Many faculty members at Settlement keep busy with full teaching schedules, but few serve in as many roles, or teach as many subjects, as AnnaLisa Mariani.
In the course of a week, Mariani teaches Suzuki violin to both individuals and groups, teaches Children’s Music Workshop classes to children ages 3 to 5, and provides music instruction to the two classes for preschool students in the Kaleidoscope Pre-K program at the Germantown Branch. Lastly, she ends each week assisting during rehearsals by the Gleeksman-Kohn Children’s Choir at the Mary Louise Curtis Branch.
This diverse range of subjects has its roots in Mariani’s own hybrid upbringing in music: studying violin, starting with the Suzuki method, from an early age, and then later pursuing choral music.
“I grew up doing choir, from fifth grade on up, and sang in every choir I could be in, and I also did orchestra outside of my school district,” she says.
Soon she was spending hours in rehearsal for both orchestra and choir, and though she later studied music education at Westminster Choir College, a choral-centered conservatory, she never set the violin aside.
“Playing violin helped me with singing,” she says. “It gave me a good ear, so when I walked into choir, I could sightread anything they gave me.”
Now, with years of teaching experience, the interplay between violin, choir, and early childhood instruction, has helped her become a more effective teacher. Even when changing between multiple subjects within a single day of teaching, she says, “I don’t have to flip a switch.”
“The subjects are different in a lot of ways, but Orff” —the style of music pedagogy used in Children’s Music Workshop—“goes across the ages. I’ve used Orff methods to teach violin students,” she says, adding that the Orff approach helps beginning violinists break down rhythms as they first learn to read music.
Of course, what originally brought Mariani to Settlement was a position teaching Children’s Music Workshop, and she still spends plenty of time with some of Settlement’s youngest students.
“It involves a lot of thinking on my feet and being prepared to go along with them,” she says.
In working as an artist teacher for Kaleidoscope, Mariani finds she has to do a lot of thinking across subject areas and disciplines. Along with the artist teachers who lead instruction in art and dance, she has to look at themes and ideas that unite what they’re teaching in each class—and what the classroom teachers are doing, too.
“We meet once a month to check in and to throw all our ideas on the table,” she says.