Sitar Arts Center

Some background on Sydney Krieck’s project on the Sitar Arts Center

Sydney’s project takes the form of a podcast that tells the story of the importance of the Sitar Arts Center and the music they provide to the recently gentrified Columbia Heights community. Accompanying the podcast is a selection of photographs with narrative descriptions, that will provide the visitors of the website with visual evidence of the impact and power of the Sitar Arts Center. Sydney’s intent is to convey this impact in the combination of the podcast and photographs, and to provide an understanding of the importance of high-quality arts education for today’s youth.

Sydney first became interested in the concept of an arts education facility last summer, when she realized what powerful impact music could make on a struggling community. She was aware of how music impacted her own life, and while attending a performance at her sister’s summer music camp, it quickly became clear how important music is to the students of her camp, and students everywhere who use music for personal expression and relief. Therefore, it was only natural that when an opportunity came up to choose her own ethnography, Sydney wanted to research such an organization, to better understand the details of how music could benefit people in adverse situations, especially children, in a society where music education is undervalued and rapidly disappearing. Sydney selected the Sitar Arts Center because American University’s Music Program Director, Nancy Snider, had made her aware of the organization. Seeing as she wanted to attain a possible internship there in coming years, she found this a perfect opportunity to introduce herself to the organization and the people who have a similar vision to her own. Through the project, Sydney hoped to affirm her own suspicions about the need for music education in today’s public education system.

Sitar Arts Center podcast:

Explore the Sitar Arts Center through Photographs:

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How the project changed over the semester

Sydney encountered some obstacles with her project almost immediately. The Sitar Arts Center is a very tight-knit community, and she was made very aware of this upon her first visit. Many of the students and their parents were visibly uncomfortable with her being there, recording them, and taking pictures. So naturally, Sydney pulled back and researched less than she would have hoped, which was a problem that she encountered throughout the length of her research. Additionally, working and researching children, with the intent of publishing her findings on a website, was quite controversial for most parents, and her contact at the center almost immediately expressed concern over her desire to film/photograph. Generally, Sitar has a “no-electronics” policy, so Sydney stuck out quite a bit when she was researching, which only made the parents more curious and protective. Thus, acceptance was a huge stumbling block throughout all of her research. Furthermore, these problems implied problems with consent, because as soon as Sydney said the word “website,” many staff and parents grew uneasy, and although all students sign a photography release upon registering, it seemed like having a researcher, or more generally, someone taking pictures, was brand new to the parents and students in Sitar. All in all though, Sydney thinks that her research overall proved exactly what she had intended, and she found the personal interviews very useful to better understand Sitar and to reach a different comfort level with various students and staff members.


Sydney would like to thank all of the staff and students at Sitar, especially Brian Gorman, who worked with her explicitly on consent forms and aided the technicalities of her project immensely. Furthermore, she would like to thank the parents, whom, without their consent, she would not be able to expose Sitar for the great musical service it provides. Finally, Sydney would also like to thank volunteer Allie Martin, who introduced her to many staff and students at Sitar, and allowed her to reach a comfort level with various students, which in turn, permitted her to take her research even further than she had originally intended.


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