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Find your brilliance!

Saturday, September 26, 2020


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We invite you to join us for a day of “Finding Brilliance in the Music Room” on Saturday, September 26th.  We look forward to joining Franklin Willis, Czarina Jimenez, Joanne Shenandoah and several KONY members: Madolyn Accola, Peter Creekmore, Joan Litman, and Juan Carlos Tavarez, to learn about culturally responsive teaching and social and emotional learning through music.  Prepare for the new school year with Franklin Willis’ sessions, “How to F.I.N.D. Brilliance in Our Students” and "Hip Hop in the Elementary Music Classroom," Czarina Jimenez’s session, “The Sound of Stories,” and a full day of workshops including a keynote address on Native American music by Joanne Shenandoah.  Workshops will be held between 9am and 4pm EST with a break for lunch.  Sessions will be recorded and available to registrants for 30 days following the event.  The cost is $25 before September 14th using code EARLYBIRD and $30 until registration closes on September 24th.  Current OAKE members receive $5 off registration.  Click the link above to register and pay online.  Registrants will be emailed Zoom webinar information.  Please email with any questions.
This event is co-sponsored by:
KONY - Kodály Organization of New York
The Brearley School
KOW - Kodály of Westchester
Lux Mea Women's Chorus



with Madolyn Accola



with Franklin Willis





with Juan Carlos Tavarez



with Joan Litman


with Peter Creekmore




with Franklin Willis



with Czarina Jimenez


with Joanne Shenandoah


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Franklin Willis

How do we define brilliance in music education? Is it through awards, trophies, and performances? In this candid talk, I am going to challenge our definition on what we consider to be brilliance in music education. Teachers will have the opportunity to self reflect on their teaching philosophy, practice, and pedagogy. Ultimately, the goal of the session is for teachers to leave with a fresh definition of what brilliance is in music education.


Social and Emotional Learning through Music: Creating a Sense of Belonging

Juan Carlos Tavarez

Music is a powerful and sometimes a overlooked tool for creating positive environments for young people. Help your students make sense of, and connect to both who they are, and the world around them through music and other engaging classroom activities.



Joan Litman

Our short session will consider perspectives of cultures beyond American (USA) borders, and hear differing views on authenticity, appreciation vs. appropriation, songs of resistance. School cultures, and research, when "the jury is still out" are topics that naturally arise in these songs : Yağmur Yağıyor , (Turkey : It is Raining), Escravos de Jo (Brazil: Job’s Slaves) and El Torrito Pinto (El Salvador: The Little Spotted Bull)



Peter Creekmore

Many music educators are aware of the racial inequity of our society and are interested in being part of the solution. Many struggle, however, with how to manifest this commitment in the classroom. This workshop will focus on the "what" and the "how" by examining some practical methods, best practices, and activities with the goal of building an anti-racist and humanizing music classroom. 


Hip Hop in the Elementary Music Classroom

Franklin Willis

The use of Hip Hop music in the elementary music classroom is becoming more prevalent as music teachers attempt to keep students actively engaged in learning. Hip Hop music is continuously evolving and is displayed in movies, books, commercials, and a host of other arenas that our students consume daily. With that being said, there are few resources that inform teachers on how to teach meaningful lessons while incorporating Hip Hop music into their curriculum. In this session, learn new, practical, and relevant strategies to incorporate Hip Hop into your general music curriculum. Do you feel uncomfortable bringing Hip Hop into your classroom? Well, this session is for YOU! I will give you standards based, student approved, and fun filled activities to take back to your classroom. You will leave this session educated and empowered to teach Hip Hop in the Elementary Music Classroom!

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Czarina Jimenez

Czarina Jimenez of @littleupbeatclass will present a framework and activities to choose and use songs to diversify the cultural narratives within your classroom. 


Lifting the Spirit: Music is Medicine

Joanne Shenandoah

Joanne Shenandoah, PD illustrates how music follows the vibration of words and music which in turns heals body and spirit.  Her teachings are designed those who are interested in living in harmony and balance with one another and the natural world through traditional and scientific methods. Joanne is former Co-Chair of the AG of the US, Eric Holder, on Indigneous children exposed to violence which includes, but not limited to:  victims of violence, suicide prevention, depression, sex trafficking, domestic violence and opiod additions.  In addition, for 30 years she has been providing music with the intent to bring peace, harmony and unity through music amongst all peoples of the world. 


  • Natural elements of our earth have a song

  • Breathing/meditation

  • Finding the keys which heal the body and spirit

  • Our relationship to water, plant and animal life

  • Finding the voice within

  • Finding your Creator given gifts

  • Using words carefully

  • Your circle & self esteem

  • Respect for ourselves, others and the natural world


“Through her music and cordial character, she has always provided warmth and friendship during stage performances and in her roles as a keynote speaker. Through her words and wisdom, audiences have authentically been moved towards a resilient and positive mind-set and received messages of encouragement to make their respective communities healthier. Her perseverance of life and journey has demonstrated the utmost strength and courage to live life to the fullest through the power of song, music, and conversation. Joanne carries beauty in her soul and voice but also through her interactions with diverse communities. She provides strength and passion for the people that is found in the likes of iconic philosophers and wisdom-keepers.”

Rodney C. Haring, PhD, MSW/Assistant Professor of Oncology
Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research Department of Cancer Prevention and Control Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Franklin Willis

Mr. Franklin J. Willis currently serves as the Elementary Music Coach for the Metro Nashville Public Schools district. In this role he provides instructional support for elementary music teachers in creating a learning environment that fosters meaningful cultural experiences in the performance, understanding and appreciation of music. Before this new role, Willis taught both general music and choir at the elementary and middle school levels for the past decade. He is a three time recipient of the prestigious Country Music Association Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence award. His student performance groups have been featured on national syndicated television programs such as NBC News with Lester Holt, Entertainment Tonight, and The Today Show.  He specializes in providing musical instruction that will empower and engage all children to achieve their best through authentic culturally relevant teaching experiences.


