While both productions are impressive, for me, The Hartt School performance wins since its Nutcracker production offers our daughters and sons, residents of the University’s neighboring towns, an opportunity to learn about all aspects of dance and to perform in front of their friends and families. While our children were the ones in front of the audience and taking the bows, none of their pride or joy could have been possible without Ms. Dunster and her crew. It was these thankless heroes that dealt with all aspects of the production, including figuring out how to run an amazing production within the constraints of their limited resources, such as limited costumes for each size. The dance instructors and staff also gave so much of their time, typically holding rehearsals on Saturdays and Sundays, so the children could learn the routines and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from working hard towards a goal and then succeeding. The lessons our children learned, which cannot be easily taught, will remain with them as they continue with dance and other endeavors.
As I watched the Nutcracker performance, it was great to show my family and friends my University, and its commitment to community. I am proud to be a part of a University that offers so much to the children of neighboring communities and is headed by a president, Walter Harrison, who finds the time to be in the show. We all laughed when we saw our president and our women’s basketball coach, Jennifer Rizzotti, carrying out a mouse in a stretcher. Clearly, our president is living out his commitment to community and the Dance Department of The Hartt School has taken on his mission.
The Dance Department has created a collaborative community, where faculty members perform in shows with children, alumni make guest appearances in shows, and the collegiate dance students help the Community Division students with the exciting task of putting on makeup for their big show. In addition, the Dance Department has supported a community of parents, the Dance Boosters, who assist with fundraising, costume fittings, and cared for our children during all four productions of The Nutcracker.
In addition, via our family’s involvement The Hartt School programs, I have gotten to know and befriend my own colleagues. It was very funny when I realized that the mother of my daughter’s new friend is a colleague in the College of Arts and Sciences also dealing with the challenges of being in academia and a mother.
As a faculty member, I cannot think of another department that does so much for our neighboring communities. The Hartt Community Division embodies the University of Hartford’s commitment to community. I urge you to be in touch with the Community Division (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you or your child wants to explore the opportunities there.