[Note from A&E Editor Shannon Neu: The arts, including music, dance, theatre, visual art and other art forms have likely affected your life in some capacity, either in school or in other aspects of day-to-day life. This month, I am investigating how the lives of various members of the UNCG and Greensboro community have been impacted by the power of the arts. Each week I will feature a different individual and their stories of the role the arts have played in their lives.]
From writing and performing songs to working as a board member of arts advocacy organization Arts NC, Laurelyn Dossett is endlessly dedicated to the arts.
Dossett has written songs for Grammy-winning artists such as Levon Helms and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She has also written music for six plays at Triad Stage, including the theater’s upcoming production, “Radiunt Abundunt.” Additionally, in 2011 she was commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony to write and produce the song cycle “The Gathering: A Winter’s Tale in Six Songs.” Dossett has worked on a variety of other creative projects, has taught workshops on singing and songwriting and performs music regularly.
As a board member for Arts NC, Dossett plays a significant role in advocating for the arts by lobbying the state legislature for arts funding for general arts councils, arts education funding and arts education policy in public schools. Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind, more and more arts programs in public schools throughout the nation have been at serious risk of suffering from budget cuts or being entirely eliminated. Arts NC works to make the arts more accessible in schools and communities in North Carolina.
Growing up, Dossett was highly involved in school arts programs. She explained that in the schools she went to, it was a part of school life to be involved in a variety of arts activities. Students did not have to choose between participating in sports or the arts. She explained that she had excellent music and art teachers throughout middle school and high school, and that a significant part of her identity was built around her participation in music and drama. Through performing arts, Dossett found her voice and her people.
After studying psychology at Pennsylvania State University, Dossett went on to graduate school at UNCG’s School of Education. She received her Master’s degree in counseling in 1999. She then spent a few years working at Family Service of the Piedmont.
Later, after about 20 years of not being involved in music, she decided to get back into it. She explained that her earlier experiences in the arts really contributed to her career in music later on.
“I ended up, kind of by accident, getting into writing music for theatre and just having had just as much theatre experience as I’ve had in high school, at least gave me some preparation for what I was getting myself into,” Dossett reflected.
Dossett is extremely passionate about the important role the arts play in education.
“As a child, arts are a way to help you find your voice– Your ability to express yourself, whether that’s through visual arts or music or dance,” Dosset explained. “It’s a way to find your people, your peer group and your like-minded friends.”
“Access to music lessons or art lessons, or even just getting your hands on an instrument or getting your hands on a paintbrush, is very quickly becoming something that happens only to people whose parents can afford to send them to afterschool programs,” Dossett said. “Not only can they afford to pay for their lessons, but some caregiver has the time to drive them around to these lessons. They’re just not in the schools.”
Dossett went on to explain that the decline in arts education in public schools is becoming a part of the education gap and the disparity between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Arts are becoming a luxury item instead of something that all of us have access to and all of us can learn from,” Dossett added.
“Besides that it’s horrible for all the children who aren’t getting arts lessons, it’s horrible for us as a society,” Dossett continued. “Who are we missing? Which next painter? Which next choreographer?
“Which next great poet or songwriter are we never going to hear from because they never got the training, because they never even thought of it, because they never had any exposure to it?
“We’re letting generations of kids go without arts education, or without a significant enough or meaningful enough arts education, and it’s a crime.”