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Opening Minds through the Arts

Opening Minds through the Arts | 2025 E. Winsett, Tucson, AZ 85719 | (520) 225-4900

Design Team

Dr. Joan Ashcraft

Dr. Joan AshcraftDr. Joan Ashcraft is Director of Fine and Performing Arts for the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). She has collaboratively designed arts education programs including the Governor’s Award-winning Tucson Arts Connections and Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA). Dr. Ashcraft has built partnerships with arts organizations to design and implement sequential arts instruction for teachers and students through the Fine Arts Summer Institute, IDea: Instructional Design for the Arts, the Teaching Artists Summer Institute, the traveling ARTSmobiles, the Fine Arts Youth Academy, and multiple internships for teachers and University students.

Dr. Ashcraft co-designed OMA, recognized nationally for its significant arts education research and student achievement data. OMA was awarded the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination, the Professional Development in Arts Education, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers Federal Grants. Success of OMA research has produced national recognition for Tucson: Arts for Learning sponsored by National Young Audiences, Harvard Project Zero Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It, Dr. Milton Chen’s book Education Nation, and Arts Education Partnership’s publications entitled Third Space and Learning Partnerships. Under her leadership, TUSD Fine Arts received significant funds to pilot the Smart Music program. Dr. Ashcraft has toured as a presenter for the US Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative.

Dr. Pamela Brown Clarridge

Dr. Pamela Brown ClarridgeDr. Pamela Brown Clarridge has been involved in public education for over 30 years. She received her BA from Northern Arizona University in Psychology and Special Education and holds two Master's degrees from the University of Arizona in Educational Research and Measurement, and Educational Administration. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Educational Psychology. She has been a program evaluator for local, state, and federal educational programs and has taught at the elementary level in both rural and suburban schools in Arizona. Most recently, she has been an elementary principal for 15 years, including 9 years as principal of two Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) schools. She is committed to using her knowledge and experiences to bring arts integration to more and more students.

Jaquetta Alexander

Jaquetta AlexanderJaquetta Alexander received her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona and her Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. She taught kindergarten through fourth grades in three different elementary schools in Tucson Unified School District before becoming an Integration Specialist, Curriculum Specialist, Teacher/Coach, and ultimately the proud principal of Peter Howell Elementary School. Jaquetta spent several years working with Dr. Kathy Short, University of Arizona Professor in the program of Language, Reading and Culture and director of Worlds of Words, and colleagues at Van Horne Elementary School on an International Literature Project which focused on building intercultural understanding through inquiry and literature. Her work is published on www.wowlit.org. As a classroom teacher, Jaquetta strived to integrate the arts across the curriculum, and now as a principal, she strongly supports the arts and teachers' efforts to make the arts accessible to all students.

Hillary Douglas

Hillary DouglasHillary Douglas joined the OMA team as an Art Integration Specialist for Visual Art in January of 2016. Art was always Hillary's favorite subject in school. She benefited from the encouragement of several inspirational art teachers, which motivated her to become an art teacher herself. Originally from New Hampshire, Hillary earned her BFA in Community Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 2006. After traveling to China in 2007, to teach art at the high school level, she moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2008, where she taught middle school art for five years. Though many in her school community thought of her class as the “fun class,” she found incredible value in reinforcing academic learning and testing strategies through art. In 2013, Hillary moved once again to Tucson, to study art education at the graduate level at the University of Arizona. As a graduate instructor, she taught aspiring undergraduate level art teachers how to be successful in their first years of teaching. Internships at the University of Arizona Museum of Art and Fallingwater, the historic house museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, furthered her understanding of how museums help people understand and make connections to art. Hillary is passionate about art and sharing her expertise and experiences with the TUSD community.

