Scott Coulter

The summer jazz camp at Wynnefield always ends with a performance on Friday afternoon by all of the camp ensembles. The charts are generally familiar, the solos are applauded warmly, and every student gets their moment in the spotlight.

Rather than starting out with a crowd-pleasing tune, Scott Coulter’s middle-school-aged ensemble kicked off this summer’s final concert with something daring: a free-jazz performance. It was completely improvised, starting from nothing, and building up to thrillingly chaotic heights.

Why break the mold – and surprise an audience of parents and family members – this way? It was just the right group of musicians and the right time, he says. “They were really listening, responding to each other, and adjusting their volume.”

To teach jazz is really to teach improvisation, and while Coulter is an active performer, both on piano and organ, he still recognizes the difficulty in practicing something that’s meant to be spontaneous. “You’re teaching someone how to make something up in the moment. It’s a little contradictory.”

He can suggest ideas and guidelines, though, and make recommendations on different ways that pianists can voice chords. “I try to get them away from thinking about right notes and wrong notes, and to get rid of other crutches in their playing.”

He also draws on examples from great jazz players. He cites Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Smith as ones he likes to hold up as models, adding that he had all three lined up for a morning of jazz history instruction during the summer jazz camp. He got hung up on Herbie, though, and never got around to the others.

“To me, there’s a before-Herbie period and an after-Herbie period in jazz. No one could voice a chord in the same way after him,” he says. “He’s really fearless.”

The Wynnefield branch is the hotbed of jazz activity at Settlement, with at least half a dozen ensembles rehearsing weekly. Coulter checks in with the other ensemble coaches regularly, seeing where their respective groups strengths are and, of course, finding out what repertoire they’re working on.

This last item is especially important in light of a performance from a few years featuring several of the Wynnefield jazz ensembles. The instructors hadn’t been in touch beforehand, and the concert ended up being a little, well, one-note.

“All the bands played ‘Blue Bossa’ and ‘Tune Up,’” he says, laughing.

Scott Coulter
Piano and jazz ensemble faculty at the Wynnefield Branch
Faculty member since 2009

Tzu-Hwa Ho

Even though Tzu-Hwa Ho has lived in the United States for over 10 years now, her time in Philadelphia and at Settlement has brought an exciting series of firsts: her first time living outside of the Midwest, her first time accompanying a children’s choir, and her first experiences teaching both very young students as well as those of more advanced age.

“My oldest student is 89 years old,” she says. “She’s amazing – she drives here for her lessons, she finds time to exercise. Because of her, I’ve told my parents, ‘it’s not too late to start!’” (In fact, her father has started taking saxophone lessons.)

At the other end of the age spectrum, she has students as young as five years old – older than when she first began playing piano. Growing up in Taiwan, she tagged along with her older brother to Yamaha group lessons. Thought her brother didn’t stick with piano lessons, she expressed an interest, and at the age of 4, she started with group lessons herself. Soon after, she began to pursue piano study seriously, with the support and encouragement of her parents.

Throughout her studies in the U.S. at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and the University of Kansas, she occasionally taught private lessons, but her main focus was on performance.

“I didn’t have assistantships in teaching,” she says. “Everything I did was piano, piano, piano.”

She did explore collaborative piano, an area of specialization that focuses on accompaniment and coaching. She started out working mainly with instrumentalists, then later with singers.

“It helped so much with my Chopin!” she says, and it makes sense: Chopin, the ultimate pianist’s composer, wrote music that demands great flexibility, with long, fluid lines of melody.

After meeting other collaborative pianists at the Castleton Festival in Virginia and, soon after, completing her doctorate, it dawned on her: in order to become a more complete musician, teaching, she thought, “is something that I need to do.”

Becoming immersed in teaching has revealed many new things to her. “I realize how important it is to have a regular routine” with students, she says. Keeping track of time and staying focused during lessons has helped with her own playing, too.

