leaf blog
March 14, 2014

SUCCESS STORY: Delta House youth find Inspiration from UNCA Jazz Students

LSSUNCAJazzGroupPhotoLEAF Schools & Streets youth are finding inspiration through live performance. Students at Delta House were encouraged by a special performance by the UNCA Scholarship Jazz Sextet. These aspiring musicians performed for all students in the after-school program and introduced them to jazz. “Anything live where they can visually see and hear it is such a great way for students to experience music and jazz. To be able to see and experience is so important,” noted Sheila, a staff member at Delta House.

Delta House is the location of LEAF Schools & Streets’ premier youth jazz program. This LEAF Delta Jazz Band is comprised of a group of young students, all dedicated to learning the art of jazz. The band meets three times a week with their Teaching Artist, Gary Bradley. Through consistent practice, the jazz group has experienced much success. In March 2013, the group was invited by Grammy award-winning Preservation Hall Jazz Band to travel down to New Orleans and perform at the historic Congo Square Festival.

LSSUNCAJazzBassandSaxweb“This concert was like a mentoring step, especially for our Jazz students,” shared Sheila. “These are young people actually doing it, what the next step for our kids could be. They are a successful group; it was very encouraging to see.” Performing for the kids was an enriching experience for the Jazz students as well, “my students got a lot out of that experience” noted Dr. Brian Felix, Jazz Professor at UNCA. The UNCA Jazz Students serve an important role in providing a positive example for the aspiring young artists, as well as any students interested in pursuing some form of higher education.

Ending with Nina Simone’s “I wish I Knew how it would feel to be Free,” the UNCA Sextet left Delta House students with an inspiring message. The uplifting gospel/jazz encourages listeners with the messages of perseverance and freedom to dream.

February 21, 2014
Youth at the Children First/CIS Learning Center at Pisgah View Lift their


LEAF Schools & Streets | Building community through song.

LEAF Schools & Streets young singers at the Children First/CIS Learning Center at Pisgah View are celebrating their voices through song with teaching artist, Anastasia Yarbrough. In weekly classes, Anastasia teaches 20 elementary-aged students to express themselves by joining their voices together. Anastasia believes in the positive power of song, “Learning music helps with discipline and working with others. It’s a way to have pride and develop skills in life that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

LSSPVALizzSings2RTwebInternationally celebrated Jazz/R&B singer Lizz Wright and master percussionist River Guerguerian visited the Learning Center to celebrate Black History Month. They worked with the students on learning “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Lizz also introduced the kids to “Down by the Riverside," a gospel song sung to empower and encourage others. “LEAF is a wonderful bridge to help me get to know facets of the Asheville community better,” noted Lizz. With these talented teaching artists, the Pisgah View Learning Center rang with the sounds of piano, drums, strings and the power of voices.

The students are learning “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in preparation for performing at the LEAF Festival this May. This song is often called "The Black National Anthem.” “It’s important that kids know this song,” Anastasia explains. “It’s a song about uplifting the spirit – remembering as a people what we’ve gone through and the potential of where we can go.” Anastasia chose this song after finding that most of the children were not getting a detailed education about Black History in school. “I thought it was important for kids to find strength in their culture.”

LSSPVAWholeGroupsSmilesRTweb“I think the arts are a very powerful vehicle for not only building community but for really making a just society to happen” explained Anastasia. Her statement reflects LEAF’s mission of using the arts to empower and inspire youth, connect cultures and create community.

February 14, 2014


Dancing their Hearts out…


LEAF Schools & Streets students celebrate Valentine’s Day at Children First/CIS Learning Center at Deaverview!


LSSDeaverviewKidsHeadphonesDJStudents at the Children First/CIS Learning Center at Deaverview had a special Valentine’s surprise this year; LEAF Schools & Streets teaching artist Lisa Zahiya brought a DJ celebration with special guest, DJ Matthew Pride to her students! "I have been lucky enough to work with the kids at Deaverview for 4 years.  It is important to me to use dance class, not just as a place to learn dance, but as a vehicle for learning about hip hop culture, personal interaction and more. We have been talking about DJs for years and I was excited to create a celebration for them to see what a DJ does and to feel like they are important and special enough to have such a fun party," shared Lisa.

The kids had dance practice, free fun dance time and a question and answer session with Matthew. They asked why Matthew began DJing and learned more about DJ work and performing. Lisa noted, "The kids LOVED the party, they were joyful, excited and intrigued. Matthew was generous enough to explain what was happening, allow the kids to participate in what he was doing and created a really fun environment."

