Category Archive: Education

  1. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Mario Quinn

    By Trevor Miles

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.10153256_282015405313431_506241731959586971_n

    Mario Quinn, Alloy School Teacher and Choreographer 


    1- What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    Right now I am focusing on teaching and mentoring the youth in the community by way of Hip Hop Dance. I feel it’s important because not only do I teach them a skill but I have a lasting impact on their lives. In my classes I encourage the students to approach everything they learn with a “can do” attitude, that I feel will transfer over into real life situations. It is easy to learn movement and expression but believing in your own expression is what I find to be the best jewel a student can have. Someone special in my life told me “fortune favors the brave” and in everything I do artistically I want that to be my main message and my goal is to pass that on to the youth. Currently I am a Teaching Artist for Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy School where I teach hip hop to youth ages 8-12yrs and choreograph for We Rock Workshop, a residency program lead by Liz Berlin of the multi-platinum band Rusted Root. We Rock Workshop guides young ad10313443_285339441647694_6993436347806586492_nults (ages 14-22) across Allegheny County who are currently involved with the Department of Human Services to open up through the arts by exploring the creation, production and performance of music and dance. The course culminates with the recording of original songs created by the participants and a final performance at Mr. Smalls Theatre. In addition, I am also a Hip-Hop Educator through Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K which is one of Greater Pittsburgh’s premier mentoring and arts education programs. The program shows the ability to identify and connect with youths ages 8-18, and teaches relevant life-long skills such as leadership development, organizational skills, cooperative economics and knowledge of the music business that can be applied to everyday situations as well as math, science and literacy. I hope that moving forward I can continue to do work that matters and reach more youth in the community through the art of expression and dance. I feel that this is what my life purpose is and I must say my journey has been incredibly rewarding so far.


    2- What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

    I would say that my defining moment was the first time I saw Michael Jackson, as silly as that may sound. As a child, I was amazed beyond belief at what I was seeing and knew in my heart that dancing and performing was something that I wanted to pursue in life. As far as teaching, that defining moment happened while in college at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where I started their very first hip-hop dance club. I was teaching peers and had no idea that it would be something that I actually enjoyed. After college I was recommended by a close friend to teach at a local studio known as Pittsburgh Heat in 2010. Since then I have been teaching and mentoring all over the GreateIMG_32151-458x458r Pittsburgh Area.


    3- What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

    Find what it is that you are great at, what is your talent? Take that and figure out a way you can help people in the community with your talent, there you will find your purpose. I’d also say BELIEVE in yourself, follow your hearts desire and don’t be afraid to try new things and open up to opportunities, again, “Fortune Favors the Brave”. Lastly I’d say be prepared, have a way to spread what it is you do. For example have a business card, a website, something that shows what you offer to your community. Remember the five P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents a Poor Performance, and remember that “Luck Favors the Prepared.”


    4- What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you).

    That’s a tough one… I have to go with The Man by Aloe Blacc. It’s one of those songs that I play while getting ready for my day—it reminds me that what I think of myself is what is most important. Takes me back to the “belief” thing. It really helps me to focus my mind on the things I want to happen in my life.


    Check out Mario’s website here. Visit the KST website to read more about his hip-hop class at the Alloy School!

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  2. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Mat Docktor

    By Trevor Miles

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.

    Soundwaves-2014-22   Mat Docktor, Soundwaves Steelband Director 


    1. What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    I engage youth in music! As a resident artist at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, I direct the student ensemble Soundwaves Steelband. This dedicated group of students range in age from 13 to 19 and commute from area high schools for rehearsal at the Alloy Studios on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

    Learning to practice, perform, and understand music has so many benefits — all the skills used to figure out a new song, how to play a song and how that relates to affecting an audience. That’s the deeper level of what I’m trying to accomplish. I want to engage people’s consciousness through music. That’s why Soundwaves is important.


    _D3_2921edit2. What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

    My development as an artist was more of a progression than any one defining moment. I went on a visitation day to Mott Middle College High School in Flint, Michigan and I saw my first Steelband. There was a bunch of people playing steelpan and having fun — I knew I wanted to go to that school. Then, when I first tried the steelpan, the magical sound made me want to play it again. My first performance gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. Playing steelpan started enriching my life in so many positive ways. I truly enjoy playing it.

    Developing my skills as a teacher grew out of my love for playing the instrument and performing. It came about because there was someone there who wanted to learn. Even as a young teenager I liked showing people things that I just learned. And people would show me things they learned, so that’s how being a teacher came about. It’s really about sharing knowledge and experience.