This fall presents yet another first: her first recital as a Settlement faculty member, as one of the featured performers at the Karin Fuller Capanna Annual Faculty Recital. She will be playing with Tom Meany, a longtime flute instructor, and John Frazier, a clarinetist who’s new to Settlement but with a wealth of teaching and performing experience.

In addition to several trios on the program, each performer will get to perform solo. For Ho’s portion of the program, there will be Chopin, of course, as well as a sampling of her recent fascination: Spanish music.

Tzu-Hwa Ho
Piano faculty at the Germantown and Wynnefield Branches
Accompanist for the Gleeksman-Kohn Children’s Choir
Faculty member since 2015

McEwan Walters

McEwan Walters still remembers the music that first drew him in: an album of harpsichord music, borrowed from a bookmobile that served his small hometown in rural Canada.

“It was Wanda Landowska, playing the ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’,” he says. “I was so fascinated by the sound of that music.”

A recording of Chopin’s waltzes by pianist Dinu Lipatti, distributed at that same bookmobile, got him hooked on piano. “How could these sounds sound like that?” he recalls thinking.

That love of music has driven him ever since, motivating him to move to the United States for university study, to live throughout Canada teaching and performing, and eventually to come to Philadelphia, where he received a master’s degree at Temple University. He has now taught at Settlement for over 25 years, where he has found that “many of my students are really self-propelled.”

Other things that have remained constant over the years have been students’ unlikely exposure to classical music through cartoons on TV, and that “they all want to play ‘Für Elise’,” that famously-catchy Beethoven piece.

For his beginning students, Walters begins by getting them oriented toward the instrument: Identifying middle C and then all of the C’s up an down the keyboard, then playing all the black keys with different combinations of fingers. These exercises, Walters says, helps them “find out where their fingers are.”

Along with method books and beginning songs, Walters also assigns his students works from “Mikrokosmos,” a series of piano pieces written by composer Bela Bartok. While introducing piano basics, some of the pieces contains hints of the modern sounds and dissonant intervals that Bartok used in his other compositions.

“It gets them used to different sounds or different chords,” he says, punctuating his statement with a loud, slightly dissonant chord that spans a large section of the keyboard. Similar instances to reflect on “What does that sound like?” crop up frequently during his lessons.

“Kids assimilate sounds so readily,” he says. “They don’t think about bad sounds or good sounds – they just love all of them.”

Walters himself remains fascinated by sounds of all kinds: Gregorian chant, French Baroque organ music, contemporary music.

He even continues to take lessons himself, with fellow piano faculty member Michael Caruso, and his excitement as he plays bits of pieces he’s currently working on – advanced-level works by Schumann and Chopin – is palpable.

“Do you have a minute? Can I play just one more?” he asks, before diving enthusiastically into the next piece.

McEwan Walters
Piano and organ faculty at the Mary Louise Curtis Branch
Faculty member since 1990

AnnaLisa Mariani

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. 

AnnaLisa Mariani
Violin and Early Childhood faculty member
Artist teacher for the Kaleidoscope Pre-K at the Germantown Branch
Choral assistant for the Gleeksman-Kohn Children’s Choir
Faculty member since 2008

Sue Liedke

Sue Liedke finds inspiration for her art teaching at museums. She singles out some local ones that she visits – the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on North Broad Street and the Institute of Contemporary Art in West Philadelphia – along with some smaller Philadelphia galleries that show contemporary art.

A tour through the second and third floors of the Mary Louise Curtis Branch can be an inspiration – and an art lesson – in itself, as projects by Kaleidoscope Pre-K students fill the walls and stairwells throughout the year.

As the students study art and receive some early grounding in art history, they are also engaged in creating things themselves: drawings inspired by Blue Willow pottery, drip paintings a la Jackson Pollock, and much more.

To guide her students in both making and appreciating art, Liedke says, “I ask a lot of open-ended questions, like ‘what do you notice about the painting?’ or ‘what kind of lines do you see?’”