LSSDeaverviewDrivinCarwebsThe impact of LEAF Schools & Streets programming shines through in this one child's story: "When I came by the dance party, everyone was so excited and having such a wonderful time! One of the children had just become homeless. He had been very worried and had a hard day at school. When I came to see him, he was happy, engaged, and talking with the wonderful DJ, Matthew! I always say, we never know what can change a person, even for a moment or a day and sometimes, for a lifetime. These experiences are sometimes the things that can change the course of a child's life and if not, they certainly remember the great time they had." shares the Learning Center Coordinator, Barbara. LEAF Schools & Streets hopes to provide memorable life and learning experiences for all of our youth participants!

Lisa Zahiya is an innovative, award-winning performer, in-demand instructor and successful studio owner. Working in the genres of bellydance, Indian dance (Bollywood & Bhangra) and hip-hop dance, Lisa travels nationally and internationally teaching and performing. We are so glad to have her on the team of LEAF Schools & Streets resident teaching artists! To learn more about Lisa, please visit her dance and studio websites - www.lisazahiya.com and www.studiozahiya.com. To contact Matthew about Djing, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

January 29, 2014

LEAF Intore Heroes
In Kinyarwanda, the word “Intore” refers to a person who is desperate and hopeless, but then given HOPE by a person or event. This newfound hope gives the person strength to learn new skills, see life through new eyes, and become a better person and a leader.

LIRwandaBoysDrummingSideandSky1RTIn Kigali, Rwanda, the power of drumming has provided over 20 young men with strength and stability. The LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe is keeping Rwanda's musical traditions alive with pride.

In August 2013, LEAF Board Member Reggie and friend of LI, Sarah, served as LEAF International Ambassadors to Rwanda to visit the Troupe. This was Reggie’s first trip to Africa, “a pretty epic trip all around,” he declared. “It was great not to only represent LEAF but also observe and develop a deeper understanding of what it’s like over there for our guys. It was quite an honor.”

“They are very brilliant, driven young men,” Reggie shared.

During the visit, Reggie and Sarah got to see the LEAF Intore Troupe perform at the Step Motel. It was an “amazing performance” that gained much attention. The powerful beats of the drumming and dance called out to others, and local neighborhood kids gathered at edge of the motel to watch them. Members of the LEAF Intore Troupe are now serving as role models for other young people in their community! Families were brought together and most of the motel came out to see the performance. “They were in their zone performing,” our ambassadors shared. The troupe is so dedicated to the art of drumming. They do not simply play instruments, but pour out through their souls the drumming and dance.

LIRwandaIntorePerformanceChestsOutRTAll of the men reported that the LEAF International program was their first opportunity to learn musical traditions. LI has played an important role in their personal development: 100% believe that they are learning new life skills through their LI program, and all of them reported that learning music is increasing their self-esteem! “These boys have grown up through the program,” observed Reggie. The LEAF Intore Troupe has developed a true sense of community; “it’s a nurturing group of boys, you can tell that they are very connected and feel like family.” Troup member Fabien shared, "I have gained self-confidence and a sense of belonging.”

The drums are the heartbeat of these boys. The impact of the program is shown through Emmanuel’s words: "I have hope for my future because of the music education I have gotten through LEAF International.” We dream of bringing these young men to LEAF one day, so that we can all celebrate their journey as one united global family.

January 14

SUCCESS STORY: Music Helps Jourdan Find Expression

Though one of the more shy students among his peers, Jourdan found song and dance as a way to express himself and enjoy learning about another culture. Jourdan, an 8th grade student in the AVID Program at Asheville Middle, really came out of his shell to sparkle and share his talents during a visiting artist residency and performance at LEAF Festival. “Performing with Samite is really cool- it’s a really nice experience to be at LEAF performing. It was a lot of fun to see people dancing with us and just getting up and dancing in front of everybody… that’s really cool.” He ventured outside of his comfortable zone and excelled.

Along with self-expression, music and arts education has the power to strengthen creative practices and mindsets associated with academic and life success. Through LEAF Schools & Streets, youth are learning new musical and life skills that will help them achieve later on. During a three-day residency with world-renowned Ugandan artist, Samite, AVID students at Asheville Middle gained invaluable skills and experiences. They took a trip around the world by learning about Ugandan culture, music, and traditional instruments. They also learned about cooperation and working together as a group.

A college readiness program, AVID is designed to increase learning and performance. The LEAF Schools & Streets program added to the classroom by providing a unique hands-on learning experience. Performance is a key part of LEAF Schools & Streets programs because it improves students’ self-esteem as well as their confidence in other areas of life. Students were empowered by performing at LEAF Festival, “I’ve been here before to perform last year during the spring in the poetry slam, but it’s a different kind of feel being in a musical this time,” Jourdan shared. The middle school teachers noticed that the residency had a big impact on their students; “They love every minute of it. It drew us closer and it united us. It brought out shy people to be more involved. Our kids are not used to being the stars, and they are the stars with this performance!”


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