Wiggleworms, Lullabies, Meet the Instruments
Tisa's classroom is a space for all of us: teacher, students, adults, kids, newborns, grandparents; to experience the joy of song and the joy of being together. It is a place to feel welcome and supported by the group. It is a safe place to take the risk of joining the song, leading a verse, learning a rhythm, or admiring the contributions of each person in the room. Tisa has a teacher who always says “There are no ordinary moments.” She takes this statement to heart in her classes because she’s been honored to witness so many first steps. Let us be witnesses for each other as infants roll over or sit up for the first time, as babies exhibit their natural gifts for rhythm and vocal expression, as parents become brave enough to sing, to play, and to share their knowledge.
As a kid I was always singing: while riding my tricycle in circles in the driveway, while walking up and down my block with my transistor radio that looked like a Mobile 1 Oil Can, while playing with the reel-to-reel my dad brought home one day, while sitting in my bean bag chair with the headphones on when we got our new Hi-Fi. After that there was musical theater, choir, and solo singing. Later there were wonderful bands to lead (Covered in Honey, Glowworms, Flower Song Ensemble, Starbright) and there was becoming a singer-songwriter. My desire to share what I’ve learned has led me to help develop curriculum for classes here at Old Town School (Wiggle & Strum, Wiggleworm Songs for the Beginning Guitarist), teach music at the Carol Robertson Center, and sing regularly at various Chicago children's hospitals. I even had the honor of receiving a Teaching Artist Residency in the field of music composition from the Ragdale Foundation.
But what really paved the way for me Wiggleworm-wise goes back to Camp Echo. It was all group sing-a-longs, all the time, every summer. Singing for six hours on the bus ride to Fremont, Michigan. Singing at the opening and closing campfires. Singing at the flagpole. Singing at each meal. Singing in fields, in canoes, on the lakeshore, in the sand pit, and by the horses. In other words: Heaven. Something about groups of people all singing together reminds me that we’re all one.
What continues to inspire me is the authentic joy that comes from observing and interacting with the magical youngsters that come through the door, and the beauty of watching parents bond with kids and one another through song. One student recently wrote: “Not only have you taught our family songs and melodies that have become a part of our daily life; you have also given me increased skills and confidence to sing and make music with my girls.” This mom shared with me that she used to be shy and embarrassed to sing at home in front of her husband, and now they both sing together with their family, and even make up their own songs. This is why I do this work.
Photo by Ren Picco Freeman
Education: BA in English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Started at the Old Town School in May of 1997