The Kaleidoscope year is structured around broad themes that help students work toward developmental, emotional and social goals. Liedke says finding existing artwork that fits the themes is “a challenge, but a fun challenge.”

For example, as part of the “Groups and Senses” themes, Liedke turned to the ancient world. “We built a cave in the classroom, studied 17,000-year-old cave paintings, and the students did their own cave art.”

She also collaborates with the other artist teachers, who lead instruction in music and dance, on commonalities between their subject areas and how they can address the monthly themes.

Liedke notes the progress that students make over the course of the school year as she sees how their drawings and concept advance and as they use different styles and methods in their artwork.

More than just developing their artistic skills, she sees the impact that the classes’ collaborative projects have. “It isn’t like making art by yourself, where you can just draw whatever you want,” she says. “Big art projects require sharing materials and ideas, as well as being flexible with your plans, so you can really see their social skills grow.”

As the 2015-16 school year comes to a close, Liedke hopes to bring more living artists into the classroom; a collaboration with one student’s father, who makes art as a street artist, was a highlight of the year. “We looked at slides of his work, and then I told them, ‘today, you get to meet the artist and do a painting with him,’” Liedke recalls. “They loved it.”

 

Sue_Liedke

Sue Liedke

Artist teacher, Kaleidoscope Pre-K at Mary Louise Curtis

Art instructor, Kaleidoscope Plus After School Program

Faculty member since 2013

Watch Sue and others and see the Kaleidoscope Program in action

Kaye Fernandez

If you come to the dance studio in the basement of the Mary Louise Curtis Branch, you’re going to end up moving around, no matter what.

That’s what dance faculty Kaye Fernandez inspires in everyone, not just her students.

Her youngest students, both in Creative Movement classes and in the Kaleidoscope Pre-K, move around the room to collect the letters to BINGO, accompanied by the familiar song about a farmer and his dog, or dance while they spell and chant “POWER,” which serves as kind of a mini-mantra, stressing the idea of moving with purpose.

“One of the best ways of making connections is through movement,” she says. That applies both to new experiences with the world and with relationships to other people.

Fernandez has always been drawn to movement and dance, as a professional ballet dancer in her native Peru and as a movement therapist and social worker in hospital settings. She remembers thinking, as a child, that she was moved to dance because she had ribbons running through her body instead of blood.

“People move before they’re even born,” she notes, pointing out the naturalness of movement, and her classes encourage the kind of stimulation and release of pent-up energy that young children need.

“Creative movement” doesn’t mean a free-for-all, though: It combines purposeful movement with music, reading and storytelling. Fernandez also emphasizes breaking down basic processes and using your senses. Class activities, which includes story-time and memory exercises, follow her formulation: “Look, think, then you move.”

Even in a class of 15 students, Fernandez takes time for students who have physical, emotional or behavioral challenges. She takes pride in seeing the progress that these students make from the first time they come to class in September compared to later in the year.

“Sometimes students come in who are super-shy,” she says. “It takes time for them to become more confident and then to come out and participate.”

Some of these students who start out at age 4 or 5 continue on in Settlement’s dance program; several of Fernandez’s current Advanced Ballet students started with her in Kaleidoscope or Creative Movement classes. Photos of some of those ballerinas, as well as ones of Fernandez from her dancing career, decorate the studio and the hall outside, setting an example of what the right combination of movement and discipline can offer.

“I want students to believe they are strong and that they can do anything.”

Kaye Fernandez

Dance faculty at Mary Louise Curtis and Camden 

Artist teacher for the Kaleidoscope Arts Enrichment Pre-K

Faculty member since 1995

Diane Goldsmith

Before beginning her teaching career, Diane Goldsmith spent years as a journalist, working at daily newspapers in Atlanta and Norfolk, Virginia, as well as at the Philadelphia Inquirer. On occasion she would draw on her musical knowledge, which includes a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, but music took a back seat to her journalism career.

