Arizona Arts in Schools


It has been our absolute pleasure to work with numerous incredibly talented and passionate Teaching Artists–including UArizona faculty, grads, and Southern Arizona artists–with our deserving students, and most of all with dedicated and tireless K-12 teaching partners and administrators. Thank YOU for helping us to advocate for in-school arts learning and providing the best circumstances for those students that need it most.

While we are disappointed to see these vibrant programs come to an end, we know that co-teaching shoulder-to-shoulder with you brought arts learning to thousands of youth since 2013 and to see many students recreate their personal narrative and push themselves to reach goals they never thought they could achieve, not only through self-expression, but in their lives generally.

Thank you for your partnership and passion for in-school arts education. We truly believe that the arts are best discovered during the school day and wish Southern Arizona teacher and students all the best in that mission.

~ In gratitude ~

Brad Richter and Holly Holmes

Table of Arizona Arts in Schools Enrollment Data from 2013 to 2022

Arizona Arts In Schools Enrollment Data from 2013 to 2022

The nature of fine and performing arts is to engage, inspire, and transform, characteristics that make the arts uniquely suited as a vehicle for community outreach. In recognition of this and in order to better serve both the university and the broader community, The College of Fine Arts developed Arizona Arts in Schools (AZAiS – formerly CFA in Schools), a family of in-school arts outreach programs created by Director Brad Richter and Jory Hancock, Director of the UA School of Dance and Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts.

⇐ Click on the photo to watch a video about Arizona Arts in Schools.

Lead Guitar students from Sky Islands High School, directed by teacher Mike Bagesse, perform at the 2017 Showcase Concert at Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Also pictured are Lead Guitar instructors and UA alumni Dr. Ivar-Nicholas Fojás and Dr. José Luis Puerta.


AZAiS partners with schools to provide daily arts instruction and access to on-campus engagement experiences to thousands of Southern Arizona K-12 students from challenging socio-economic circumstances.

This serves two important needs:

Broad in-school access to rigorous arts education that improves academic results and graduation rates among participants, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. More than 153,000 of Arizona’s most vulnerable children have no access to in-school arts education.

Opportunities that bring a socially and economically diverse population of young people to campus to perform, explore, participate, and feel welcome.

Arizona Arts in Schools programs are based on a co-teaching and operations model established by Lead Guitar, an independent 501(c)3 that works in affiliation with the University of Arizona. Lead Guitar and its sister programs–UpBeat (hand drumming), Step Up (dance), and Music First (early childhood music)–build sustainable arts programs in partnership with public schools and their staff by pairing a master arts instructor (often UA graduate students or alumni) with a certified teacher already employed by the school. This has the effect of increasing a certified teacher’s job security by adding hours to their schedule and new skills to their resume.

Schools with pre-existing arts programs that partner with AZAiS have shown an average 174% increase in the total number of students participating in the arts. More startling is that nearly 25% of the schools hosting a Lead Guitar, UpBeat, Step Up, or Music First program in Arizona had no pre-existing arts class of any kind.

These programs are free

to schools with

more than 80% of their students

eligible for

Free or Reduced-Price Lunch.

Arizona Arts in Schools programs provide:

  • 70 hours of on-site, in-school instruction for students from a Master Instructor
  • 8 annual hours of Professional Development for certified teachers to train them in our curriculum and to co-teach the school’s new arts class
  • Arts Standards-based curriculum and support materials in digital format
  • Access to in-school performances from world-class touring artists
  • Access to on-campus student performances, engagement opportunities, master classes, and free or low-cost event attendance

How it Works



  • Master Instructor visits the school year-round to model-teach classes with assistance from your school’s certified arts teacher, or co-teacher
  • The co-teacher reinforces concepts on the other days of the week using our curriculum
  • Teacher training and up to 8 hours of certified Professional Development are also included
  • After 2-3 years, schools are ready to continue the new arts program without us


  • Access to UA Presents matinees and other performances at Centennial Hall for students to witness the highest level of arts mastery
  • In-school assemblies and on-campus Master classes with touring artists for all students and staff at the school
  • On-campus performance opportunities for students in top-notch UA venues, especially the year-end Showcase Concerts hosted by the College of Fine Arts
  • Accomplished Master Instructors with at least a Master’s degree and often a doctorate from UA