Matthew Holter

Matthew HolterMatthew Holter, originally from Moorhead, Minnesota, is an accomplished lyric tenor and director. Mr. Holter has performed and directed throughout the Western United States and abroad, including China, Russia, Japan and England. His stage credits include numerous roles in opera, musical theatre and dance. Matthew's directing credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, H.M.S. Pinafore, and Godspell to name a few. He maintains a career as a professional soloist and chorister having performed with various ensembles from the greater Tucson area including the Arizona Early Music Society and the Tucson Chamber Artists. Mr. Holter is an Arts Integration Specialist for TUSD with the Opening Minds through the Arts program that provides fine arts residencies to schools throughout the district and a vocal instructor at Trollwood Performing Arts School through the Fargo Public Schools during the summer. Matthew received his Masters degree in Voice from Washington State University and earned his Bachelors degree in Music Education from The University of Arizona. Matthew and his wife, Victoria, live in Tucson with their four children.

Jennie Lanning

Jennie LanningJennie Lanning is a fourth grade teacher at Sewell Elementary, an OMA Gold school, where she has been proudly teaching for over twenty years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English, with an unofficial minor in Drama, from the University of Washington and her Post-Baccalaureate in Education from the University of Arizona.

Jennie’s interest in the arts began at an early age with an emphasis on drama. She was with the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre during junior high and high school, which was an amazing learning experience due to the fact that at that time the P.A.C.T. was one of the few true children’s theatres in the country. During college she appeared in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Godspell” with the Palo Alto Christian Theatre.

As an educator, Jennie firmly believes in arts integration into the curriculum, seeing the positive effects that it has had on her students throughout the years. She has been an active OMA participant for many years, attending workshops and trainings and then bringing what she has learned right back into the classroom.

“I am so grateful for the talent, commitment, and support of our OMA Arts Specialists and Arts Integration Specialists. They provide the background knowledge of visual arts, music, opera, and drama and then give support in the integrating of that form into our standards and curriculum. Our students benefit immensely.”

Ms. Lanning is very honored to be a part of the OMA Design Team.

Thom Lewis

Thom LewisThom Lewis’ movement experience includes walking on fire, rappelling down buildings, riding an elephant, and street performing in France - he has also danced in more traditional French venues, and in Asia, Australia, and Las Vegas. He received an M.F.A. in theater arts and choreography from the University of Arizona in 1997. A recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, his work has been performed internationally by former Pilobolus dancers Dalton-Hartel Dance.

The arts and news journal, The Tucson Weekly described his compositions as “delicious choreography . . . witty, musical, and inventive.” He has taught for OMA since 2004 and is currently the design team coordinator.

Jeff Requadt

Jeff RequadtJeff Requadt spent the majority of his childhood living in Tucson, France and Côte d'Ivoire (West Africa). He began taking piano lessons at the age of five and continued to study piano throughout high school and into college, receiving “First Mention” in an area-wide West African piano competition in 1998. Jeff has been teaching and performing piano publically as a soloist and accompanist since 1993 (often for churches and weddings), and has been teaching piano for almost as long. Jeff has also performed with choral groups in high school and college. One special highlight was performing in a mass choir under the baton of John Rutter at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2004. In 2005, Jeff graduated from Southwestern College with a degree in Elementary Education and taught third grade at Dietz K-8 School from 2006 to 2014. He enjoys using musical concepts and skills both to expand his students' minds as well as to teach concepts in other disciplines such as reading, writing, science, and math. Jeff is excited to begin the 2015-2016 school year as an Arts Integration Specialist in the OMA Exploratory Residency program.

Mackenzie Romriell

Mackenzie RomriellMackenzie Romriell has worked with the OMA program for six years. During that time she has been both an Opera Teaching Artist and an Arts Integration Specialist. Originally from Idaho, she is married and has four children. Mackenzie came to Tucson to pursue her graduate degrees, and, as a graduate assistant, taught voice lessons and general music at the University of Arizona; she also co-directed UA opera scenes.

Mackenzie maintains a busy performance schedule as well as being a member of the Arizona Opera Chorus, teaching private voice lessons, and volunteering as the choir director for her church. She has been a featured soloist for the Tucson Messiah sing-in as well as the Desert Song Festival of Tucson. She has enjoyed the opportunities she has been afforded to work in numerous operas. Some of her favorite roles include Baba from Menotti's The Medium, Sesto from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, La Principessa from Puccini's Suor Angelica, and Dorabella from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Mackenzie also enjoys musical theater and loved playing Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, writing children's stories, composing songs both individually and with her daughter, and improving her skills as a choir director.
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