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Educational outreach has been a core part of the Gold Canyon Arts Council's mission since its founding in 1998, with primary focus on local students. The artists contracted for each Canyon Sounds season also agree to conduct educational programs at area schools. Each season generally features six diverse performances at the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church, each of which provides multiple educational outreach opportunities. The Arts Council has presented more than 260 art and music education experiences to over 38,000 students since its founding. The schools include those located in low-to-moderate income areas of Maricopa, Pinal, and Gila Counties.

Most artists engaged by the Arts Council are musicians, which include vocalists, but from time to time feature dancers or other performing artists. Their educational programs include:

  • Informances;

  • Master Classes; and

  • Workshops.

In addition, the Gold Canyon Arts Council also sponsors music and arts education programs in local schools, including:

  • Lead Guitar; and

  • Leland Wilson School Art Program.

Recent Educational Outreach Events

Camelback HS (2).jpg
S&S Masterclass at Combs HS (JK).PNG


An “informance” is a performance during which the artist(s) discuss the composers of each piece, the historical and cultural settings when the music was composed, and their impact on audiences of those periods. They also describe their instruments and contrast them with the instruments available to artists of those periods. Interaction with students is a key part of informances, both in terms of encouraging questions and providing opportunities for students to become familiar with the musical instruments played by the artists.

Master Classes

A “Master Class” is conducted by an artist (the master) for students who already play the instrument (including voice) for which the artist is so well known and respected. Its setup differs from regular classes in that the participating students each perform in turn a single piece that he or she has prepared in advance, although other students may attend as spectators. The master then critiques each performance with respect to technique errors, the composer’s objectives in terms of tempo, tonality, phrasing and emotion, and usually compliments deserving aspects of the performance. The master may demonstrate personally how certain passages should be played. Thereafter, the student plays the piece again (or portions of it) applying the insights gained from the master’s comments and suggestions. The other students observe each other’s performances before the master such that all benefit from his/her critiques, remarks and demonstrations, including any spectators.


A “Workshop” is an interactive session conducted by the artist(s) or master(s) during which students and/or teachers work more intensively on how to improve their ability to perform music. Workshops may involve larger numbers of students than master classes, multiple masters, and more than a single instrument. For example, a professional string quartet or ensemble may work with the string sections of a school orchestra by breaking into sections where the master violinist works with student violinists, the master cellist works with student cellists, etc. Similarly, a master vocalist may interact with a student choir and its choir director.

Lead Guitar

In addition, the Gold Canyon Arts Council partners with the Lead Guitar Foundation (Tucson, AZ) to provide music education programs in elementary and secondary schools located along the Old West Highway throughout the entire school year. The Lead Guitar program teaches participating students how to read music and how to play a nylon-string classical guitar.

Lead Guitar’s history began in 1999 on the Navajo Reservation in Page, Arizona when concert guitarist Brad Richter was asked to conduct a workshop at Page High School. Thereafter, he began developing the curriculum that would become the core of this major music education program. He co-founded the Lead Guitar Foundation as a non-profit organization in 2006 with a major benefactor who credited much of the success of his business career to his lifelong study of the classical guitar. The Arts Council currently partners with the Lead Guitar Foundation at the following schools:

  1. Apache Junction High School, 2525 Ironwood Drive, Apache Junction, AZ 85120

  2. Miami Junior/Senior High School, 4739 S. Ragus Road, Miami, AZ 85539

  3. Queen Creek High School, 22149 E. Ocotillo Road, Queen Creek, AZ 85142

  4. San Carlos Secondary School, San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, AZ 85550

The Lead Guitar Foundation funds the substantial costs of a professional guitar instructor to conduct weekly lessons at each participating school through the school year, training of a local teacher to supervise classes with the participating students the remainder of each school week, and miscellaneous expenditures for travel, printing of music and training publications, etc. The Foundation's overall program for the 2017/2018 school year will involve 38 schools in Arizona (including the eight listed above), nine in Colorado, five in Oklahoma, nine in Illinois, and two in California.

The Arts Council initially funded six nylon-string classical guitars and accessories for the Lead Guitar program at the San Carlos Secondary School in January 2014 based on a donation received from a member for this purpose. The donation was motivated by a concert featuring classical guitarists Brad Richter and Carlos Bonell, his mentor and former professor at the Royal College of Music in the United Kingdom, that also featured students from San Carlos playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with the artists.

The Arts Council funded ten more nylon-string classical guitars and accessories for the initiation of a Lead Guitar program at the Apache Junction High School in August 2016. Last concert season, it funded twenty-six more such instruments for new Lead Guitar programs at Cactus Canyon Junior High School in Apache Junction and Miami Junior/Senior High School (ten each), along with six more for the expansion of the AJ High School program, together with one additional guitar donated by a member. The Arts Council also contributes funds directly to the Foundation to help offset a portion of its costs for the Lead Guitar programs at the eight schools listed above.

These Lead Guitar programs are an integral part of the Arts Council's music education charitable objectives at local schools. They complement and extend the activities of the many artists who are contracted each year to perform concerts at the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church and informances at area schools. They also conduct workshops and/or master classes when appropriate. Such programs are very appealing to residents of Gold Canyon, Apache Junction, and other towns along the Old West Highway. They really want music education programs to be available to students in local schools and consider them important. They also are quite supportive of art education programs in local schools.

Leland Wilson School Art Program

The Arts Council established a Student Arts Program nearly a dozen years ago during the term of its then president, Leland Wilson. This program consisted of an annual student art project under the direction and encouragement of the Council’s Student Art Committee. In 2017, the arts education program was expanded and renamed the Leland Wilson School Art Program in honor of his passion for the arts and his leadership in starting the Arts Council’s focus on sponsoring art education activities in area schools. Member Kathy Mitchell was appointed to head the expanded program.

Pauline Conn, a professional visual artist who is a juried member of the Artists of the Superstitions and on the arts faculty of Central Arizona College, was contracted to lead the initial program at Apache Junction High School. It consisted of her teaching contour drawing using pens, watercolor and colored pencils to students throughout an entire school week. Her objective was to teach them new, freeing and fun techniques that allow the creation of fast and easy artworks expression their interests and personalities. The program enjoyed the full support of the high school’s principal and art teacher. The students’ artworks were displayed in the lobby of the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church prior to and during the Council’s final performance of the 2017 Canyon Sounds season.

Local artist Diane Haugen was contracted for the 2018 Student Art Program, which was conducted at Cactus Canyon Junior High School in Apache Junction in January with the strong support of its principal and art teacher. Ms. Haugen is recognized for several art media but suggested gourd art for this program, for which she is well known. Gourds have been used for thousands of years to carry water and store food; their shells make an interesting canvas for artwork. She contacted Wuertz Gourd Farm to inquire about the possibility of special pricing and was pleasantly surprised when its principals offered to donate 40 gourds for the program.

As with the 2017 program, the artist spent an entire school week with 40 students teaching them how to prepare gourds for application of art materials. Five additional local artists volunteered to assist Ms. Haugen considering the large size of the art class and the hand-on nature of the artwork. The students drew designs on the gourds in pencil, then used colored pencils, markers or acrylic paint to decorate. Some chose to further embellish with objects such as beads, shells and feathers. The finished gourds were then sprayed with clear acrylic to protect them from the elements. Their gourds were displayed in the lobby of the Methodist prior to and during the final performance of the Canyon Sounds season. Selected pieces also were entered in the Annual Gourd Festival in Casa Grande during February 2018.

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