“I was an arts editor, a home and design editor, a music critic,” she says. These interests outside of music inform her approach to music – teaching it, performing it, curating it and presenting it – and have led her to bring in new elements and other subject areas, particularly history, literature, and non-musical culture to enrich it.

“We can’t teach the way we did 20 years ago, and we can’t give concerts the way we did 20 years ago,” she says.

Regarding music theory, which she has taught in Settlement’s Musicianship classes, “students shouldn't just sit and do work out of a book anymore.”

In her performing – with the vocal trio Follow the Drinking Gourd, a piano trio called The Arcadian Trio, and as a soloist and accompanist – Goldsmith seeks to construct programs that tell stories and that unite classical and non-classical repertoire along certain topics: a Harlem Renaissance-themed program she’s working on now, for instance, or a concert of French music sewn together by elements from visual art.

She reaches her students in a similar fashion. “I think they respond to my enthusiasm,” she says, and she shows this through demonstrating for her students and by her choices of repertoire: jazz and musical theater, in addition to foundational classical works.

“With my more advanced students, I might bring in basic improvisation, or teach them keyboard harmony with melody and chords,” she says.

As teachers and musicians, she says, “we need to do things differently and be models in our communities” of how a musical profession can be a viable option in today's society.

Her approach? “Focus first on the person and what brought them through the door, and think about how you can reach them so that they’ll feel better for having come.”

“I’m grateful to be able to do that.”

Diane_Goldsmith.jpg

Diane Goldsmith

Piano faculty at Mary Louise Curtis and Camden

Faculty member since 2002

Daniel Elyar

A unique group of musicians turned up to study at Settlement earlier this year: a preexisting group of retired amateur players, with a strong interest in taking on an advanced-level piece by J.S. Bach.

Adult musicians regularly come to Settlement to play chamber music through the Adult Chamber Players program, but this group’s focus and dedication demanded special attention: Daniel Elyar, a faculty member who focuses on Baroque repertoire in his very active career as a performer.

“They were already colleagues in a sense,” he says, “so it was really fun for me to come in and work with them.”

As Elyar coached the group in Bach’s Musical Offering trio, a piece from late in Bach’s life that he describes as having “funky canons and big contrapuntal pieces,” he drew on his deep knowledge of Baroque performance practice, a topic he has been immersed in since his conservatory studies at Cleveland Institute of Music. Baroque music has become more widely studied and performed in recent years, with major conservatories, such as the Juilliard School, adding Baroque studies to their offerings.

“It seemed like the right way to go about doing music and having a career,” he says.

Even with a grounding in its style and history, Baroque scores are sometimes confusing to novice musicians. Elyar sums up some of their initial frustrations: “What edition do we use? What instruments do we use? Basso continuo – is that an instrument?”

Since teaching at Settlement, Elyar has focused on Suzuki instruction, a comprehensive method for very young students that emphasizes repetition, group performances and parent involvement. Among his older students, he often looks for violin students who might consider switching to viola to help ensure diversity in ensembles. “I make viola a priority because it’s good for the school,” he says.

He also prioritizes inviting students to his performances, both ones with Philadelphia-based ensembles and touring engagements by national baroque ensembles; earlier this month, Elyar had a hometown performance with Seraphic Fire, a Florida-based group, as part of an East Coast tour.

Since students are so eager to attend performances, he likes to return the favor when his students begin to take part in ensembles. Elyar proudly notes that most of the second violin section in the Trowbridge Chamber Orchestra, Settlement’s advanced study orchestra, are current or former students of his.

On occasion, Elyar’s interest in Baroque music lines up nicely with his teaching. When his older students reach a certain point in their development, he says, “I always pick a Handel sonata for them.”

Daniel Elyar

Violin, viola and chamber music faculty at the Mary Louise Curtis Branch

Faculty member since 2003

Abby Nixon

Even on cold winter days, you can find Abby Nixon traveling via bicycle, her violin in tow. She rides to a lot of the concerts she performs as well.

