Fine Arts

The Importance of Creativity in the Technological Age

On January 11 at MPA Talks, MPA parent and Director and Professor of the University of Minnesota School of Music, Dr. Michael Kim, presented “Creativity and the Fine and Liberal Arts in the 21st Century” to the Mounds Park Academy community. See below for a Q&A with him, based on the same topic.

In schools today, there is a strong emphasis on STEM education. Why is it important to focus on STEAM instead?

Today in our schools and in our public discourse, we are increasingly focused on the importance of students developing skills in and experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM. Indeed, technology is now a major part of our society, and technological advancements have progressed rapidly.

Given the pace and pervasiveness of technology-driven changes, however, some of the most important skills for students to acquire are flexibility and adaptability. Our children will need to adjust to ever-changing times and possess qualities and skills that are the focus of a strong liberal arts education. So we really need to focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), not just STEM, as is the case at MPA. My family and I love the focus on creativity at MPA and that the school engages students in the visual and performing arts at every academic level. As an educator myself, I believe it’s not enough to just foster an appreciation for the arts. But rather to guide students in developing their own artistic skills and to provide opportunities for them to explore, create, and express their ideas through art, performance, and music.

Why is a liberal arts education so important in our technology-driven world?

We live in an age where computers and technology can complete critical functions better, faster, and cheaper in all areas of life. We even have robotic nurses that can help diagnose and treat patients. So how do we stay relevant in a world where even business magnate, engineer, and inventor Elon Musk calls artificial intelligence our biggest existential threat? I believe that is by focusing on creativity, empathy, and the qualities that define our humanity; qualities, skills, and insights developed through the liberal arts and integrating the arts wherever possible in a cross-disciplinary way, as they do at MPA.

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Posted: February 7, 2017 at 8:59 PM in:  All School, Fine Arts

This Week in Upper School

Join us on campus this Wednesday, February 1 for two magnificent Upper School events …

Upper School Art Exhibition Reception

6 PM in the Gallery
Artists from all first semester Visual Arts courses will have work on display.

Cabaret Concert

7:30 PM–8:30 PM in the Cafeteria
Hear from both the Upper School Jazz Band and the Upper School Percussion Ensemble.


Posted: January 31, 2017 at 7:45 AM in:  All School, Fine Arts, Upper School

The Joy of Pajamarama

by Leah Abbe Bloem, Orchestra Director at Mounds Park Academy

Pajamarama was pure joy at its finest on Thursday evening! This Mounds Park Academy original event is a concert created by Upper School orchestra students for Lower School students and their families. The creative endeavor gives Upper School students a chance to entertain and engage with the younger children with unabashed delight. They get to remember what it was like to be a little kid, hearing an orchestra for the first time, in such a welcoming, happy, and fun atmosphere.

Celebrating the MPA Community

We are very fortunate to have pre-kindergarten through high school students all on one campus, which builds a strong sense of community that feels like home. The Upper School orchestra students learn the music and plan a carnival with the understanding that the performance is not about them, but rather what they are giving to, and sharing with, the broader community.

The strong connection between Upper and Lower School students is evident every day at MPA, including at this event. Each student is kind and supportive of one another. At the event, the little ones are encouraged to try games again and again until they win, with cheers from the older students. Even those waiting in line will tell their peers in front of them to try again if they didn’t win the first time.

Experiencing the Joy of Musical Performance

Pajamarama-3Pajamarama is important because it gives the Upper School students a chance to look past the technical side of music education and experience the joy of sharing a musical performance. It also provides the opportunity for the orchestra students to really consider who their audience is and create an experience for them. The Upper School students learn about games and music that they may not even know in order to make each and every audience member feel valued and celebrated. They enjoy having the chance to give back to a school and community they love so much.

Creativity at Mounds Park Academy

Pajamarama began as a Disney concert approximately ten years ago. When I started teaching the orchestras four years ago, I decided to add the carnival portion to the night as well as to make the performance more interactive.

In most ensembles, it is common for the director to make the majority of the decisions regarding music and programming. However, for this performance almost all of the games and music have been planned, designed, and carefully developed by the Upper School orchestra students. Consequently, it is a powerful exercise in directing an entire artistic experience that they then perform for the community. The Upper School students both embrace their honed musical and artistic skills and simultaneously return to the delight of their youth through the games and activities with their younger friends.

Delighting Kids of All Ages

Students and parents alike love the performance. Upper School parents tell me how much fun it is to watch their child act like a little kid again and jump right into all the games, dancing, and singing. It is a reminder that we are all kids at heart and that we don’t have to grow up too fast. Along with the carnival, we also have milk and cookies at the end of the night, while our characters read bedtime stories.

At first glance, one would assume that the Lower School students enjoy the performance the most. However, watching these high-school-age students interact with their younger counterparts always proves that they are just as excited as the grade school students. In rehearsals, the Upper School students are slightly hesitant to sing songs by Raffi and dance to the Hokey Pokey while trying to play their instrument, but once they get a chance to dance and sing with the younger kids, one can see nothing but smiles on all of their faces.


