Michelle Lewis is very passionate about music education. From empowering students of all ages in creating, to strengthening her community through Community Drum Circles, ACEMM’s latest Spotlight Award recipient is an active teacher, performer and composer who expertly weaves her interests and passions while enabling others to develop theirs. Her days are filled with classroom and studio teaching, leading ensembles, performing with area groups and running her own business. Soon she will add teaching on the university level to her already busy schedule.
Ms. Lewis has been a music educator for 22 years, most of them in Kentucky, while simultaneously pursuing performing, composing and educational opportunities.
In October, 2017 Ms. Lewis accepted a teaching position with Bloom Elementary School, a Jefferson County Public School in Louisville, Kentucky, where she teaches Performing Arts. She meets with all of her students once a week for 50 minute classes where they focus on music, dance and theater. Using an Orff Schulwerk approach, which includes movement, body percussion, speech and song, Michelle offers different musical concentrations. In addition to using a wide variety of both pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments in her teaching, she introduces the ukulele in Grades K-2, while Grades 3-5 have embraced the Modern Band Movement, employing the principles of elemental music and movement education. This approach allows students to create and perform using the popular styles they know and love – rock, reggae, hip hop, R&R and other modern styles. Modern Band classes feature guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, vocals, technology and computers. Students also learn about various genres of music while integrating social studies, providing a deeper learning experience for students.
Each of Michelle’s classes are focused on elemental music-making, with creating being the pinnacle of every lesson. In addition to personal and ensemble growth in skills, concepts and aesthetic appreciation, she wants her students to leave the room feeling as if they have made a difference in the world. For example, her 2nd graders are creating a music video that is a public service announcement informing people of the need for clean water in Africa.
With her 5th graders, she developed the “The Young Composer’s Project.” Using literature to inspire students to create their own piece of music around the theme of War and Peace, the students collaborated on a product which will be showcased in the spring at a community event called, “Bloom Fest.” Michelle feels that when the students are provided the opportunity to create something in which they have both a voice and a choice, it is possible for magic to happen.
She considers the creation of new performing opportunities for all students to be her most important contribution. Upon her arrival at Bloom, she created a dance group called Bloom Squad, a percussion ensemble called Dawgs on Drums, and a rock band called Sonic Bloom. There are plans to add a children’s choir and musicals for K-2nd and 3rd-5th graders next year. Bloom Squad is a dance ensemble that meets once a week during the school day, consisting of 4th and 5th graders who love to dance. The students choreograph, direct, and choose music for their dances. They are also responsible for advertising their performances which creates excitement and anticipation in the community.
I always learn something new in Ms. Lewis’ class! ~ Skye Weinrich, student
Now that we have Ms. Lewis we’re always learning a new instrument. ~ Rowan Spitler, student
Oh! I know what exciting thing I did today… I had MUSIC! ~ Thomas Weinrich, student
Outside of the school day, Ms. Lewis remains committed to learning and creating in the wider community.
Michelle describes her passion for community music-making. “The most important contribution to the Louisville community I believe I have made is the creation of the Louisville Community Drum Circles that meet once a month… in various locations around the city so that everyone who wants to attend will have an opportunity to do so. The drum circles are all-inclusive and do not discriminate against ability, race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, etc.”
During the one hour community drum circle, participants create rhythms that are improvised, and leave with the knowledge that they have made beautiful music together. Her job as facilitator is to guide the vibe in the room and assist participants in finding their voice. Once this is achieved, Michelle says, ” it seems that all feels well with the world.”
Michelle is currently the Director of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists Middle School Percussion Ensembles which focuses on creating music, developing music literacy, and performance practices of traditional, cultural, popular, and esoteric percussion music. She also maintains an active private percussion studio, through which her students have achieved many honors.
In addition, she owns a small business called DrumSmart LLC which also embodies the teachings of elemental music and movement education. She has developed a series of lessons called “Drum Your Way” that use drumming as an entry point to learning about other subject areas such as health and physical education, math, literature, and social studies. It is something that she uses with all of her students as well as teachers.
She is extremely thrilled about the publishing side of her business. This area is devoted to student created works of music that she publishes at no cost.
