Guiding the Stars: West Seattle Elementary Poetry and Song 2019-20

In the fall and winter of 2019-20, we were pleased to complete our first year working with West Seattle Elementary School fifth graders to create poetry and songs. This web page and our audio recordings and anthology of the student's poems are the culmination of this project. Taylor Boccaccio and Kaitlin Hanger's students in the Coho and Chinook classrooms worked with Jack Straw's artist team to write, perform, and record their own poetry and songs.

First, poet Vicky Edmonds visited the students and helped them write their poems. Then musicians J.R. Rhodes and Levi Fuller wrote songs inspired by the poems. J.R. and Levi visited the students in the classroom to teach them the songs, which they then practiced in school. Jack Straw's vocal coaches also visited the classroom to help the students read their poems out loud.

As the culmination of the project, the students visited Jack Straw's studios. They recorded their individual poems with the help of vocal coaches Sunam Ellis, Katya Landau, and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, and audio engineers Maryam Britton, Daniel Guenther, Joel Maddox, and Ayesha Ubayatilaka. They then played and sang their songs as a group with J.R. - joined by musicians Marco de Carvalho and Thione Diop - and Levi.

On February 6th, 2020, Coho and Chinook students performed their songs with J.R. and Levi for fellow students, families, and members of the Southwest Seattle community as part of the first-ever Seattle Public Schools Southwest Regional Arts Festival at Chief Sealth High School.

Poems by West Seattle Elementary 5th graders:

Poet Vicky Edmonds helps students write their poems at West Seattle Elementary

JR Rhodes plays guitar while a student practices vocalizing his poetry

Levi Fuller plays guitar while a student practices vocalizing her poetry

Students warm up in the studio with Jack Straw's vocal coaches

A student prepares to record his poem with Jack Straw engineer Daniel Guenther and vocal coach Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako

Students listening back in the control room with engineer Ayesha Ubayatilaka

Students recording their song in the studio with Levi Fuller

Students singing their song in the Jack Straw studio

Guiding the Stars: West Seattle Elementary Poetry and Song was produced by West Seattle Elementary School students and Jack Straw Cultural Center with the generous support of The Creative Advantage, the Washington State Arts Commission, Jubilation Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, and individual donors.

The Jack Straw artist team included writer Vicky Edmonds; vocal coaches Sunam Ellis, Katya Landau, and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako; audio engineers Maryam Britton, Daniel Guenther, Joel Maddox, and Ayesha Ubayatilaka; musicians Levi Fuller and J.R. Rhodes; education programs associate Alyssa Keene; designer Levi Fuller; and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz. West Seattle Elementary students Lydia Abebe and Brigham Stowell created the cover art.

Special thanks to the students of Coho and Chinook classrooms at West Seattle Elementary and West Seattle Elementary staff. We especially want to thank 5th grade teachers Taylor Boccaccio and Kaitlin Hanger, ELL teacher Anna Quinn-Shea, principal Pam Conyers, assistant principal Sahnica Washington, administrative secretary Shanika Russell, visual arts teacher and art team leader Amber Sermeño, and music teacher Catey Mayhew, who all helped make this project possible.

Jack Straw logoSeattle Public Schools logo

ArtsWA logo Jubilation foundation logo

JR Rhodes, Marco de Carvalho, and Thione Diop perform their song with WSE students

West Seattle students singing their song in the studio

Students' hands as they warm up for recording

Photos by Sherwin Eng and Jack Straw staff



For further information on our educational programs, contact:

Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director
Jack Straw Cultural Center


Copyright 2020 Jack Straw Cultural Center~ All rights reserved