smart-performance“The support of ACEMM’s Mobile Ensemble allowed us (SMART360) to ensure that every student was fully engaged in the musical experience.”
~ Justin Caithaml, Director, SMART360

“Without the help of ACEMM, our students would not have had this empowering experience that honored them as artists deeply involved in the creative process.”
~ Bonny Tynch, Founding Director, Bridges: Harmony Through Music

ACEMM’s Presence in Two Summer Initiatives

Here’s a concept: Teachers and Students going to Summer Camp. Together.

Most of us would say that each would appreciate a long rest from the other during the summer months but two events sponsored by ACEMM proved otherwise, and benefitted both teachers and children. ACEMM is committed to strengthening the presence of elemental music and movement in schools and communities. Through involvement in a variety of ways, ACEMM was able to realize the goal of reaching out directly to teachers and children through camps in two locations – in Ohio and Virginia.

smart-unpacking-instThe first experience brought together pre-service teachers from Baldwin-Wallace University and students from the Akron Public Schools for a unique week of mutual learning and music-making this past summer.

Justin Caithaml, Director of the SMART360 organization commented on the goals of SMART360, which runs each summer

ACEMM’s involvement with SMART360 coincided with the successful conclusion of the “Stuff the Bus” campaign to assemble a quality pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments for the ACEMM Mobile Ensemble Program. This project, designed to loan instruments to qualifying schools and organization, was just beginning to take shape when it became evident that the instruments were immediately needed for the SMART360 camp, which ran from June 8-12.

A Worthy Test Ride for the Mobile Ensemble

smartinstrumentsACEMM Board member and Orff Schulwerk practitioner, Beth Ann Hepburn became a liaison and provided support for SMART360 by initiating the first ‘trial’ loan of the Mobile Ensemble. Together with ACEMM president, Steve Calantropio, she and Justin organized and packed pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments along with extra bars and mallets to be used by the teachers and campers, insuring from the very beginning that the Mobile Ensemble would not just ‘sit on the shelf!’

The loan also provided an opportunity to test the transport and practical usage of the Mobile Ensemble as ACEMM prepares to launch the formal Mobile Ensemble Program this fall (2015). Orff Schulwerk teachers, schools and organizations may apply to utilize the instruments over several months, making it possible to demonstrate the delightful and unique sounds and the exciting application of the instruments within a music program.

Justin expressed gratitude on behalf of the SMART360 Program in saying…
The staff of SMART360 is thankful to ACEMM for the use of the Mobile Ensemble instruments during this program. With almost 200 students participating, the need for instruments was significant.

He continued by describing this remarkable week of hands-on experience for some and music camp for others…
Pre-service music educators from Baldwin Wallace served as the primary instructors for the program, with support provided by area Orff-Schulwerk teachers, including Holly Walton and ACEMM board member Beth Ann Hepburn. This year, the students focused a portion of each day creating a final performance based on the book “The Day the Crayons Quit,” by Drew Daywalt. Each classroom was assigned a color and a piece from the Music for Children Volumes to use as the basis for their portion of the performance.

Children have their say…

What was really fun about it is that you get to play the instruments and you get to sing it once everyone’s playing it. It’s just like a concert.” – Drew, 4th grade

“I love this camp because it’s got all my favorite teachers.” – Myracle, 3rd grade

“Next summer I hope some other kids might be participating because this is a good camp.” – Maureyonna, 3rd grade

It’s Elemental – Musical Drama that is

img_0592“Let’s do that again!” This shout by a third grader came as she and several other campers begged to repeat ‘traveling’ from one area of the stage to another, finishing with a dramatic pose.

The young ‘thespian’ was from the Bridges for Harmony Program and camp participant in the Elemental Musical Drama Collective at George Mason University this summer. During the week of July 6-10, the intermingled voices of children and teachers could be heard at the Potomac Arts Academy Summer Program held at George Mason University.

Knowing where and how to travel, combined with the surprise of meeting other friends in a dramatic way brought lots of laughter and a sense of accomplishment to the participating campers. Along with playing instruments, singing and creating narration, the movement component of the camp rounded out the Elemental Musical Drama Collective’s elemental approach.

The week – long event brought together teaching professionals and children as well as three non-profit groups – ACEMM, Bridges: Harmony Through Music, and the Potomac Arts Academy of George Mason University. The Collective was offered as both a class for in-service teachers and a camp for participants in Bridges:Harmony Through Music – an El Sistema-inspired program located in Fairfax County whose mission is to provide… an intensive after-school program that seeks to develop the intellectual, social, and personal identities of children and youth through the pursuit of musical excellence.

Teachers and Students Collaborating

img_0617Children and adults explored the ideas behind re-creating a story using the components of elemental musical drama. This included creative movement, creating rhythmic and musical pieces, working with ‘presentational’ drama narrative, singing and developing instrumental skills, use of the stage and character exploration.

Based on the book, “It Could Always Be Worse” retold by Margot Zemach, story themes were explored through a creative approach to music and movement. ‘Scenery’ was created using the ever-changing position of players on the stage, costumes were minimal and imagination was heightened. Each day a new element was addressed and teachers worked side-by-side with the children to come up with solutions to musical or movement ‘problems’ which were shared with others. The teachers also acted as coaches to help the children build instrumental and ensemble skills.

The children required transportation to the camp and ACEMM worked to provide rides through a crowd-funding campaign, which was supported by a wide range of colleagues, and Friends of ACEMM. The Potomac Arts Academy provided the umbrella of space and support for the event to occur on the campus of George Mason University.

The Collective was co-taught by Bonny Tynch and Donna Fleetwood. Bonny Tynch, who is the Founder and Director of Bridges for Harmony, helped coordinate the camp experience for the children and assisted in teaching. She was also the first recipient of ACEMM’s Spotlight Award, honoring outstanding music and movement teachers. Donna Fleetwood, trustee of ACEMM worked with both teachers and children.

As this was a ‘first step’ in such an offering, the class/camp was limited to 2 ½ hours, daily from July 11-15. All agreed that in order for the teachers to realize the full potential of such an experience, future courses would need to build in extra time for debriefing, peer comments and mentoring. In this way the true benefits of this shared, hands-on experience could be realized.

One of the parents expressed her thanks “ for providing the opportunity for our students to attend the wonderful music and drama camp at GMU… we are so impressed with all your good work on the Bridges program!”

ACEMM hopes to be part of many future opportunities for teachers, children and youth to learn and collaborate in mutually beneficial ways. We are grateful for the support of so many who helped us help others!


BRIDGES: Harmony Through Music, founded by Bonny Tynch, is an intensive after-school music program built on the belief that music can transform lives and guided by the principle that no child should face barriers to opportunity and success.  BRIDGES is a member of El Sistema USA, a network of programs and organizations inspired by the Venezuelan-born El Sistema phenomenon.

Justin Caithaml and Adam Sheldon were presented the Award for Education for their unique methods using creative arts to enhance academic performance with their program, Shaping Music And Reading Together (SMART360). Recognizing the need for pre-service educators to have authentic teaching experiences in diverse settings and with the support of their professors, peers and the university administration, they formed a partnership with Akron Public Schools to craft a framework for a student-led urban teaching initiative. The program couples the growth and development of Akron students with the growth and development of tomorrow’s teachers. SMART students learn about different cultures through story exploration, movement, and music creation.