Congratulations to Jennifer Shaw  

Spring 2017 Recipient of ACEMM’s Spotlight Award


“It’s the journey, not the destination, that is so valuable to students, and frankly, to me too.”

“The Schulwerk has a beautiful anomaly of being elemental while possessing the possibilities of sophisticated music making.”                                                                                                        ~ Jennifer Shaw

Educating the whole child

Third Grade Music Class

Jennifer Shaw believes in a pro-active approach as she provides rich and diverse experiences in music and dance in her school and community! A wide range of guest artists including Taiko drummers, opera companies, country fiddle bands and tango masters bring engaging performances to the school community. Her students stay active beyond regular hours with after- school opportunities such as drum circles, recorder consorts and even cooking classes! Jennifer even extends her energy to the larger community through a non-profit arts organization called Underground Classical, which fosters appreciation of Classical Music through a popular summer concert series.

Jennifer has been teaching for 15 years, and 14 of those have been at her current school, Lake Ridge Academy in Cleveland, Ohio where she works with students from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Students come to music twice within a six-day cycle for 45 minutes.  When asked what their favorite activities were in music class, students mentioned “Folk Dance Friday”, creative movement, recorders (especially when we pull out the big ones!), piano stories, and getting ready for concerts.

She appreciates the strong support she receives for her program: “I feel extremely fortunate to have a school that understands the importance of arts education and its tremendously positive effects on the whole-child.”

‘Getting ready for concerts’ involves a lot of student input. Opportunities abound in the classroom for student-generated work. “I love when she gives us small group projects that turn out to be our very own compositions.  I usually am very proud of what my group does and I like how Mrs. Shaw gives us a stage of sorts to perform.  Sometimes it’s in class for each other, and other times, we’ll perform for a younger grade, and they love it knowing that when they are in my grade, they’ll be ready and able to make pieces like we do,” says fifth grade student, Anjali.

The Storm Hag!

In 2014, her fifth-grade students traveled to a larger setting and performed a fully staged concert entitled, “In a Cleveland Minute,” at a professional conference held by the OhioMusic Educators Association in Columbus Ohio. The concert was complete with projection slides, full Orff instrumentation, scrap metal, song, dance, short narrations on the history of the Cleveland landmarks researched by students and a seven-foot puppet nicknamed, “The Storm Hag.”

  “I am just the facilitator who offers the    framework…”

Jennifer notes, “For that performance, we took everything with us but the kitchen sink!  Perhaps we took that much stuff because I really believe that these performances belong to the students, and, as with toys, they want to take everything! I want our concerts to be an expression of their creativity.  I am just the facilitator, who offers the framework, know-how, and guidance for how they ‘color in the lines’ of that frame.  In addition, I want our performances to be a reflection of what we do in the classroom on a day-to-day basis, and not necessarily a showcase pageant of sorts. We take what we’re doing in class, and then just wrap it in something creatively cool and inspiring,” explains Jennifer.

Lake Ridge Academy Lower School Director, Katherine Hatcher commented on Jennifer’s dedication and ability to bring out the best in her students.“Jen has been extremely committed to the profession, both in and out of her school community.  While consistently exercising strong musical skill sets, she balances incredible creativity with students.”

 “It’s the journey, not the destination…”

Jennifer explains how she showcases student work, while maintaining an elemental approach to preparation. “I know how much my school community enjoys our concerts.  But, I really try to convey to everyone that it’s the journey, not the destination, that is so valuable to students, and frankly, to me too.  The Schulwerk has a beautiful anomaly of being elemental while possessing the possibilities of sophisticated music making.  I think this is what my students are innately attracted to most.”

The OMEA Columbus performance has been the tip of the iceberg in her program’s outreach into the community.  Other performance venues include area libraries, preschools, bookstores, fine arts festivals, and nursing homes.  Held on a Friday night in the spring, a Lake Ridge community favorite has been Family Folk Dance Night, a festive event celebrating the end of the school year with friends, family, food, and of course, dance! Students enjoy teaching their parents the folk dances that they’ve learned throughout the school year.

Jennifer’s involvement extends outside of school into the larger community of music educators and performance venues. She has been active in the AOSA Cleveland Chapter, and has served as its president. She has also given presentations to music education majors at Ohio State University, Florida State University, and Marywood University, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  In 2015 Jennifer started a nonprofit arts organization called Underground Classical, a summertime concert series that takes place in the progressive Waterloo Arts District, in the North Collinwood of Cleveland.  Underground Classical highlights musical ensembles that fuse classical music’s esthetic with contemporary musical styles.  One of the Series’ goals is to reinvigorate the seasoned listener while inspiring new audiences to enjoy and appreciate classical music.

