Lowell Elementary: Poetry and Song 2018

In the spring of 2018, we were pleased to complete our fourth year working with Lowell Elementary School students to create poetry and songs.This web page is the culmination of Jack Straw artist residencies with Lowell second grade students, including students from the Aspire and Focus special education classes.

Lowell second graders worked with Jack Straw’s artist team to write, perform, and record their own poetry and songs. First, poet Samar Abulhassan visited the students and helped them write their poems. The students chose their favorites, and songwriters Tai Shan and Levi Fuller wrote songs inspired by the poems.

Tai 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, Alyssa Keene, and Katya Landau and audio engineers Daniel Guenther and Joel Maddox, and then played and sang their songs as a group with Tai and Levi, with help from Peter Williams on cello.

Lowell Poetry and Song 2018 was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center and Lowell Elementary School with the generous support of the Jubilation Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission, and individual contributors. This program was provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Our thanks to Lowell teachers Sara Manley, Rob Smuidrins, Cameron Whitney, and Davina Diaz who worked with our artist team to make our special needs project very special.

Our thanks to Lowell 2nd grade students and 2nd grade teachers Rae Richardson, Alexi West, and Catherine Comings. Our thanks also to Angeline Zalben for her assistance with the students and to parent & PTA chaperones for their help on studio field trips. And, our special thanks to Shelby Leyland, Lowell music teacher, whose enthusiasm and commitment have made this program possible.

The Jack Straw artist team included poet Samar Abulhassan, vocal coaches Katya Landau, Sunam Ellis, and Alyssa Keene, musicians Tai Shan, Levi Fuller, and Peter Williams, audio engineers Daniel Guenther and Joel Maddox, photographer Sherwin Eng, and Jack Straw Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz.


Samar Abulhassan

Samar Abulhassan

Samar Abulhassan holds an M.F.A. from Colorado State University and has worked as a teaching artist for ten years, for Seattle Arts and Lectures’ WITS Program, Jack Straw…


Tai Shan

Tai Shan has performed throughout the West Coast at venues such as Seattle’s Benaroya Hall and San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. She has composed for jazz ensembles and string…


Peter Williams / Cello X

Peter Williams is a cellist and educator. He is a current member of the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra and former principal cellist of the Northwest Symphony Orchestra. He has been a…

Portrait of Sunam Ellis

Sunam Ellis

Sunam Ellis is an actor, director, and teaching artist based out of Seattle. Her training began with her studies at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and after receiving her…