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Fine Arts

50th Biennial Music Festival BannerIt is our mission to provide equitable access to high-quality arts education for all Milwaukee Public Schools students. 

The MPS fine arts department serves schools in the visual arts, music, theater, and dance curricular content areas in kindergarten through grade 12.


AIMing for Quality Arts and Achievement in Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools has received a grant from the United States Department of Education supporting arts integration strategies for ambitious instruction that directly correlate to the SIP strategies chosen by each school to support reading, writing, and math. The grant supports the MPS project "AIMing for Quality Arts and Achievement in Milwaukee Public Schools," which focuses on addressing the academic needs of MPS schools through arts integration and supporting the work of visual arts and music teachers. "AIM" stands for "arts integration model" schools.

AIMing for Quality Arts and Achievement focuses on serving and addressing the academic needs of disadvantaged students in MPS through high-quality arts instruction and arts integration. The project provides visual art and music teachers with sound, content-specific feedback and coaching to increase the quality of arts education and instruction in MPS.

In addition, the project will make clear connections between the core subjects and the arts, supporting ambitious instruction; specifically, how arts integration can increase student achievement. The following outcomes are expected of the AIMing for Quality Arts and Achievement project:

  • Approximately 200 fine arts instructors will improve planning for and implementation of standards-based curricula in visual arts and music through expanded professional development; educator effectiveness systems of observation, reflection, and improvement; and job-embedded coaching, modeling, and other support based on educator effectiveness data.
  • Arts integration will be adopted by classroom teachers as an instructional strategy through access to a comprehensive menu of packaged arts-integration resources developed as part of the project. Resources include arts integration scope, sequence, and lesson plans by content and grade level alongside professional development, modeling, materials, and ongoing job-embedded coaching.
  • Arts integration will be adopted by identified schools as a school improvement strategy, which will impact the percentage of students proficient in math and reading on district and state assessments. A project-developed arts integration readiness rubric tool will identify readiness criteria and a cohort of arts integration model (AIM) schools that receive targeted support to examine student achievement through the lens of arts integration.

AIMing for Quality Arts and Achievement will improve high-quality instruction across multiple art disciplines through a tiered approach that supports fine-arts instructors, classroom teachers, and school communities in order to (1) increase access to high-quality, standards-based arts education, (2) integrate standards-based arts education into other subjects as part of a well-rounded education, and (3) improve students' academic performance, including their knowledge and skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts. A leveled system of support was designed to provide differentiated, data-informed assistance for educators across MPS based on their individualized school needs and teaching positions.

More than 250 teachers from 17 schools will receive professional development and support from this program. These are the schools for the 2019–20 school year:

  • Academia de lenguaje y bellas artes (ALBA)
  • Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School
  • Allen-Field Elementary School
  • Brown Street Academy
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
  • Elm Creative Arts School
  • Forest Home Avenue School
  • Hayes Bilingual School
  • Lad Lake Synergy
  • Lancaster School
  • Lincoln Center of the Arts
  • Longfellow School
  • Milwaukee High School of the Arts
  • Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts
  • Roosevelt Creative Arts Middle School
  • Sherman Multicultural Arts School
  • Starms Early Childhood School

Citywide Programs

Saturday Instrumental Music Programs

Milwaukee Public Schools offers instrumental music lessons through the Department of Recreation. Classes provide students with the opportunity to learn and develop their skills on woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, and piano. Students from grades 4 to 12 are welcome.  All experience levels are welcome. For more information, please visit or call (414) 475-8811.

Citywide Events

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art Contest

The MPS fine arts department invites your school to participate in the district’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The art contest is open to students in K4–grade 12 who live in the city of Milwaukee or who are enrolled in a school, either public or private, in the city of Milwaukee. Each year the theme is based on Dr. King’s speeches or writings.

Drumline Competition

Middle and high school drumlines have the opportunity to participate in competition and receive feedback from drumline performers and educators. 

WSMA Solo and Ensemble

Middle and high school students prepare vocal or instrumental solos, duets, trios, or small ensembles to perform before an adjudicator. The festival is free and open to the public.

WSMA music festivals provide students with the opportunity to perform and be evaluated. Over the years, the emphasis of these musical events has changed from “contests,” where ratings were the most important, to “festivals,” which are clearly focused on providing a positive learning experience for students.

WSMA Concert Festival

School bands, choirs, and orchestras perform two to three selections — one of which is chosen from the WSMA Festival music list — for a panel of adjudicators. The adjudicators provide written and verbal critique for the ensemble and award a rating based on defined criteria. Directors also have the option of performing for “comment only,” for which their group will receive written and verbal critiques but no rating is given. This event is free and open to the public.

MPS Biennial Music Festival

This festival is a celebration of music in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Held every other year since 1924, the MPS Biennial Music Festival features drumline, world drumming, band, orchestra, choir, modern band, and a trumpet ensemble. Over 5,000 young musicians will perform for friends and family. This event is free and open to the public.

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Fine Arts in MPS


Fine Arts Manager:

Dr. Deborah Bowling
Phone: 414-267-1865

Visual Art Teacher Leader:

Amy Wayd
Phone: 414-267-1896

Arts Integration Teacher Leader:

Steven Vande Zande
Phone: 414-267-1894

Arts Integration Teacher Leader:

Randi Wagner
Phone: 414-267-1895

Music Curriculum Specialist:

Sharie Garcia
Phone: 414-267-1871

Music Teacher Leaders:

Ijoister Pyle-Harris
Phone: 414-267-1880

Aimee Hyland
Phone: 414-267-1884

Jared Ziegler
Phone: 414-267-1854

Instrument Specialists:

Sarah Zawadiwsky
Phone: 414-267-1898

Brett Hanisko
Phone: 414-267-1872


Theresa Harmon
Phone: 414-267-1877

© Milwaukee Public Schools 2023
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