    3. What advice do you want to share with the youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

    Figure out who you are and be yourself. Do something you love! Pursue your passions. Collaborate. Accomplishing goals takes teamwork, persistence, patience and perseverance. Believe in yourself. You can do it!



    4. What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you?)

    Jammin by Bob Marley. I like his music because he was a changemaker. His music transcends time through its message of peace and love. Most people think this song is about jamming on an instrument, but what he really meant was more along the lines of hanging out together and feeling “so good in my neighborhood”. My favorite line in the song is, “Jah children must unite: Your life is worth much more than gold.”

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  3. Strayhorn’s Legacy Alive at Westinghouse!

    In January, Kelly Strayhorn Theater was chosen to spearhead the Pittsburgh module for NBC/iTheatrics’ SMASH: Make a Musical program.  This incredible opportunity jump-started the Strayhorn Legacy Project, our new education initiative dedicated to the artistic advancement of students across Pittsburgh’s East End.

    We chose Westinghouse 6-12 as our school partner – it hasn’t produced a musical in over 10 years and Billy Strayhorn wrote his first songs as a student there. Beginning with Westinghouse, KST’s Strayhorn Legacy Project reestablishes the culture of artistic achievement for East End students.

    The 20-30 students involved in this project are passionate, dedicated, and incredibly excited to share their work.  Under the guidance of KST’s teaching artists and with the strong in-school support of Richard “Muzz” Meyers, the University of Pittsburgh, YMCA’s Lighthouse Project, and members of Americorp and the Heinz Fellows, Westinghouse will premiere Fame on May 18 at 7pm at Westinghouse High School (1101 North Murtland Street in Homewood).  For tickets, please email or call 412.363.3000 ext 313.

    Interested in supporting the advancement of student arts in the East End? Consider donating to the Strayhorn Legacy Fund. Contact Michelle Zaffary at for info.

    All photos by Sean Means.

  4. SOUNDWAVES Youth Steelband update!

    We are incredibly excited to see our youth steelband program, SOUNDWAVES, kick off with such a bang last week at the Union Project!

    SOUNDWAVES, a new KST education initiative (in partnership with the Union Project, started a few weeks ago. KST Resident artist Mat Docktor and legendary steelpan craftsman, Phil Solomon will work with students through the spring. Students from Pittsburgh Obama 6-12, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Pittsburgh Urban Christian School and St. Edmund’s Academy, who come from a wide range of experience levels, participate in Docktor’s afterschool master classes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 4-6 pm at Union Project (801 N. Negley Ave at Stanton Ave).

    In their sessions, students learn  steelband techniques, music theory essentials and the elements of ensemble performance.

    There is a student showcase public performance at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater on May 30th at 7pm.

    As part of our artSEEDS program, Docktor visited students at Pittsburgh Obama, The Ellis School and Carlow’s Campus School to introduce nearly 100 students to steelband music.

    To learn more about Kelly Strayhorn’s Education Programming, including our youth steelband classes in Summer Stage 2012, visit or contact Dan Derks, Education Director, at 412.363.3000 ext 313.

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  5. KST participates in “City as Our Campus”

    On Monday February 28, 2011, The Kelly Strayhorn Theater hosted a ‘City as our Campus‘ day for Winchester Thurston students.  Approximately 32 upper class students and 3 teachers joined us in the theater for a workshop on Sound Design, Text Re-Phrase and Voice as Meaning with artist Herman “SoySos” Pearl and KST Education Director Maritza Mosquera.  We used Pearl’s artwork Named/Unnamed as a catalyst and structure for thinking. Students worked for two hours on elements of collage, cut-up, and editing. They mixed words, sound, and meaning using contemporary contexts derived from American news media and everyday sounds.
    Herman's Recording Equipment

    ABOUT: Named/Unnamed is a sound/image/movement installation that conceptually realizes the enormous loss of life resulting from the violence of the war in Iraq. An immersive, sensorial experience, Named/Unnamed connects audiences with the nameless and faceless people largely ignored in the central consciousness of American culture.  Check out an excerpt of it here!

    ABOUT: The Workshop

    Participants explored ideas of sound capture, repetition, collage, identity, and the news media by creating personal sound narratives in collaboration with one another and presented these to their peers. The array of found and personal sounds, images, and newspaper texts were used to create four unique sound works.



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