Pittsburgh Changemaker: Mario Quinn
By Trevor Miles
Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.
Mario Quinn, Alloy School Teacher and Choreographer
1- What do you do for the community now and why is it important?
Right now I am focusing on teaching and mentoring the youth in the community by way of Hip Hop Dance. I feel it’s important because not only do I teach them a skill but I have a lasting impact on their lives. In my classes I encourage the students to approach everything they learn with a “can do” attitude, that I feel will transfer over into real life situations. It is easy to learn movement and expression but believing in your own expression is what I find to be the best jewel a student can have. Someone special in my life told me “fortune favors the brave” and in everything I do artistically I want that to be my main message and my goal is to pass that on to the youth. Currently I am a Teaching Artist for Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy School where I teach hip hop to youth ages 8-12yrs and choreograph for We Rock Workshop, a residency program lead by Liz Berlin of the multi-platinum band Rusted Root. We Rock Workshop guides young adults (ages 14-22) across Allegheny County who are currently involved with the Department of Human Services to open up through the arts by exploring the creation, production and performance of music and dance. The course culminates with the recording of original songs created by the participants and a final performance at Mr. Smalls Theatre. In addition, I am also a Hip-Hop Educator through Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K which is one of Greater Pittsburgh’s premier mentoring and arts education programs. The program shows the ability to identify and connect with youths ages 8-18, and teaches relevant life-long skills such as leadership development, organizational skills, cooperative economics and knowledge of the music business that can be applied to everyday situations as well as math, science and literacy. I hope that moving forward I can continue to do work that matters and reach more youth in the community through the art of expression and dance. I feel that this is what my life purpose is and I must say my journey has been incredibly rewarding so far.
2- What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).
I would say that my defining moment was the first time I saw Michael Jackson, as silly as that may sound. As a child, I was amazed beyond belief at what I was seeing and knew in my heart that dancing and performing was something that I wanted to pursue in life. As far as teaching, that defining moment happened while in college at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where I started their very first hip-hop dance club. I was teaching peers and had no idea that it would be something that I actually enjoyed. After college I was recommended by a close friend to teach at a local studio known as Pittsburgh Heat in 2010. Since then I have been teaching and mentoring all over the Greater Pittsburgh Area.
3- What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?
Find what it is that you are great at, what is your talent? Take that and figure out a way you can help people in the community with your talent, there you will find your purpose. I’d also say BELIEVE in yourself, follow your hearts desire and don’t be afraid to try new things and open up to opportunities, again, “Fortune Favors the Brave”. Lastly I’d say be prepared, have a way to spread what it is you do. For example have a business card, a website, something that shows what you offer to your community. Remember the five P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents a Poor Performance, and remember that “Luck Favors the Prepared.”
4- What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you).
That’s a tough one… I have to go with The Man by Aloe Blacc. It’s one of those songs that I play while getting ready for my day—it reminds me that what I think of myself is what is most important. Takes me back to the “belief” thing. It really helps me to focus my mind on the things I want to happen in my life.