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Exploring new horizons

When Art and Music Collide

Minds Set Free

Havergal’s Minds Set Free strategy allows students in Grades 5 to 8 the opportunity for deeper exploration—whether they are pursuing their own self-directed learning projects or immersing themselves in cross-curricular discovery.

Rosa Mastri and Rachel Read’s art and music collaboration is a perfect example of how Grade 6 students are guided through this approach. Using acquired knowledge of visual art and music terminology, girls are given the opportunity to explore  how each discipline can be expressed through a different lens. Over the course of the project, students selected a piece of music to analyze and then created an original work of art that visually demonstrated the common art elements  which unite both disciplines.

“We hoped the students would question the ways in which these art forms share common elements in their composition in order to communicate ideas in creative ways,” explains Visual Arts teacher Ms. Mastri. “Then we set them on their journey to explore the intersection of music and visual art.”

“The project started in 2013 when we realized that some of the language we use to talk about art and music is the same,” says Music teacher Ms. Read. “It was a very organic conversation and at that time, we were not quite sure of the direction it would take.”

“There is a real exchange of ideas. Students start to understand the ‘arts’ as more than a singular category, and that there is more than one way of analyzing and understanding a concept.”


An emergent curriculum soon took flight, emphasizing the process of creation and the intellectual journey of each student. Building on their knowledge of music gained in earlier grades, students work through musical structure, texture and other elements. Students envision how to best convey musical knowledge through the creation of artwork that is site specific within the school setting. Girls present their ideas—whether painting, sculpture or installation—to the class in the collaborative Harkness method, which allows for a more conversational approach, explaining what they propose to make and their artistic choices, seeking feedback from their peers. The exercise is also designed to help students develop their own voice and freedom of expression.

“There is a real exchange of ideas,” says Ms. Mastri. “Students start to understand the ‘arts’ as more than a singular category and that there is more than one way of analyzing and understanding a concept.”

The finished works are displayed throughout the school during Arts Week and remain on view for the rest of the year. Quick Response (QR) codes are placed with each of them  so  viewers can also listen to the piece of music associated with each work, allowing them to experience the complete art concept .

This spring, Ms. Mastri and Ms. Read were invited to present their project at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) annual conference in New York, showcasing samples of student work and citing the girls’ feedback.

One student wrote, “I drew a couple of subjects as a star just now. You can connect the points in different ways and your brain can see a whole new different connection. There are just so many different things you can get from a different subject.”