Interview with Teaching Artist Jamie Kalama Wood

Posted on: January 11th, 2016 by Abby Case

Jamie Kalama Wood is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout Theatre Company. She serves as the Partnership Coordinator for FDR High School where she works with school leadership and educators to ensure that the school’s partnership with Roundabout best serves their goals. She coordinates and often leads classroom and after-school residencies. In addition to her work at FDR, Jamie facilitates multiple residencies and workshops throughout the city and at Roundabout’s theatres.

Education Coordinator Abby Case spoke with Jamie about her career and work at Roundabout.

Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.

Jamie Kalama Wood: I grew up in Southern California and have a deep dislike for the 405 freeway. I have 2 kids (plus one due in April), and I have a habit of singing and dancing up until I go into labor. Educationally, I have undergraduate degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Dance Theatre. My MFA is in Musical Theatre. I taught for about 14 years before moving here. Right before I moved to NYC, I taught at San Diego State University. I have performed throughout the US and toured with musical productions and as a classical vocalist around the world. Since taking some time away from performing, I've spent most of my time professionally as a director and choreographer.

Jamie leading a workshop at partner school IS 237 in Queens.

Jamie leading a workshop at partner school IS 237 in Queens.

AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?

JKW: My first experiences with arts education came while on tour in North America. I had the privilege to lead a few small performance workshops. I loved it. In addition, I discovered in college that I had a special connection to serving those in difficult circumstances. When I found out that teaching artist (TA) work was a real thing in New York, I knew it was the job for me. I began my TA career at Roundabout in 2007. Since then, I've worked with multiple organizations as a TA.

AC: What is your favorite part of working as a teaching artist, and what is the most challenging?

JKW: My favorite part of working as a teaching artist is working with a wide variety of people while doing what I love to do. The most challenging experiences are occasionally collaborating with resistant teachers or students, but that’s when I really make theatre magic.

For example, one of my favorite residencies was with an 11th grade English Language Arts class that the teacher labeled low-functioning. The teacher was having a difficult time connecting with the students, and few of them expected to graduate. They were so used to being wrong in their classes that even when I asked for their opinions they'd tell me they didn't know. Our residency explored The Great Gatsby; we wrote and staged a rap version of the story! By the end of the residency, the students loved the teacher and she loved them. The art form gave the students a new way into the content, and the students’ engagement in the project promoted connection with the teacher. Many of the students told me they finally felt like they could accomplish something and would work hard to graduate. The memory of this class gives me hope and fuel on especially tough days.

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday

  1. Janette McDonald

    January 12, 2016

    I have been so impressed with the emphasis that NYC schools have placed on arts education in the classrooms. It would be truly the ideal if all states and areas realized the significant and positive effect that music, theater and fine arts can have on the next generation. Sadly, what happens in most cases is that the first budget cuts for a school district is in the arts departments – a major travesty, in my opinion. Good work, Jamie Kalama Wood!

  2. Brittany

    January 13, 2016

    Jamie is one of the best teachers I know because of her love for her students (and everyone), her energy, enthusiasm, experience and talent. And she’s so fun to be around!



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