As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.
C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.
With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Aisha Bowden.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am the Co-Director of the Atlanta Music Project. AMP provides intensive music instruction to underserved youth right in their neighborhood. We believe that by building youth orchestras and choirs in Atlanta’s underserved neighborhoods, we are offering youth pathways to success. At AMP, social change is the goal; music is the method. Within AMP, I Co-Founded AMPlify, the choral program of the Atlanta Music Project. That’s where I spend the majority of my time and energy.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
From my earliest memories, I wanted to be a teacher. I was turned on to the idea of becoming a music teacher by my high school band director. Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? Numerous: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. I loved playing Bach as a child.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Again numerous. Other than my parents, my cooperating teacher during student teaching in college held the biggest influence on me. I thought being a school music teacher meant coming in and doing the same thing every day. Her students performed all over Washington, DC, and she created innovative programs and performance opportunities for them. She really opened my eyes to the possibilities.
When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I’ve been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember. As a baby, I would bang on the pew in front of me to mimic the organist in church. I was fascinated by his ability to shift the energy in the building. We purchased a piano when I was 4 and I started lessons soon after. I started performing as a child and began conducting choirs as a teenager. I was a piano kid, a band kid and a choir kid – but of course, choir was number one.
How is art a passion for you?
Art is my lifeline. It is my purpose and my calling. Through it, I am allowed to empower the most vulnerable amongst us – our youth. I am an activist by nature and I live to lift up those around me. My role at AMP allows me to fuse my passion for creativity with my compassion for others.
What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts?
As a businesswoman, I serve as an advocate for women in the arts through my daily work. I recognize my privilege in being able to represent my organization in the company of male-led businesses. It is my honor to serve as an example for not only the children in my program, but for some members of my staff as well.
What in your profession has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?
Looking back, my greatest moments of satisfaction have come when I see youth being transformed before my eyes due to choral performance. When I see a child on stage filled with pride and self-confidence, I know that we are doing our job.
What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
I love living in a city that is buzzing with excitement as it relates to the arts. Atlanta’s arts community is alive and well. The city embraces the artists, and gives them space to impact the city.
What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community?
I hope to develop an arts organization that impacts not just the youth in the community or Atlanta schools, but makes a mark on the Atlanta music scene in general.
Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
Aisha Bowden is the Co-Founder and Director of AMPlify, the Choral Program of the Atlanta Music Project. In this role, she overseas all AMPlify operations and directs the AMPlify Choir. In addition she holds strategic and administrative responsibilities for the AMP.
Aisha completed the Sistema Fellows program in 2012, a prestigious, post-graduate fellowship of New England Conservatory that trains gifted musicians and educators to lead El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States.
Prior to the fellowship, Aisha enjoyed a career as an award-winning public school music educator for eleven years. As Chair of the Music Department at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC , Ms. Bowden provided General and Vocal Music Instruction to the full student body, directed the Thomson Choir and managed several partnerships with leading arts organizations, to include the Washington National Opera and The Choral Arts Society of Washington, DC.
Her performance background, which includes travel to Switzerland, Germany and Gabon, Africa, inspired Ms. Bowden to organize frequent performance opportunities for her students, designed to broaden their exposure to and understanding of the world around them. Under her direction, the Thomson Choir performed for the King and Queen of Norway, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Bicentennial Celebration of Abraham Lincoln at which President Obama was the keynote speaker. The Thomson choir has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN and Good Morning America as well as local television networks. During her tenure in the DC Public School system, Ms. Bowden also served as accompanist for the All-City Honors Chorus and a General Music Curriculum Writer for the DCPS Division of Music. Additionally, Ms. Bowden has been recognized for excellence in arts education by the Arts for Every Student Program, Who’s Who in American Educators and the Mayors Arts Awards. She is also featured in the April 2012 issue of Teaching Music, a publication of the National Association for Music Education.
After relocating from Washington,DC to Georgia in 2009, Ms. Bowden conducted middle school choirs with Cobb County Public Schools and worked as a Choral Teaching Artist for the pilot year of the Atlanta Music Project (AMP). That experience with AMP influenced her decision to enroll in the 2011-2012 Sistema Fellows Program and subsequently create the first Sistema-inspired choral program in Georgia. Aisha brings expertise in choral directing, public school education, community programming and non-profit management.