This special Voices from the Field comes from our own Ann Marie Miller in honor of National Arts Education Week (September 10-16). Miller recently interviewed Jada Quin, a 17-year-old singer-songwriter from Howell, NJ. Now entering her senior year in high school, Jada is in marching band, concert band, chorus and taking classwork in music theory. Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the field of arts education joins together in communities across the country to tell the story of the impact of the transformative power of the arts in education.

I first met Jada Quin, and her parents Lori and Sebastian, at ArtPride New Jersey’s 30th anniversary celebration last November. She offered to perform and blew us all away with her stunning vocal solo. A 17-year-old singer-songwriter residing in Howell, NJ, Jada incorporates her own life experiences and those of others around her into her soul-searching lyrics. Now entering her senior year in high school, Jada is in marching band, concert band, chorus and taking classwork in music theory. I had the privilege of interviewing Jada to learn more about how art and music is a part of her life. We had a wonderful conversation and it was great to share ways that our passions – music and visual art – while different from each other, provide us with similar delight and comfort and are indispensable parts of our lives. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, we both took a path toward developing our talents with the help of an inspired arts educator.  

Ann Marie Miller: How did you get into arts education?

Jada Quin: I was in band, and my middle school band teacher, Miss A, made the difference for me. From that time on, I was hooked and got into music construction.  I was not great at making friends, so music became an outlet for me. It helped me express everything I wanted to say, and better than I could ever say it in words. Many kids won’t go into band thinking it’s lame, but for me it was life changing and gave me a way to express myself.  

AMM: What type of art is important to you, and why?

JQ: Music is my life.  I love music composition. There are two ways to compose, with lyrics and without, and notes help you express yourself without words. My instrument is the marimba. I was in drum line, but not the healthiest kid, and I got involved in small ensemble. The marimba captivated me. Its sound is both sharp and warm! Most bands don’t have a marimba, or if they do, it’s not in great shape. I finally was able to purchase one dirt cheap this summer.  

AMM: What have you learned from arts education?

JQ: I learned how much I actually like to learn! Music composition to me is like problem solving. The payoff is when everything comes together and you are pleased with the results. There’s nothing like it. And I have learned that I can compose without worrying if everyone else is going to like my work. If it represents me, it’s authentic and not fake, that’s enough to make me proud.  

AMM: What would you like to see for the future of arts education?

JQ: I come from a family of five that struggles financially, so I’d like to see more access to funding for music and the arts, because it’s expensive. The curriculum may be there through a great band teacher, but it’s still expensive to keep studying music. It would be great for increased funding to give kids more access and also to help with scholarships to continue music education in college.

AMM: How can the arts positively impact your community, our country, or the world?

JQ: Music can make a community healthier. When you are deeply involved, it almost feels like taking a little vacation. I think if the arts were more widely accepted with enthusiasm, our entire country – including our youth – would be happier and healthier.  

You can hear Jada Quin by subscribing to her YouTube channel, and on Facebook and Instagram @jaja_quin. Her first album, “Beginnings,” is downloadable on Bandwave. Jada hopes to continue her music education past high school into college with dreams of attending the Boston Conservatory at Berklee School of Music.