“Though I am indeed a music educator, I believe that my job is to not only teach music…I aim to teach students skills, knowledge, and values that will shape who they become throughout their lifetime.” – Ian Cicco

Ian Cicco Headshot
Ian Cicco, ACEMM’s Winter 2019 Spotlight Award Winner

Ian Cicco is a passionate and dedicated educator. As a general music teacher, he guided his students towards meaningful musical experiences, both within the school and in their community. Recently, he has entered the world of higher-education to begin working on his doctorate and start researching 21st-century applications of elemental music education.

From Elementary School…

For six years, Ian worked as a general music teacher  in Western Florida, most recently at the Frances Wakeland Elementary School of International Studies. “Ian worked magic with the students at Wakeland Elementary School,” says colleague Brittany Braniger. “He created so many opportunities for students to shine through community involvement and performances inviting the community, such as our International Festival where a drum circle was started with students and then invited the community to participate.” Ian focused on creating musical experiences that focused on the needs of the entire child, and his philosophy is based around the idea that each student is a unique individual. As colleague Fontini Panagiotouros observes, “Mr. Cicco designs lessons so that students can create music in various ways, and is cognizant of the fact that not all students receive, understand, or appreciate music in the same way.”

Ian with members of the Wakefield Elementary Orff Ensemble

Along with his duties as a general music teacher and fine arts team leader, he often went above and beyond with his Orff Instrumental Ensemble. Fifth-grade students performed at school concerts, the Manatee County All-County Music Festival, and also had the opportunity to perform with the Choral Artists of Sarasota, a professional choir located in southwestern Florida. Ian’s dedication was noticed by local news outlets, earning him an article in the Bradenton Herald and an appearance, with members of his Orff Ensemble, on his local news station.

…to the Collegiate Level

Starting in August of 2018, Ian began pursuing his doctoral degree in music education at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. There, he is an instructor of senior undergraduate students pursuing a degree in elementary education. His class, Teaching Music in the Elementary Classroom, is well-received by students, despite its 8:00 A.M. start time. Ian uses elemental processes to demonstrate pedagogical skills that seniors will find useful in teaching – not just music, but a wide variety of subjects. Ian’s goal is to teach them how to, in his words, “serve as the facilitator of the students’ learning process.”

“Throughout the course of the semester, Ian always came prepared and excited to bring in new ideas into our class,” says senior Sara Kamen. “He always made sure to allow the students in the classroom to bring in their ideas and you could tell he was just as excited to learn from us as he was to teach us.”

As a doctoral student, Ian will begin a qualitative study on the value of the Orff Schulwerk approach as viewed through a critical pedagogical lens. This study will help lay the groundwork for future studies as more Orff Schulwerk-trained teachers enter the realm of academia. Dr. Janet Robbins, a professor at West Virginia University and Ian’s former teacher, is excited about the path Ian’s research is taking. As Dr. Robbins says, “his recent interest in the intersecting values of Orff Schulwerk and critical pedagogy has the potential to create new pathways for understanding democratic practices that are so important in today’s world. “


Students in music class at Wakeland Elementary

While Ian is pursuing his doctoral degree, he still finds opportunities to create elemental music experiences with children. He is a lead teacher for Musical Beginnings, an early-childhood music education program that focuses on music created by musicians native to Bloomington, Indiana. Additionally, he assists with the Fairview String Project and the Indiana University Children’s Choir.

What others are saying about Ian

“Ian is an engaging and enthusiastic teacher whose passion for the integration of movement and music is infectious. He not only facilitates students’ skills at teaching movement-music activities, but he fosters dispositions supportive of such endeavors.” – Dr. Lauren Kapalka Richerme, professor at Indiana University.

“[Ian’s] passion was visible through productions and hours of practices, before, after school, and weekends. Ian was amazing to work with and truly embraced the idea of student choice. Lessons where students created music whether it was vocally, instrumentally, or physically making a new instrument were the norm.” – Brittany Braniger, art teacher at Wakeland Elementary

“Ian’s enthusiasm, support, and passion for enriching a classroom through the art of music was truly inspiring and encouraged me to become more creative in integrating music and movement into a standards based curriculum… Ian contributed tremendously to who I will become as a future educator.” – Sara Kamen, Elementary Education major at Indiana University

“Ian Cicco, the Wakeland music teacher is a shining example of what teaching is all about: inspiring in students the joy of learning. My daughters, who are in kindergarten and second grade, love their music class and this year’s performance was awesome. Not just rote memorization of songs, these students performed and shared the joy they feel in music. It is inspiring to see such young kids achieve a mastery of music in a way that shines through in their smiles and concentration on the songs they sing. Thank you to Wakeland Principal Mario Mendoza for creating a supportive place for so many highly capable and caring professionals like Mr. Cicco.Gloria Ferrar, parent of Wakeland Elementary Student

Ian’s Orff Ensemble in concert

In His Own Words

When I think about the interests, needs, and desires of my students, using the elemental approach is extraordinarily beneficial because of how it inspires students to participate in music learning at the best levels at which they are able. I have found that elemental music and movement engages students due to its ability to meet the varying developmental levels of students within the classroom. I am passionate about ensuring that all students are thoughtful, curious, and excited about their learning experiences, and process-based music and movement allows for students to make contributions to the musical process that are valued by myself and the students, regardless of skill level. When students are in a supportive and caring environment in which their participation to the learning process is not measured by ability or talent, they are inspired to continue learning and care to develop and further share their musical interests.” – Ian Cicco

Ian Cicco is an inspiring educator who has had a profound impact his students. The American Center for Elemental Music and Movement would like to thank Ian for his hard work and dedication to his craft, and his drive to take the elemental process beyond the music classroom.We wish him luck as he pursues his doctorate and look forward to his continued teaching and research into the Orff Schulwerk approach.

Bravo, Ian!


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