Beacon Scholars:                                                                   Reflections on the Past, Looking to the Future

Since awarding its first Beacon Scholarship in 2013, The American Center for Elemental Music and Movement has sought to support the endeavors of music and movement educators as they grow professionally. The organization is proud to assist educators in bringing about opportunities through which they can extend their learning, collaborate with others, and experience music and movement in a global sense. At the heart of these educators’ interests always lies one common theme: their students.

Keeping in mind the ways in which their experiences can bring what is truly elemental to those they teach is part of what makes these teachers exceptional. While the Beacon Scholarship exists to support elemental music and movement centered professional development opportunities for educators, it is actually the ways in which their learning will impact others that Beacon recipients have held in high regard. An authentically elemental music and movement experience, in its most basic sense, will serve to unify sound, movement, and speech as a form of artistic expression for all, regardless of formal training or ability level. In the case of each recipient of the scholarship thus far, this has been the focal point – bringing global experiences back to the classroom, sharing with those they teach in order to widen the circles of the elemental as they educate. 


2013: Christine Anderson

Christine Anderson used the Beacon Scholarship to fund her internship at the San Francisco School where she was immersed in Orff process with students from preschool through 8th grade. While the internship consisted primarily of observation, Christine also participated in classes and readings, as well as some planning and teaching in collaboration with the teachers at SFS.

The most important idea Christine took away from the internship was “Do No Harm.” This principle is often heard about in terms of medicine, but she believes it’s just as important in music education. She explains, “if students come away from music class feeling like they aren’t very good at music or not having enjoyed the class, even if they’ve improved their musical skills, they’re not likely to become lifelong musicians. Music class must always be a positive place. Not that it shouldn’t be hard work, not that students shouldn’t be pushed, not that students shouldn’t face negative consequences when appropriate, but the teacher should always act with love, kindness, and with an eye to the moment. Before my internship, I might have stopped students in the middle of a piece to correct something, where now I encourage them afterward to grow with, ‘NOW can you do this?’” While few teachers would discourage students on purpose, being ever-mindful of using encouragement as the first strategy is vital to making every class a joyful music-making experience.


2014: Ardith Collins

The eternal sunlight of northern summer, permitting music and friendship to bloom throughout the scenic course center, surrounded by rolling hills reflecting on the cool Finnish water are cherished memories of Ardith’s experience at JaSeSoi ry World Village in Valkeala, Finland. World Village was a pivotal point in Ardith’s Orff Schulwerk journey, connecting her with international educators enthusiastic about elemental music and movement, made possible through the Beacon Scholarship. 

JaSeSoi enriched Ardith’s teaching through the diverse elemental music and movement offerings during the week long course, including Senegalese drumming and dance, circle singing, Orff process and kantele, the national Finnish folk instrument. The joyful, creative, and international spirit of the course directors, teachers and participants was inspiring.

Ardith returned to her classroom with a mountain of melodies and ideas learned in the Finnish countryside to share with her students, grateful for the opportunity made possible by the ACEMM Beacon Scholarship.  


2015: Amie Flowers Shakespeare

As a Beacon Scholarship recipient, Amie Flowers Shakespeare traveled to Seattle for Smithsonian Folkways Certificate course in World Music Pedagogy (WMP). As a participant in the program, Amie joined international educators, culture bearers and ethnomusicologists at the University of Washington for a simultaneously academic and practical study of World Music in the classroom.

Today, in her Arlington, Virginia classroom, Amie uses audio/visual field recordings from the Folkways archives as well as songs, games and dances learned at WMP to promote concepts of Elemental structure and, most importantly, highlight areas of connectivity in Children’s Culture throughout the world. Additionally, when time and opportunity allow, Amie partners with Smithsonian Folklife Festival and DC’s Indonesian Embassy to tailor and promote educational events for local music educators.


2016: Lou Persic

As 2016 Beacon Scholar, Lou Persic traveled to Ghana, West Africa to attend the Orff-Afrique course led by Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo with Doug Goodkin, Sofia Lopez-Ibor and James Harding.

From his experience in Ghana, Lou has been able to incorporate the vibrant music and culture of West Africa into his general music classes and the Sogo African Rhythm Ensemble he leads at his school. Lou’s journey to Ghana provided him with new perspective on the use of traditional West African singing games to create a climate of respect and rapport, as well as to build the musicianship of his students within the Orff approach to music education. In our hectic schedules and limited time with students, music teachers can often feel pressure to get students “performance ready” as quickly as possible.  

The time Lou spent with the children and adults in Ghana reminded him that singing games are at the heart of West African culture, and have the power to be the heart of his general music lessons. The skills taught through Ghanaian singing games are integral to building a strong rhythmic and melodic experience for your students. Read more about Lou’s experience here.


2017: Beth Brewer

In her experience at the Nunya Music Academy in Dzodze, Ghana, 2017, Beacon Scholarship recipient Beth Brewer was immersed in the culture, music, and dance of the people of West Africa. She shared that while her program focused primarily on adult learning and material, she has created ways in which she could bring concepts of her learning to her students. Beth adapted Ghanaian drumming patterns and sound cues to fit into activities for teaching form to her classes. In a similar style to the music and dance in Ghana, she introduced patterns to which her students could move and dance, allowing the changes in patterns to guide changes in their movements.

As in many communities around the world, music and movement is central to everyday culture in Ghana. Bringing this value back to the United States, Beth has found ways to make her experience truly elemental, using the content of her learning as a model, and making it accessible to others. Training and technical ability are not required when jumping into music and movement with an open mind and willingness to learn!  

2018: Might be You!

If you are a music educator interested in pursuing studies or a collaborative project in elemental music and movement, consider applying for the Beacon Scholarship. The maximum scholarship award amount will be $1500. The application deadline is Sunday, May 1, 2018.

The application for the Beacon Scholarship is available here.

Applicants will be notified of decisions via email on or before May 31, 2018.

Beacon Scholarships – Lighting the Way for Music Education Today

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