LOVE FOR THE
Dunn School’s artistic power couple, Nancy and Matt Yaki, share their philosophies on helping students reach their artistic potential.
unn School art teacher Nancy Yaki loves to challenge her students. But she loves it even more when they go beyond her expectations and start pushing themselves to do better. “Art is a good confidence builder for other classes,” she says. “It’s hard, but you don’t ever really feel that because you’re having fun doing it.” While she might have music playing to help her students relax into their work, she also urges them to do more than make something pretty. “Art isn’t just painting pretty pictures,” she says. “Art changes the way we look at things. We’re here to express ourselves and to use our voices in the style of how we work.” Her husband, Dunn School music teacher Matt Yaki, has a similar philosophy. Matt started teaching guitar while he was a student at U.C. Davis. A multiinstrumentalist, he is just as comfortable on the drums as he 10 | DUNN JOURNAL 2013
is on piano or bass. He spends a few nights a month singing and playing his guitar at places like Avant in Buellton or Soho in Santa Barbara, and training his students to be comfortable playing in front of audiences is just one part of his challenging curriculum. Since coming to Dunn School six years ago, he has introduced jazz and vocal ensembles that perform at various events, and nurtured a growing number of budding musicians along the way. “I teach jazz because it is creatively and mentally demanding, it makes you constantly think about what you’re doing,” explains Matt. “The thing that I try not to allow ever in my classes when we perform is, you cannot simply recite what you’ve learned. You have to negotiate, sort of a new obstacle course, every time you play, so that you’re constantly growing, constantly having to develop yourself.” That hard work has paid off for many of the students who have gone through his program.
“I am amazed at what Mr. Yaki does with these students,” says Miranda Sattaar El, whose son Khaleeq has played in the jazz ensemble for two years. “The way he shapes and molds them is nothing short of amazing.” Matt feels like he has gained plenty from his students, too. “A lot of the songs I have now, they come out of the maturity I gained from the last few years of being here,” he says. “I really can’t separate them anymore because this is what I do now.” “It’s a balance,” says Nancy. “This teaching and being a professional artist, it’s a real balance of feeding yourself so you can feed your children.” Earlier in the school year, Nancy asked her students to create paintings that addressed bullying or made a social commentary. Rather than sending them to the internet for inspiration, she encouraged students to photograph live models as a point of reference for their paintings.
COVER STORY Wilderness Warriors – Dunn students venture into the outdoors for education of a different kind.