With seemingly everyone these days throwing around the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” Shatik Stephens is doing more than just talking about helping Love City’s youth.
Stephens is teaching two classes at the St. John School of the Arts this fall, Creative Move-ment and Performance Choir, both aimed at introducing youngsters to the arts.
“My motivation is the kids,” she said. “I love music and dance and I believe that the arts are a need, especially for these kids who don’t have anything to do. The kids are getting such a disservice by not having the arts.”
“I started playing the flute in the third grade and I have a daughter in third grade who, right now, doesn’t have a music teacher,” Stephens continued. “I was reading sheet music in the third grade. These kids are missing out on a lot.”
The Arts and Education
There is a direct link between music and a student’s performance in school, explained Stephens.
“Children who have music do better in school, because there is a discipline involved in any art,” she said. “You learn so many things that you can apply to your school work. Kids who don’t have that lose out because they don’t have that extra pull.”
Stephens’ Performance Choir class, open to all ages, will not be your average singing group.
“I don’t think our children are educated enough when it comes to the arts,” Stephens said. “I don’t want the kids to just sing a song and have no idea where it came from. Instead of starting out singing, we’re going to go over musical terms and history.”
The Performance Choir will tackle everything from Bach to gospel with an emphasis on prominent people in each genre, Stephens explained.
History Lessons, Too
“Let’s say we’re doing a jazz piece,” she said. “Before we learn the song, we’ll learn about someone in jazz like Duke Ellington or Ella Fitzgerald — someone who has made a contribution to the field.”
Stephens is also teaching Creative Movement for children between the ages of three and five. The class is designed to enable children to realize their bodies and the space around them, the arts teacher explained.
“Basically, the children will learn what they can do with their bodies,” she said. “The class will make them aware of all of the parts of their bodies, their spatial constraints and how to use the space around them. They will use their imaginations for their movements.”
“It’s a base for future dance instruction and the building block to Modern Dance and other forms,” Stephens added. “It’s not structured like ballet or tap. They have more freedom of movement and really get to be creative.”
As a one-time member of Steel Unlimited II, Miss St. John 1994, a veteran stage performer and a former assistant to Director Jan Kinder at SJSA, singing and dancing are nothing new to Stephens.
“Music is in my family,” she said. “My grandfather used to play the guitar and sing and my grandmother and her sisters always sang. My parents kept it up and sang all the time too.”
Stephens is already a veteran teacher for SJSA, having organized the program for the school’s end of the summer recital — in just two weeks.
“It was intense,” she said. “I went everyday to get it done and in the end, it was great. The kids really enjoyed it and so did I.”
The talented singer is a fixture of the St. John music scene, having performed at a number of functions including the opening of the Enighed Pond Marine Facility, the V.I. Governor’s Christmas Party, and the AIDS Day commemoration ceremony. Stephens also performs in a singing group.
“I’m in a group called Three Sweet with my long-time friends Chezni Charles and Shikima Jones,” she said. “We performed at Starfest way back when and used to sing around the island a lot. Our schedules are just crazy right now, but we still try.”
Much More Still To Come
In addition to her work at SJSA, Stephens said she is trying to revitalize the Bethany Moravian Church Youth Choir, which she started last spring and has a ton of ideas for future classes and singing groups.
“This is just the start for me,” she said. “I hope to be successful and I’m looking forward to doing more with the School of the Arts. My passion is performance arts and my focus is really on the kids.”
In the near future, look out for Stephens’ Performance Choir to present a show during the Christmas season.
“I am striving to have something for Christmas,” she said. “It could be just a little recital program, but my hope is the parents who send their children to the class will support a program. Parental support and community support are both important.”