  • Provide a certified teacher, with or without arts experience, who is committed to learning a new skill and attends our Professional Development workshops
  • Co-teaches year-round with our instructor, learning along with students and providing classroom management structure
  • Purchase appropriate classroom set of instruments and/or necessary equipment
  • Collaborate on grant-writing or other fundraising measure to support program at the school


Need-based program fees are determined by Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL) eligibility:

  • 80% or more of students eligible: FREE
  • 50-79% of students eligible: $1,500
  • Less than 50% of students eligible: $3,000

Arizona Arts in Schools relies almost exclusively on private donors and grants for much of its program funding. Donate now to support arts education in Southern Arizona’s public schools.




Connecting hand-drumming and language to teach music

  • Time of day: Ideal In-School; After-School also possible
  • Grade Levels: 3-8
  • Co-Teacher: Middle School music teacher or Elementary School classroom teacher

Step Up

Movement and body awareness through dance

  • Time of day: In-School Elective or After-School
  • Grade Levels: 3-12
  • Co-Teacher: Any interested classroom teacher with a background in movement


Instrumental Music through Native Flute

  • Time of day: In-School Music class
  • Grade Levels: 3-12
  • Co-Teacher: Certified teacher in Indian culture, music, or arts, or any teacher wishing to learn Native flute in order to provide this program for Native students

Lead Guitar

Classical guitar with a focus on ensembleplaying

  • Time of day: In-School, Required or Elective
  • Grade Levels: 3-12
  • Co-Teacher: High School or Middle School music teacher, or Elementary School classroom teachers

Music First

Fundamentals of music-making through singing and movement

  • Time of day: In-School
  • Grade Levels: Kindergarten-2, Pre-K also possible
  • Co-Teacher: Classroom teacher



Report on Whole Child Outcomes of Lead Guitar & Arizona Arts in Schools Programs

by Dr. J. David Betts, Professor Emeritus, UA College of Ed., Past-President of the Arts and Learning SIG of the American Educational Research Association



1. Contact us to set up a meeting so that we can learn about your school.

A meeting between Brad Richter and the school’s principal and intended teacher-of-record, if possible, is often the most productive. Meetings with other administrators or teachers are certainly welcome, as well.

2. Complete an application about how Arizona Arts in Schools would look at your school.

The application lays out expectations for the prospective schools as well as those of Arizona Arts in Schools. This way, we can build a program that best fits your needs, but that also benefits from what we’ve learned from partnering with other schools over the years.

3. Arizona Arts in Schools considers costs, pinpoints funding, and assesses instructor availability.

Because we really heavily on private and corporate gifts as well as funding from granting organizations, we may not be able to consider every application we receive. But we do our best!

4. The application is accepted and schools purchase necessary instruments or equipment.

Arizona Arts in Schools cannot typically provide instruments or equipment for an arts program, but we do our best to partner with vendors that can provide substantial discounts to retail prices to give you the best bang for your buck.

5. Schools sign final contracts and classes begin!

Contracts are provided by the Arizona Board of Regents and must be signed by a school principal or district superintendent before services begin.




UpBeat Informance - YAYO SERKA Percussionist for Lila Downs visits NOSOTROS ACADEMY students

DATE:  Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

TIME:  9:30am – 10:30am           

DESCRIPTION:  Lila Downs’ Percussionist Yayo Serka visits Nosotros with informances for UpBeat students.  

VENUE: El Rio Neighborhood Center             

Step Up students from Amphi High School visit UA School of Dance

DATE:  Thursday, December 13, 2018

TIME:  10:00am-12:00pm

DESCRIPTION:  UA Dance and Step Up instructors Erika Julian and Marquez Johnson teaches host Amphi High School Step Up students at the UA School of Dance to observe and participate in a dance class.

VENUE: UA School of Dance

Lead Guitar Showcase Concerts

DATE:  Saturday, April 28, 2018

TIMES:  11:00 AM & 1:30 PM

DESCRIPTION:  End-of-year recital featuring students who participate in the Lead Guitar programs throughout greater Tucson, Topawa, and San Carlos.

