Congratulations to Aaron Williams, recipient of the ACEMM Winter 2018 Spotlight Award

“I often feel like I have the greatest job in the world…I get to teach music – the most primal, heartfelt, joy-generating, potent, indescribable and versatile form of self-expression and communication.”

– Aaron Williams

A “Community” of Musicians

CCS students performing with Aaron during Winter Sing.

For the past seven years, Aaron Williams has served as the music specialist at the Children’s Community School in Van Nuys, California, a school where music is an integral part of the school’s community and curriculum. Biweekly, the entire school (including alumni and parents) have what is called an “All School Meeting,” where the entire community sings together, along with socializing and sharing news. Instead of concerts, CCS has three formal “sings” in the school year, where students offer more polished performances, and the community is still invited to sing along and share in the musical experience.

In Aaron’s music program, students from kindergarten through 6th grade have music twice a week. Aaron utilizes the elemental approach in his classroom because, as he says, “it allows us to play, and to learn while playing.”

Aaron also teaches enrichment classes as part of CCS’s after-school and summer programs, in
which students can participate in a variety of musical groups: drumming, tap dancing, found
sounds, and a unique class titled “Movie Music,” where students can create film scores using the
barred and unpitched percussion as well as midi instruments. Their process includes making decisions for using instruments and sound effects to enhance the story line, as well as planning and practice before the recording session. Aaron helps edit the student input for a final project. You can view an example of a student-created score for a brief animated short called “Caminandes.”

Aaron directing his recorder choir.

 

As a teacher, Aaron strives to give students the ability to utilize the power of music to communicate and even to change the world. Aaron recalls, “I remember vividly when I discovered I could do these things in 6th grade, and I instantly committed myself to a lifetime of music-making and education.”

 

“Tapping” into the Elemental

While working on his Master’s degree at California State University, Aaron signed up for a tap class in the dance department. That started a journey where Aaron began pursuing a tap career professionally. After becoming certified in Orff Schulwerk, Aaron began applying the elemental approach to tap instruction. A class of fourth graders successfully learned the common tap routine “Shim Sham Shimmy” in one 45-minute class period without any previous tap experience. Aaron not only teaches students, but has also shown tap teachers the benefit of the elemental approach.

 

In His Own Words

“Some of the musical feats that my students and I achieve seem like magic, and I would never have dreamt them possible before I understood the great sophistication and complexity that can manifest from a basic elemental approach. We’ve performed great classical compositions by Mozart, Holst, and Carl Orff; swung out to jazz standards with full chords and improvisation; rearranged catchy pop tunes; danced and played in odd time signatures – and at each step along the way, it felt natural and simple (though not always easy).”  – Aaron Williams

Aaron in Action

Aaron’s performing life began during college with a group called ‘Sticks of Thunder,’ based in Kansas City, MO, where he was the featured xylophone soloist, played steel drums and other percussion to sold out audiences.

Aaron Williams and Bronkar Lee performing as the group “Collision of Rhythm.”

His dedication to tap began about 6 years ago when he joined a company called ‘Rhapsody in Taps,’ based in Orange County, CA., with whom he occasionally still performs. In addition to performing with groups such as ‘Tap Sounds Underground’ and ‘Tap Con Sabor,’ he was featured at a TedX Event in Hollywood with Melinda Sullivan, and met up with Bronkar Lee, with whom he performed a spontaneous improvisation, and currently works with as part of a duo in ‘Collision of Rhythm.’ These days, Aaron has created a balance between his teaching and performing, occasionally taking part in a live variety show and other freelance work with drums, piano and tap. Along with teaching, tapping and  instrumental performance, Aaron also has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates his amazing talent and is, in his words, “accomplishing my goal of spreading joy and positivity through the power of music.” His performance of Super Mario Bros. on Marimba (with 4 mallets) has been shared extensively on social media, and currently has over 3 million views.

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Tap Dance + Ukulele + Looping = Awesome!

What others are saying about Aaron:

Aaron is a talented and passionate music educator with a strong commitment to cultivating a culture of music in our school. His brilliance abounds in music instruction, songwriting, arranging musical compositions and crafting performances — what an incredible contribution he makes to our students and broader school community!   ~ Hillary Post, Lead Teacher at CCS

 Aaron Williams enthusiasm and passion for music is contagious. He has instilled a lifelong love of music in my son. What he brings to the classroom is priceless. You must see his students fully engage with their voices, bodies and minds. The students’ love and trust in Aaron is palpable and just watching him with the kids you know the feeling is mutual. My son says “Aaron is the best teacher [I have] ever had…”  ~ Annie Wetherbee, CCS alumni parent

 What a gift Aaron has been to Children’s Community School! His work over the years he has been our music teacher has always been musically sophisticated and full of joy. He is a remarkable teacher, musician, and dancer. Aaron has continued to deepen his practice every year, integrating the Orff philosophy with our curriculum and his own unique vision. The combination of his boundless talent with his playful and improvisational approach give his students a firm foundation in musical literacy while cultivating a sense of confidence and creative courage that will last these children a lifetime! Thank you for honoring him, and appreciating what we are thankful for every day. ~ Neal Wrightson, Head of School, Children’s Community School

 ACEMM congratulates Aaron Williams for his work bringing elemental music to not only to his classroom, but to his entire school community. We applaud his ground-breaking efforts in applying elemental techniques to tap instruction, and thank him for his contributions to his school and his community. 

5 thoughts on “Aaron Williams, ACEMM’s Winter 2018 Spotlight Recipient

  1. Congratulations Aaron! You bring joy and competence to everyone who has the privilege to make music, art, and dance with you as a student or co-worker. You bring wonder and happiness to everyone who has the honor to work with you.

  2. Aaron is one in a million! Thank you, ACEMM, for highlighting this wonderful young educator and his contributions to the world of elemental music making.

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