“…With the hope that they feel artistically inspired…”

Underground Classical is a passion project for me,” says Jennifer. “I think it is just another example of my intense interest in reaching and exposing people to all different kinds of music, with the intent to foster an appreciation.

In addition to the main, governing board, Jennifer has also created a junior board, offering nonprofit and behind the scenes experience to high school and college students who have already made a deeper commitment to the arts in their respective disciplines.

“We help out at the concerts by setting up, assisting audience members….  But we have also been given the opportunity to actually perform in the series, creating our own concert from top to bottom, including some of the fundraising that is typical for nonprofits…,” said Ben, an Eleventh-Grade Lake Ridge Academy student, bass player, and junior board member.

You can read more about Underground Classical by accessing their website at

Jennifer concludes, “At the end of the day, I really think my life’s calling is to ask people to consider appreciating and loving music, and I want to help them with that however I can, and share everything I know.”

What Others Are Saying About Jennifer

“Jen has given our children lasting enthusiasm for performing art, especially music.  The recitals and concerts our children have been involved in always have a strong cultural orientation.  European folk tales, famous painters, and local history have all been a part of her beautifully produced performances.  Her students are excited to perform for sure, but they are also excited to attend her classes each day!        ~ Rob Robertson, LRA parent and colleague,

“Our children have had the wonderful experience of working with Ms. Shaw over the last several years. We have been impressed with the enriched music curriculum she has provided for the lower school. The kids are fully invested in each project.  It is amazing how she can translate poetry or a story into rich musical presentations. We can’t say enough about how much of a positive impact she has had on our girls. She is so gifted and talented and it shows in her love of her work and in our kids love for her classes.”  ~ ~  Cynthia and Jay Viskocil,  LRA parents

“Children in Jennifer Shaw’s music classes learn at an early age that music has many facets.   There is a wonderful balance between instruction and collaboration.  Jennifer invites her students to create original movements, words and music during their time with her.   Her teaching methods appeal to students who are hesitant to participate as well as – who are established musicians.”  ~ Laura Lane, LRA colleague

“Jennifer Shaw has created a music environment in her classroom that gives my children opportunities to learn about music through a myriad of methods…beyond using their voices they try many different instruments, and try using them in different ways.  I greatly admire Ms. Shaw’s creativity – displayed in the lower school music production every year – but I absolutely love that she lets the children create as well; they contribute to their own learning, and they learn from their classmates.”  ~ Erin Stellato, LRA parent

“Ms. Shaw’s love for music and for her students is obvious and infectious!”  Amy Kolbay, LRA parent

A story about the magic created by Ms. Shaw:

“For our Holiday Project this year I was puzzled to find myself assigned to help Jennifer Shaw teach folk dancing to our upper school students who were paired with their lower school buddies.  I say “puzzled” because I am known for both my lack of physical stamina and co-ordination.  Despite these glaring shortcomings, I found myself, under Jennifer’s phenomenal instruction, picking up the rather complicated steps to the Troika in no time, and having a BLAST.  At one point during the day, I slipped out of the group just to watch – well not just watch – watch, analyze and take notes!  I realized I was watching a master teacher., and I wanted to know HOW she did it – how she kept 40 50 hyped-up-on-holiday-cheer children both focused, and fully engaged. I studied how she broke down the complicated steps into three groups, teaching the hardest set first, then the less difficult, ending on the simplest.  She used metaphor and imagery and humor as she demonstrated each step. I was most in awe when she called on the most rambunctious students who had learned certain steps in previous classes to serve as her assistants, thus empowering and controlling potential distractors.  I watched as she filled the room with a controlled enthusiasm where students could release their pent-up energy, but channel their movements to learn rhythm and dynamics, their minds to understand history, and their hearts to appreciate cultural diversity.  Most of all, students like me who entered the room saying, “I can’t,” left saying, “I can.”  It doesn’t get better than that. ~ Teresa Jenkins Fowler, Upper School English teacher

ACEMM congratulates Jennifer Shaw on the supportive comments from colleagues, parents and administrators. Her efforts have not only benefited the students she teaches but have awakened an understanding among the larger community that music and movement education can have a powerful impact on the social and aesthetic development of young people.

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