NAfME Members Talk about How They Empower Creativity

The 2015 National In-Service Conference theme is “Empower Creativity.” This year we are celebrating how our members empower creativity in their classroom—instilling a lifelong love of music in their students.


professional development 


“I empower creativity by giving students the tools necessary to realize their creative impulses.”

Salvatore Salvaggio

Member of NAfME for 32 years

Director of Music and Art K-12, Cooperstown High School, Cooperstown, NY



music class


“If you reduce music to its natural fundamentals, anyone and everyone can play.”

David Mills

Member of NAfME for 1 year

David teaches at the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven, Wingspan Arts in New York City, Yale-New Haven Pediatric Hospital, and W.O. Smith Music Center in Nashville.
David Mills Music, Guiford, CT





“When provided with a safe environment full of stimulating information, the students’ creative selves thrive.”


Becky Dodd

Member of NAfME for 20 years

Becky teaches grades 4-8. Liverpool Middle/Elementary, Liverpool, NY


choral director


“Setting high expectations, then providing the tools to achieve them, provides a challenging yet safe environment for students to explore creatively.”

Deborah Lynch

Member of NAfME for 2 years

Deborah is currently the Director of Music and Creative Dramatics at Evansville Day School for Jr. PreK-12.
The Patel Conservatory, Tampa, FL



The Lakewood High School Carnegie Hall Ensemble sings ” Laudete Dominium” during a performance at school. The choir received the 2015 Grammy Signature Enterprise Award and a check for $5,000.


“A great way to empower creativity in the choral classroom is to allow students to improvise and create music on the spot. Sometimes I accomplish this through vocal warm-ups by allowing different sections and individuals to add original ostinatos to existing vocal patterns.”


Herbert Johnson

Member of NAfME for 13 years

Herbert teaches grades 9-12. Lakewood High School, Sumter, SC



concert band 

“Balanced structure with free play and exploration grows creativity at Kelly Middle School.”

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.—Plutarch

Janice Bengtson

Member of NAfME for 3 years

Janice teaches first-year players (grade 7). Kelly Middle School, Springdale, AR
Last year Janice’s students had several opportunities to perform “total immersion” for a White House Initiative.


music class
Here, fourth grade students at Oak Hill School work on a music theory lesson using the class set of mini iPads.


“Creativity is fostered when students use Apps to create their own accompaniment to structured designs.”

Barbara Sanders

Member of NAfME for 19 years

Barbara teaches grades 4-5. Oak Hill School, Franklin, TN




“Whether it be through song-writing and composing or developing choreography, student creativity is the driving force behind each day of learning in my choir classroom. I feel fortunate that I get to watch them develop as performers and young adults.” 


Andrea Hasley

Member of NAfME for 13 years

Andrea teaches grades 6-8. Martinsburg North Middle School, Martinsburg, WV




“I empower my student’s creativity by making my classroom a safe place to make mistakes, to try out ideas, and by giving positive and constructive criticism.”


Erik Reinhart

Member of NAfME for 12 years

Erik teaches grades 9-12. Churchville-Chili High School, Rochester, NY


chamber music


“We empower creativity in our traditional choirs through use of varying ideas related to dynamics, phrasing, etc. In our Jazz group, there is the added element of improvisational solos.”


Ken Riggs

Member of NAfME for 23 years

Ken teaches grades 9-12. Tahoma High School, Maple Valley, WA


music teacher


“Music is the soundtrack to your life! This is what I tell my students; when I’m listening to the radio, or watching a movie, or I’m in a supermarket, and I hear a familiar melody or song or concerto or symphony, I think back to the first time I heard it and you know what, I’m back in time. It’s happened to you too right?”


Joseph Rutkowski

Member of NAfME for 32 years

Joseph teaches grades 9-12. John L. Miller – Great Neck North High School, Great Neck, NY




“Building student choice into collaborative work generates innovative ideas in music making.”

Leslie Imse

Member of NAfME for 26 years

Leslie teaches grades 9-12. Farmington High School, Farmington, CT




band director

“To empower student creativity within my music ensemble classrooms, I try to encourage students to make as many decisions as they can as interpreters of the music – advocates on the behalf of the composer.”

Bryan Miller

Member of NAfME for 8 years

Bryan teaches grades 9-12. Leyden High School, Franklin Park, IL




“One of the ways I hope to inspire creativity in my chorus is by having students play instruments to accompany our singing. We bring out handheld percussion – chimes, shakers, drums – and have them create accompaniments. We’ve had students do the same with flutes and violins as well.”