For the past four years, Nixon has been excited to explore Philadelphia on two wheels – even if the temperatures aren’t as warm as her native Florida – and to live in the Germantown neighborhood.

“I think this area is really cool,” she says. “It’s a very integrated community with lots of interesting characters and creative, open-minded people.”

She lives a short distance from the Germantown Branch, but she also bikes to the Wynnefield Branch – over 5 miles from her home – to teach.

The vibrancy of the neighborhood where she both lives and teaches makes it worth sticking close to home, though. “I see my students all over the place,” she says. “It’s so great to be part of a community that isn’t necessarily just musical.”

The musical community in her neighborhood goes beyond Settlement as well. Nixon has worked with a Germantown-based puppet theatre troupe on original music for a series of performances. This also gave her the chance to collaborate musically with her husband Chris, a visual artist in training at Studio Incamminati and a fellow musician who plays guitar and drums.

“I play plugged-in a lot, and I’m interested in exploring all kinds of contemporary music, plus jazz and rock,” she says.

These varied interests lead Nixon to introduce some of her students to non-classical music and to have them explore improvisation on their instruments – in addition to Bach, Paganini and other staples of the violin repertoire. “The challenge is working on something that’s at a proper level,” she says, “so that they don’t get ahead of themselves.”

For her students at Germantown who are making strides musically, she frequently recommends them to play in the Junior or Intermediate Orchestra, both conducted by Anne Parrett. She also regularly seeks out guidance from longtime violin faculty member Lee Snyder.

“He’s such an asset,” Nixon says of Snyder. “Whenever I contact him with a question, he gets back to me really quickly. It’s good to have an opportunity to feel like a student sometimes.”

Abby Nixon

Violin and Suzuki violin faculty at the
Germantown and Wynnefield Branches

Faculty member since 2012

Alex Kauffman

A group of music students who know each other well, who have played together for years, and who all get along: it’s like a dream come true, especially for a new teacher. For Alex Kauffman, his high school jazz ensemble at the Wynnefield Branch fits that description. Comprised of six high-schoolers, most of whom attend Lower Merion High School, they’re friends outside of the ensemble.

“I think that really makes them click,” Kauffman says.

The group has good chemistry, but Kauffman wanted to get the musicians out of their comfort zones. His idea: Free improvisation with the lights in the group’s rehearsal room turned out. With no cues and no communication, he asks, “how do you structure something with nothing planned out?”

As hard as it may sound, the answer was easy: “They had to listen.”

He didn’t turn out the lights for the ensemble’s recital earlier this month, but he did have them try out the same technique, with a resulting – and satisfying – freestyle jam.

Kauffman has been excited at the group’s development over the past year and a half, and he’s now finding that some members of the group are interested in bringing in their own charts and branching out from jazz standards into newer territory. He mentions jazz versions of songs by Radiohead and Stevie Wonder, plus a take on noted jazz trio The Bad Plus’ version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“It’s so cool the way they have all taken responsibility for the group,” he says.

It’s a long way removed from the music that first got Kauffman interested in jazz. After starting on piano at age 5 and establishing a foundation in classical music, he received a gift from his grandfather in Greece. “He sent me all these albums of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman,” he recalls.

He quickly began seeking out more recordings and more modern sounds. “By age 11, I was falling asleep listening to Charlie Parker every night,” he says.

Now, having studied music at Temple University and embarked on a teaching career, he has the opportunity to introduce his students – both from his ensemble and his individual students – to the musical greats in both jazz and classical music.

“I didn’t think I wanted to teach, but it was a route I wanted to try,” he says. “I realize now it was something that was missing in my life. It’s been very fulfilling and something I want to make a career out of.”

Alex Kaufmann

Jazz ensemble and piano faculty at the
Kardon-Northeast and Wynnefield Branches

Faculty member since 2013