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Local teachers win grants from Wolf Trap Foundation for performing arts projects

Left to right: Fairfax High School teacher Meredith Barnes, Groveton Elementary School teacher Karine Chapdelaine and Robinson Secondary School band director Tiffany Hitz (headshots courtesy of the individuals)

Three Fairfax County Public Schools teachers will now be able to pursue unique arts projects with their students, thanks to financial assistance from the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

A nonprofit that supports and programs Wolf Trap National Park, the foundation announced on Feb. 20 that it has awarded 13 grants from an annual program for D.C. area educators who teach music, dance or theater at public schools.

This year’s FCPS recipients were Fairfax High School dance arts teacher Meredith Barnes, Groveton Elementary School music and orchestra teacher Karine Chapdelaine-Walker, and Robinson Secondary School’s middle school bands director, Tiffany Hitz.

In addition to getting funding for their projects, the grant winners get to bring their classes to Wolf Trap for a “celebratory day of learning” on April 25 that will include performances by the high school students at The Barns at Wolf Trap, according to a press release.

“Wolf Trap’s Grants for Performing Arts Teachers provides teachers with grants to fund innovative performing arts projects,” said Cate Bechtold, Wolf Trap Foundation’s director of internships and community programs. “Because of their grants, teachers can expand the scope of their projects, bring in professional artists, incorporate new technologies, or create additional resources, providing extra learning opportunities for their students.”

According to the release, Barnes requested a grant for a show called “Dance for a Change” that Fairfax High School students will develop with a dance historian and guest artists from the Bethesda-based theater organization Imagination Stage.

“Students will choreograph small group pieces by drawing inspiration from American dance icons who used their work to address injustices,” the release said. “This will allow students to leverage the power of the arts as a means of social commentary.”

Chapdelaine-Walker and Hitz are both among the recipients of the program’s first-ever middle school grants.

For her project, titled “Musicians for a Change,” Chapdelaine-Walker will work with Groveton Elementary’s sixth-grade orchestra students to create a “unique musical piece centered around student-identified social justice issues” to demonstrate music’s value “as a tool for advocacy and self-expression.”

Meanwhile, Hitz’s band students will learn the piece “All My Heart” — with its composer Michael Markowski as their mentor.

“Students will have the opportunity to connect with a professional composer and meaningfully engage with the composition process, allowing them to experience a new instrumental arrangement, and explore the composer’s experience in creating work,” the press release said.

Funded by contributions from the defense contractor General Dynamics, the Grants for Performing Arts Teachers program awards up to $5,000 to high school teachers and up to $2,500 to middle school teachers. The exact amount depends on each project’s scope and needs, but the majority “require the full amount,” according to the Wolf Trap Foundation.

Last year, the foundation awarded only eight grants, including ones to Annandale High School orchestra director Annie Ray and Mount Vernon High School music teacher Al Rodriguez. Ray more recently gained national recognition as the winner of the 2024 Grammy Music Educator Award.

In addition to the FCPS grantees, the 2024 grant recipients include teachers from D.C. and Loudoun, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

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