Posted: January 28, 2017 at 5:26 PM in:  All School, Fine Arts

Winter Show: Inherit The Wind

InheritTheWindHeadJoin us in the Black Box Theatre at 7 PM on January 27 and 28, and February 3 and 4, for a performance of the play Inherit The Wind (note: tickets are sold out for January 27 and 28, but still available for February 3 and 4). This play had its genesis in the events of the famous Scopes Trial in which the teaching of creationism came head to head against the teaching of scientific fact. Written during the height of the McCarthy Era, the play highlights the bravery it takes to stand up for what is right, while also pinpointing the loneliness of such an endeavor. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit here.


Posted: January 28, 2017 at 10:46 AM in:  All School, Fine Arts, Upper School

MPA Artists Recognized in MN Scholastic Art Awards

Congratulations to six MPA artists whose work has been recognized in the 2017 Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards!

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the longest running, most prestigious competition and largest source of scholarships for creative teenagers in the United States. The Awards program was created in 1923 by Maurice R. “Robbie” Robinson, founder of Scholastic Corporation, and has been administered by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers since 1994. It has an impressive legacy and a noteworthy roster of past winners including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, and Joyce Carol Oates and many others.

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Posted: January 19, 2017 at 12:37 PM in:  All School, Fine Arts, Middle School, Upper School

Ms. Buck to be Featured at The Phipps

BuckMPA art teacher, Lisa Buck, has a solo exhibition beginning at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson called “Clean Slate-New Work in Earthenware.” The exhibition runs Friday, January 13 through February and begins with a gallery talk by Lisa on Friday at 6 PM. This is a wonderful opportunity for MPA students to see one of their teachers pursuing her passion outside of the classroom! Find more details here.


Posted: January 12, 2017 at 4:19 PM in:  All School, Fine Arts

Laura O’Neill Selected as Honor Choir Member

Congratulations to Laura O’Neill ’19 who was IMG_0708selected to be member of the 2017 National American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA) Honor Choirs! More than 4,200 singers auditioned to sing at the National Conference in March 2017. Under the direction of composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre, Laura will sing Alto I in the Senior High Mixed Honor Choir. Laura is a member of the MPA Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, and studies voice privately. We wish Laura all the best as she prepares to make music with some of the finest high school singers in the nation!


Posted: November 10, 2016 at 3:39 PM in:  Fine Arts, Upper School

Alumni in the News

Jack Cotterell (Class of 2004) is a singer, Jack Cotterell Photo 2dancer, and actor based in Chicago. This summer he starred as Lieutenant Joseph Cable in the Cedar Rapids Opera production of South Pacific. He was recently interviewed by Iowa Public Radio during which he was articulate, entertaining, and personified what it means to have graduated from MPA. Click here to watch the interview, particularly 34:00 through 45:00 to hear Jack. We checked in with him and asked if his time at MPA prepared him for his career. Here’s what he said …

“Much of the foundation for a career in the arts (and most fields, for that matter) is built in childhood. As a ‘lifer’ I can attest that MPA’s music, world language, speech, and theatre curricula all have had a profound impact on my career as a performer.

As a chorister, I sing with the Grant Park Chorus and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and I learned tools and skills at MPA from Mari Espeland and John Habermann that I still use today (including solfege!). As a soloist, I’ve had the opportunity to sing a variety of styles in both concert and full productions, ranging from oratorio, to opera, to musical theatre, to even video game music! I’ll never forget the day John and I started working on “Ev’ry Valley” from Handel’s Messiah. When I looked at the music, I told John, “I can’t do that!” And he replied that not only would I be able to, but that I would do lots of it throughout my career (and to that end, I’ve performed as the tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah in five different productions!). Whenever I am daunted or intimidated by a new piece of music, I think back to this formative experience with John to reassure and remind myself that, with enough practice, one can accomplish a great deal.

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Posted: July 15, 2016 at 1:34 PM in:  All School, Alumni, Fine Arts

All-State Band Honors for Netteberg (’16)

Congratulations to Sofie Netteberg (Class of 2016) who participated in
the Minnesota Music Educators Association All-State Band program and played
in a concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 14.
Sofie IMG_0476Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.57.50 AMauditioned last spring and was selected to play with some of the best high school musicians in the state. Sofie played bassoon in the All-State Concert Band directed by Craig Kirchhoff, Director of Bands
at the University of Minnesota.

Classical Minnesota Public Radio will broadcast selections from the
All-State Concert Band concert on Thursday, February 19, 2015, at 7:15 a.m.
and again at 7:15 p.m.


Posted: February 19, 2015 at 10:58 AM in:  Fine Arts

All State and Honor Choir Performances

Congratulations to Eloise B, Grace D and Kelly M who performed with  the 9-10 State Honor Choirs on Thursday, February 12!
IMG_0314 IMG_0308
Andrew G, Mr. Habermann and Allison L after the All-State Choir concert on Saturday, February 14.  Bravo to Andrew and Allison on their polished and engaging performances!


Posted: February 19, 2015 at 10:50 AM in:  Fine Arts