VENUE:  Crowder Hall, Fred Fox School of Music, University of Arizona

UpBeat & Step Up Showcase Concert

DATE:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018

TIME:  6:30 PM

DESCRIPTION:  End-of-year recital featuring students who participate in the UpBeat and Step Up programs throughout greater Tucson.

VENUE:  Crowder Hall, Fred Fox School of Music, University of Arizona

Step Up Workshop with Philadanco Dance Company

DATE:  Thursday, February 8, 2018

TIME:  12:40 – 1:30pm

DESCRIPTION:  A member from UA Presents guest artist Philadanco (dance company) will give a workshop for Step Up students at Catalina Magnet High School.

VENUE:  Catalina Magnet High School

UpBeat Workshops with Percussionist Aaron Vereen

DATE:  Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TIME:  All Day

DESCRIPTION:  Multi-percussionist Aaron Vereen visits Tucson partner schools to give a workshop/performance for UpBeat classrooms, arts students, and in one case the whole school!

VENUE:  Richardson Elementary School,  Las Puertas Community School, and Nosotros Academy

UpBeat Informance with TSO Principal Percussionist Homero Ceron

DATE:  Friday, Mar 29, 2019

VENUE: Richardson Elementary School

DATE:  Wednesday, Feb 27, 2019

VENUE: Walter Douglas Elementary School

DATE:  Thursday, Feb 7, 2019

VENUE: Kellond K-5


DESCRIPTION:  Multi-percussionist Homero Ceron visits  3 Tucson Schools with informances for UpBeat students and their classmates.

UpBeat students from Las Puertas Community School visit UA School of Dance

DATE:  Wednesday, November 28, 2018

TIME:  10:00am-12:00pm

DESCRIPTION:  Multi-percussionist and dance accompanist Joe Venegoni teaches UpBeat students from Las Puertas Community School about how to play music for dancers.

VENUE: UA School of Dance

Lead Guitar assembly performances by Beijing Guitar Duo

DATE:  Tuesday & Wednesday, November 13 & 14, 2018

TIME:  All Day

DESCRIPTION:  UA Presents guest artists Beijing Guitar Duo visit Tucson schools to give assembly performances for Lead Guitar students and their classmates before performing at the Fred Fox School of Music’s Crowder Hall on November 15. Thank you, Beijing Guitar Duo!

VENUE:  Flowing Wells High School,  Desert View High School via livestream to Sunnyside district schools, Amphi High School,  and Sky Islands High School

UpBeat Workshops with Percussionist Aaron Vereen

DATE:  Tuesday, February 20, 2018

TIME:  All Day

DESCRIPTION:  Multi-percussionist Aaron Vereen visits Nosotros Academy to give workshops for UpBeat students.

VENUE: Nosotros Academy

Lead Guitar assembly performances by Brasil Guitar Duo

DATE:  Monday, October 16, 2017

TIME:  All Day

DESCRIPTION:  UA Presents guest artists Brasil Guitar Duo visit Tucson schools to give assembly performances for Lead Guitar students and their whole schools before performing at the Fred Fox School of Music’s Crowder Hall on October 17. Thank you, Brasil Guitar Duo!

VENUE:  Centennial Elementary School,  Desert View High School via livestream to Sunnyside district schools, and Sky Islands High School



Brad Richter

Brad Richter

Director of Outreach, College of Fine Arts

Brad Richter, executive director and founder of the 501(c)3 music education organization Lead Guitar, joined the University of Arizona’s College of Fine Arts in 2013 as the Director of Outreach. Equal parts performer, composer and educator he has made nearly one-thousand concert appearances in North America and Europe – more than fifty of which were aired on NPR’s Performance Today. Since completing his Master’s degree in classical guitar at The Royal College of Music in London, Brad has performed around the globe with artists such as nine-time Grammy winner David Finckel. Brad is the winner of the National Fingerpicking Championship, the International Composer’s Guild Competition, and the National Music Teachers Association’s commissioned composer award, and he was the first guitarist ever to win the Royal College of Music’s Thomas Mohrherr Prize. He is a sought-after collaborator with artists such as cellist Viktor Uzur with whom he tours as the Richter Uzur Duo, his former mentor from the Royal College of Music, Carlos Bonell, and Broadway star Ben Vereen, as well as The Pacifica String Quartet and The Phoenix Chorale. Brad also enjoys several long-term collaborations as an artist-in-residence, including more than a decade with the Aspen Music Festival and School.