Philip Steinbacher

Member of NAfME for 10 years

Philip teaches grades 4-12. Island School, Lihue, HI





“We empower creativity in the classroom by encouraging early childhood development centers to use our Musical Adventure book characters as ‘champions’ and ‘friends’ to incorporate into music immersion curricular activities.”


Kenneth Korber

Member of NAfME for 1 year

Health Education Group, Arlington Heights, IL


music students

“The music room is a natural outlet for creativity. Through singing, dancing, playing, improvising, and moving, students are able to express themselves in a way no other subject offers. M.U.S.I.C. consists of:

Understand (reading & writing)

The highlight of my day is to see the joy of students making music in a community where learning is occurring. We have the best job!” 

Carly Schieffer

Member of NAfME for 3 years

Carly teaches grades K-5th. Bowman Woods Elementary School, Cedar Rapids, IA


drum circle


“Our students are encouraged to be creative by participating in a drum circle where they can make up their own rhythm patterns and play music together. They also write and perform their own music on their recorders with known rhythms and pitches.”


Resheta Patton

Member of NAfME for 8 years

Resheta teaches grades K-5th. Dodge Literacy Magnet Elementary School, Wichita, KS


music students
Here, at Alderman Elementary School, Greensboro, NC, Eleanor’s students just after they recorded a video for inclusion in the online Concert for Music In Our Schools Month®. They were tired from singing and being “good” for several takes of the song!


“To empower my students’ creativity in the music room, I take their natural, instinctive movements as they learn a new song or listen to music, and incorporate them into motions and choreography. Movement solidifies lyrics and form and facilitates learning, especially for children struggling to read.” 

Eleanor Nesbitt

Member of NAfME for 38 years

Eleanor teaches grades K-5th. Alamance Elementary School, Greensboro, NC




“I find that learning music is so much more than looking at a piece of music and singing correct notes and rhythms. In order to learn and perform to the best of our ability, we have to transform the entire piece of music into a work of art, which means using every facet of our bodies and beings in the process.”


Joan Thomas

Member of NAfME for 30 years

Joan teaches grades 9-12. Pike County High School, Thomaston, GA


elementary music


“Empowering creativity in students is as simple as giving children permission to explore, create, and make music that is meaningful to them. I tell my students that there is a musician inside of all of us – unleashing that musician opens a world of possibilities.”


Courtney Turay

Member of NAfME for 1 year

Courtney teaches grades K-5th. Lemons Mill Elementary, Georgetown, KY

 music education


“Students are encouraged to explore and refine their singing voices and instrument playing both in large groups and small groups. All children are seen as capable of being musicians. To this end, students work together to create performances and informances within the classroom and community.”


Elaine Hashem

Member of NAfME for 37 years

Elaine teaches grades K-5th. Penacook Elementary School, Webster, NH





“I empower creativity by allowing the students to take ownership of the music – by learning it on a creative level with instruments, song, and movement; and allowing them to become one with the song.”

Holly Beard

Member of NAfME for 3 years

Holly teaches P-3- 5th. Metro Christian Academy, Tulsa, OK





“Kids will be creative only when they feel comfortable making mistakes.”


Michelle Goethert

Member of NAfME for 2 years

Michelle teaches grades K-4th. Willow Brook School, Oak Ridge, TN




“Every week I take a day to focus on promoting 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking); recently each group created an alternate ending to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star using glockenspiels.”


Rodney Harshbarger

Member of NAfME for 5 years

Rodney teaches grades K-6. Old Kings Elementary School, Flagler Beach, FL





“I empower creativity in my classroom by allowing students to lead sectional rehearsals. They are asked to accomplish specific tasks within those sectional rehearsals in a specified amount of time. The methods used are entirely up to them. I hope to engender not only dedicated and accomplished musicians, but future leaders as well.” 


Kevin Caparotta

Member of NAfME for 17 years

Kevin teaches grades 8-12. Brother Martin High School, Metairie, LA


elementary choir


“Eyes twinkle, toes tingle, and joy abounds wherever creativity is allowed to flourish.”


Karen Hearn

Member of NAfME for 8 years

Karen teaches grades K-8. Brookstone School, Columbus, GA



school play


“I empower creativity in the classroom by letting the students know that our music classroom is a safe environment to explore their voices, movement, instruments, or any activity. ‘No one laughs at another person’s honest effort’ is a rule to encourage self-expression and learning without ridicule.”


Nancy Bennett

Member of NAfME for 20 years

Nancy teaches grades K-6. Willow River School, Sandstone, MN

Add your thoughts in the comment section. And THANK YOU for all you do for your students!

Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, October 25, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (