Fine Arts Focus News

Promotional image for strings department masterclass

The Strings Department and the 7th Grade Strings class is pleased to welcome in a virtual masterclass, SSG Jan Knutson, Guitarist from the United States Army Strings, the premier Orchestra of the United States Army from Washington, DC, on April 28, 2021. SSG Knutson will be doing a masterclass on the Guitar and a discussion surrounding the Story of the American Guitar. Just as Mr. Hanna, 7th Grade Social Studies teacher, has been taking students around World Geography, this journey through music will give students a perspective of how the guitar was used in America throughout time and different locations.


The US Army Strings, provide a musical backdrop for many of the country’s most notable events.

Their mission is to serve as musical ambassadors for high-level military and government events at home and abroad, as well as in concert for public audiences. The elite musicians that comprise this ensemble have been trained at the most prestigious music conservatories and universities in the country. This versatile ensemble performs as The US Army Strolling Strings, mixed chamber ensembles, and The US Army Orchestra.


SSG Jan Knutson, guitarist, has been a member of The US Army Band “Pershing’s Own” since August 2018. Prior to joining “Pershing’s Own” at the age of 19, he attended the Manhattan School of Music as a student of Rodney Jones. He also studied with Steve Abshire, Frank Vignola, Martin Taylor, Peter Bernstein and Paul Wingo. At the age of 15, he recorded his solo CD album, “Out of Nowhere.” At the age of 16, he was selected as a Strathmore Artist in Residence and presented several concerts throughout the year and recorded his second album, “Looking Both Ways,” featuring guitarist Steve Abshire, bassist Tommy Cecil, and mandolinist Danny Knicely. Knutson has been a featured artist at several jazz festivals including the Richmond Folk Festival, True Blue Jazz Festival, Syracuse JazzFest, and Savannah Folk Festival. Knutson has also performed at premier venues such as the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, The Iridium, and the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. He has performed with some of the world’s greatest guitarists including Julian Lage, Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Gene Bertoncini, and Martin Taylor. Knutson is a native of Berwyn Heights, MD, and graduated from the Science and Technology Program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School before attending the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.


The AJMS Strings Department and the 7th Grade Strings Class is pleased to welcome SSG Knutson and The US Army Strings for this virtual event. Thank you SSG Knutson!

In an article in Greenville’s Town Magazine, actor and Broadway performer Wonza Johnson said, “I don’t know what is next, but as long as you put in the work and set goals, you’ll end up where your path is meant to lead you.” As a former Andrew Jackson Middle School student, Johnson knows the work and dedication needed in a craft that brings such joy to many people. He will bring his acting experience to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in the Theatre Department during a two-day virtual masterclass on March 24th and 25th. Please congratulate Mr. Skinner and his students on this opportunity and their preparation for the masterclass!

image of wonza johnson

March is Music in Our Schools Month. A big shout out and great job to all of our student musicians in Band, Chorus and Orchestra at Andrew Jackson Middle School!

Throughout the month of March, students at AJMS will be working with International Freelance Graphic Artist, Josie Borja on the layout and design of the upcoming publication of the AJMS Arts Magazine. This Arts Magazine will showcase the Visual Art and Creative Writing of 6th through 8th grade students in a full-color printed magazine. The magazine publication is part of a Distinguished Arts Program (DAP) grant that AJMS has received and will be published this spring.


Students and faculty are learning the Adobe Suite program, InDesign, to publish this magazine which enables quick access to Adobe Photoshop to incorporate student artwork in the final product. Throughout the masterclass with Mrs. Borja, students are learning about the program and how to take their design ideas from concept to reality on the page. In today’s 21st century workplace where designers and artists may be on different continents while working together, AJMS students are getting a similar experience as Mrs. Borja is currently working on a project in England. The pandemic, while disruptive in many ways, has also brought AJMS students together with artists and perspectives otherwise not available.


We virtually welcome Mrs. Josie Borja to AJMS and look forward to the fantastic visual artwork and creative writing of our students that will be in the upcoming Arts Magazine. The students working on designing and publishing the Arts Magazine are in great hands with this fantastic graphic artist and educator!

infographic regarding the attached article
infographic regarding the attached article

The Strings Program at Andrew Jackson Middle School is pleased to welcome violinist Susan Blumberg for a virtual masterclass series with the 6th Grade Strings class. Ms Blumberg is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra since 1987. She coaches the Youth Orchestras of Charlotte and coaches at Northwest School of the Arts and other schools in the Charlotte Metro Area.


Over a four-day period, 6th grade students will interact with Ms Blumberg via web-conferencing to perform and receive feedback on their technique. The focus of these sessions will be on the many different bowing techniques used in playing a string instrument and their specific applications in music. Let's give a warm, virtual AJMS welcome to Ms Blumberg!

Even during a pandemic, students at Andrew Jackson Middle School are connecting and making art with others outside of Kershaw. The AJMS 6th Grade Chorus will be participating in a county-wide masterclass with the official chorus of the United States Navy, the Sea Chanters from Washington, DC. This premier choral ensemble performs in our nation's capital for the President and Vice-President and members of Congress.


The Sea Chanters are frequently found at the center of our most important national events, including Inauguration Day, 2009. They have played a vital role in comforting the nation in times of mourning, including appearances at memorials for the astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia and the presidential wreath laying ceremony at the United Airlines Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, PA.


On March 4th, selected 6th grade Chorus students will perform in the masterclass for members of the Sea Chanters and get live feedback and vocal coaching on their performances. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and a unique experience that this year of virtual learning has brought about.

infographic regarding the attached article