As a composer, Brad is known for his own brand of genre-mashing chamber music. Winner of the International Composer’s Guild Competition, his major commissions have included Navigating Lake Bonneville, a concert-length work for Weber State University; Duo Concerto for Cello and Guitar, co-written with Viktor Uzur for the Jackson Symphony Orchestra; Fragments Transcending, premiered by David Finckel; Devil in the Details, commissioned by the National Music Teachers Association; and the musical score for an episode of the Emmy award-winning PBS series The Desert Speaks. Brad’s collections of concert music for solo guitar are published by Mel Bay, Acoustic Music Records, GSP, and Sky Island Music. At the University of Arizona, Brad collaborates with College of Fine Arts faculty and leaders in the field of arts education to develop and operate the Arizona Arts in Schools programs, based on the Lead Guitar model. Between Lead Guitar and Arizona Arts in Schools, he oversees a carefully selected staff of 23 part- and full-time arts professionals in operating programs in 60 schools in five states.

Holly Holmes

Holly Holmes

Assistant Director, Arizona Arts in Schools

Holly Holmes is Lead Guitar’s Director of Operations and Assistant Director of Arizona Arts in Schools outreach programs. In these two roles, Holly works behind the scenes to create teacher schedules, submit grant paperwork, and negotiate a myriad of logistical and infrastructural operations. She is the administrative force behind Arizona Arts in Schools’ programs throughout Pima and Maricopa counties; ensuring that each school’s contract is met, that funds flow through schools correctly, and, most importantly, that certified arts teachers feel as supported outside of the classroom as they do in it.

Before joining the University of Arizona, Holly worked as an administrator for both non-profit and for-profit arts organizations, including as jazz programming intern for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As a doctoral candidate, she conducted dissertation research in Brazil as a 2011 Fulbright Scholar and taught jazz voice and history to students and teachers in Brazilian conservatories and federal universities in fluent Portuguese. She has a PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has published her research with Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Holly taught music theory and world music courses at universities in the US and the UK, released two albums as a jazz vocalist, and has performed in duo with her husband guitarist Matt Warnock in the USA, Canada, Brazil, and the UK.




"Today, I got to see passion, motivation, and excitement in the eyes of the kids from San Carlos; the feeling was completely indescribable. The Lead Guitar program you have is amazing…so thank you for all you do."


Linda Beyley

Social Worker, San Carlos Secondary School


Arizona Arts in Schools programming is provided at no charge for schools at which 80% or more of students qualify for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL).

Schools with between 0 and 79% of students qualifying for FRPL pay a small fee along a sliding scale.

The remaining cost of an Arizona Arts in Schools program is paid for through individual and corporate charitable donations, family foundations, and granting organizations.

Please help bring Arizona Arts in Schools to even more deserving youth by donating today!


3 Ways to Give


It was great to have students perform and represent the school off-campus and have the chance to improve the school's standing in the community. The audience was amazed that students could play at such a high level in a beginning class.

Juan Carbajal

Academic & Behavior Support Specialist and UpBeat Co-Teacher, Rivera Elementary School

Donate Online


Write a Check


Please make it payable to "Arizona Arts in Schools - University of Arizona" and deliver to:


Arizona Arts in Schools - University of Arizona
Attn: Holly Holmes
University Services Building
888 N Euclid Ave, Rm 203
Tucson, AZ 85721



Give by Phone


Call the College of Fine Arts at 520-621-9057 to pay by Credit Card


Your gift through UA Foundation on behalf of Arizona Arts in Schools qualifies as a tax-deductible donation.

Please indicate whether you would like your gift to benefit
Arizona Arts in Schools generally, or a specific program (UpBeat, Step Up, or Music First).

Thank you very much for your support!

Note: For donations to Lead Guitar, please visit the Lead Guitar website.