Since the publishing arena is dominated by adults, she ultimately wants everyone to realize that young students can do amazing things when they are provided an opportunity to show that what they create is of substance, and can be published for the world to enjoy. An example of a student created band piece from a school she worked at several years ago can be seen and heard on her website, www.kmichellelewis.com
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Michelle Lewis is a one-of-a-kind teacher, who focuses on personalized learning for students… she has the ability to motivate… and develop students’ passions about music as well as learning in general… she is a leader in collaboration throughout the school. ~ Dr. Jack F. Jacobs, principal, Bloom Elementary School
I’ll never forget when she visited my high school to teach a percussion clinic and totally rekindled my love of performing…Ms. Lewis is truly a hometown hero. ~ Jecorey Arthur, educator and musician
Michelle has a true passion for student learning, opportunity and community. She is constantly processing ways to allow her students to create, improvise and explore music and movement in her classroom. She wants students to feel successful and perform for others, while being disciplined life-long learners and creators. ~ Amy Harrod, District Arts Coordinator Jessamine County Schools, Kentucky
Michelle’s impact is far reaching… In addition to her role as District Music Specialist, (she) has also been involved in advocacy efforts with the Kentucky Coalition as well as provided professional learning to surrounding districts. She also served on staff for the Kentucky Center for the Arts for the Arts Academies last summer, focusing on integrated literacy and music ~ Carmen Coleman, Chief Academic Officer, Jefferson County Public Schools
As a colleague, I watched Michelle tirelessly fight for students across the district to get the best music education available… to encourage and provide opportunities to students districtwide for exhibitions of their musical talent for city-wide public audiences… I have also been lucky enough to experience Michelle Lewis as a music teacher through the eyes my children. She has had an incredible, powerful effect on all of them. Two of my children seemed to lack musicality altogether until Michelle sparked a love of music I’ve never seen in them before… Michelle’s passion for music and lighting the fire of music in children is unparalleled in my many years of parenting and teaching. ~ Rachel Weinrich, colleague and parent
….her innovative approach to breaking down barriers and connecting her students to the incredibly life-changing power of music. It’s an exceptional gift that leads her students to discover their inner musician through not just playing music, but creating it from the music that is inside each of them. ~ Paul W. Robinson, District Music Curriculum Specialist, Jefferson County Public Schools
Ms. Lewis has performed with a variety of ensembles including, but not limited to The Athena Brass Band, The Fountain City Brass Band, Rutgers Wind Ensemble (Mark Custom Recordings), Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, Leigh Howard Stevens Marimba Seminar, Percussive Arts Society International Indoor Drumline Champions of Morehead State University, Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, Victoria Symphony in Victoria, Texas and toured with a Texas Country-Rock Band in the Dallas and Houston area. In 1996, she placed 2nd in the Percussive Arts Society International Marimba Competition. She currently performs with the Voices of Kentuckiana, The Brass Band of Louisville, After 5 Rock Band, and is a snare drummer with the Louisville Pipe Band.
Michelle received her Bachelor of Music Education from Morehead State University in Kentucky, a Masters in Percussion Performance from Rutgers University, a concentration (Rank I) in Orff-Schulwerk from the University of Kentucky, and an Administration Certificate from the University of Louisville. She has studied percussion extensively with Frank Oddis, She-E Wu and Dennis DeLucia.
In the fall of 2018, Michelle will begin her appointment on the Music Education Faculty at Indiana University Southeast, as adjunct professor of Elementary Teaching Methods and Percussion Methods.
Ms. Lewis is published in the GIA Publication, “Orff Schulwerk-Reflections and Directions” for her implementation of Orff in Band. She has written articles for the KMEA Bluegrass Music News and is a pioneer in exploring creativity in the performing ensemble classroom using Orff inspired methods.
She is a member of the Kentucky Music Educators Association, National Association for Music Education, Kentucky Orff-Schulwerk Association, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, Percussive Arts Society, and the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild. She serves on the Executive Advisory Board for Composers and Schools in Concert; is a volunteer outreach member for the Jazz Education Network; and is an education endorser for Salyers Percussion in Sugarland, Texas.
Michelle can be contacted:
www.kmichellelewis.com Twitter @jcpsbloommusic
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