He is a graduate of the University of Memphis where he earned a Bachelor's of Music Education with an emphasis in choral music. Willis also earned the Master of Education Degree in Nonprofit Leadership at Belmont University. Most recently he completed an Educational Specialist degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Technological University. To learn more about Franklin and his advocacy for music education visit his website at

Joanne Shenandoah

Joanne Shenandoah, PhD, (Oneida-Iroquois) is Native America’s most celebrated musicians and lecturer. She carries beauty in her soul and voice but also through her interactions with diverse communities around the world.  She provides strength and passion for the people that is found in the likes of iconic philosophers and wisdom-keepers.  Holding a Grammy and 45 plus music awards, plus an Emmy nomination, she is an Ambassador of peace, human and earth rights, capturing the hearts of audiences all over the world.  Her philanthropic efforts have included works with organizations for earth and human rights specifically women and children.  In addition, she is a founding member of the Hiawatha Institute for Traditional Knowledge a non-profit educational organization who’s aim is to provide all with ancient knowledge of her ancestors.

Juan Carlos Tavarez

Juan Carlos Tavarez is in his seventh year as a music educator.  He currently teaches elemental music at California Ave School and Northern Parkway School in the Uniondale School District in Uniondale, NY. He works closely with at-risk males and serves as mentor to his students as the supervisor of the Male Rites of Passage Club and Young Gentlemen’s Club, leads the Boy’s Chamber Choir, and is the director of the All-District Elementary Chorus. Prior to joining the Uniondale faculty, Mr. Tavarez taught for the NYC Public Schools, where he served as founding music teacher and school culture coordinator. He received his BM in Music Education from Five Towns College and his MM in Music Education from New York University with a certification in Kodály. Tavarez is pursuing his Doctoral Studies at Long Island University. His goal is to research, hands on, how music and music education develop the student as a person. How can music guide us to better understand human action and experience? He completed Orff-Schulwerk training at George Mason University in 2018. His approach demonstrates respect and dignity for the unique needs of children through play, exploration, and kindness. His charge as a music educator is to bring all of his students into a life-long love of music, while solidifying that appreciation with practical skills and true musicianship in his teaching and learning.

Madolyn Accola

Madolyn teaches General Music and Choir at Friends Seminary, a Quaker school in New York City. Prior to joining the Friends Seminary faculty, Madolyn worked at VOICE Charter School where she prepared choirs to sing at renowned performance venues such as Symphony Space, El Museo del Barrio, Nassau Coliseum, and Madison Square Garden. Madolyn is a conductor for the National Children’s Chorus where she directs the Sonata Level and teaches Kodály Musicianship classes for the Junior and Senior Divisions. As a certified Kodály and Orff-Schulwerk teacher, Madolyn has continued her studies internationally at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary and at the Nunya Music Academy in Dzodze, Ghana. As a presenter, Madolyn has led sessions for the Organization of American Kodály Educators, the New York State School Music Association, Westchester County Arts Leadership Association, Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association, Hunter College, and UConn NafME collegiate chapter. Her writing has been published in Kaleidescope, a Collection of Standards-Based Lessons for the K-8 General Music Classroom (“Thōla Thōla Ngoana”, Alfred Publishing, compiled and edited by Denise Odegaard) and in the Orff Echo, (“Join the Line and Embrace the Band”, co-author Ardith Collins). 

Joan Litman

Joan Isaacs Litman, has been a music educator and choral director in the New York City metropolitan area for forty years.  With a longing to stimulate curiosity and interest in less understood cultures, Joan has focused her interest and research on traditional songs of the Middle East. Highlights over years have been learning and teaching opportunities throughout the Middle East, and Latin America, most recently in Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico (and Poland!) Joan is deeply engaged in the study of cultural context often concealed in the lyrics of global songs—beyond American borders.

Joan presently serves as Artist-in-Residence at the Mustard Seed School, Hoboken, New Jersey; of which she is a founder and Music Director Emerita. For many years she served on the music faculty of the United Nations International School in New York City.   She is the founding Artistic Director of Cantigas Women’s Choir in Hoboken.

She is the proud mother of two grown children, Emily and Peter who are both teachers, and two highly expressive grandchildren, Claire Marion and Elijah James.

Peter Creekmore

Peter Creekmore teaches K-5 music at Bradford Elementary School in Montclair, New Jersey and Co-Chairs the KONY Committee for Equity and Inclusion. Peter strives to create a humanizing pedagogy for his students which disrupts racism and other toxic influences. Peter finished Level III at the New York University Kodaly Institute and studied at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary. His capstone project proposed amendments to the Kodály song analysis template leading to greater understanding of the social content and messaging of songs. He has also completed one Orff Schulwerk level. Peter is completing his Masters of Music Education in Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2021) and has a Bachelors of Music from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University in Jazz Performance, with a dual degree in American Studies. Peter is an actively performing flautist and saxophonist.

Czarina Jimenez

Czarina Jimenez is an elementary music teacher with an M.A. in Neuroscience and Education.

Music bridges communities and permeates all levels of culture. Education is not only about “what is” but also “what can be.” All students, especially students of the global majority, deserve music education that is inclusive, anti-bias/anti-racist, and culturally/socially relevant.

As a music teacher, she has the joy of guiding my students into becoming not only confident musicians, but also young people who listen, collaborate, empathize, and create. They give her hope for the future.

Her materials are available on Patreon and Instagram @littleupbeatclass.

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