Arizona School for the Arts

Monday, Feb 19, 2018, No School - President's Day!

Teacher Feature - Maria Simiz

Maria Simiz, Low Strings Teacher for all grade levels, is a foundational teaching artist and leader at ASA. We are incredibly fortunate to have her passion, dedication, and incredible artistic talent guiding students for more than 22 years. Please read more about why she is such an asset to ASA!

ASA: When did you know that you wanted to teach others to play strings? 
 
MS: Early on, as I started peer tutoring middle school. From there, I started teaching cello to colleagues and younger students when I was in high school. I expanded my practice in teaching violins and violas when I came to ASA.
 
ASA: How did you find ASA or how did ASA find you at the inception of the school? 
 
MS: In my work with the Amabile (French term in music referring to a tender, loving style) String Quartet, I performed at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Arts Director Laura Apperson and husband Jim were also in this Quartet. ASA founder, Dr. Mark Francis, was the music director there and I often played for him in the early 1990's. Mark was a member of the Phoenix Bach Choir (now the Phoenix Chorale), and at one of our rehearsals in 1993 or 1994, he said: "So I have this idea for a school..." He asked me if I would be interested in teaching at a school where students were given a classical/comprehensive education, and where, most importantly, students could pursue their arts classes without having to lose an academic subject. How could I resist?
 
ASA: What are some of the key factors that have kept you here since 1995? 
 
MS: The primary reason is the students. It has been so amazing to see the transformation of my students through their school career, and quite honestly, I wanted to be a part of their amazing journey. I still see some of my students who graduated in the early 2000's, and through Facebook connections I have been able to see how they are doing. It is really fun to run into former students at concerts throughout the valley. Knowing that they still value the arts is awesome! And in addition to the students, the ASA family of teachers, administration, and support staff are incredible people!
 
ASA: Please share one of your craziest memories of the school's humble beginnings and the team's creative problem-solving. 
 
MS: In the second year of the school, I had two (or sometimes more) levels of students, but only one class period! Dr. Francis agreed to conduct the class two days a week while I worked with the beginners. On the other days, I would go back and forth between the classes, or the beginners would come in and listen to the more advanced ensemble. The classrooms were directly across from each other so I would give them an assignment and let them work on it while I worked with the other group. It was a good way to keep in shape, as I was constantly on the move. It was not the most ideal set up, but the students stuck with it and continued the following year when we had designated class times. 
 
ASA: What is a "fun fact" about you that people might not know? 
 
MS: I am a real chicken about doing things that might cause me physical harm, however I have always wanted to skydive! I learned about tandem jumps, where you have an experienced skydiver attached to your back who does all of the controlling of the parachute and landing. So, I told my husband that is what I wanted to do for our 15th wedding anniversary and....we did it! AMAZING! I jumped out of a plane and lived to tell the tale!
 
ASA: When students reflect on their time with you at ASA, what do you hope they remember most? What is your legacy? 
 
MS: I hope that they remember the JOY, the FUN of making music together. Even if students do not continue to play their instrument, my hope is that they will continue to have an appreciation, and hopefully a passion, for the arts.