Gina Samardge (Founder/Director/Teaching Artist). Known for her warm, engaging style, Gina infuses the principles of elemental music and movement found in the Orff-Schulwerk Approach not only into her teaching, but into her performance work, bringing an honesty and presence to both stage and classroom. Gina is a big believer in the power of play and creativity found in process based arts and sees examples every day of how the arts not only empower people to find their authentic voice and share their story, but to heal themselves and this planet by creating the deep cultural shifts that are so necessary as we work toward a just, healthy, and equitable world.
After moving to New York in 2002 Gina began working with VOICETheatre, The Soon-To-Be-World-Famous Female Clown Troupe and the Main Squeeze Orchestra, as well as other theater, film, and music projects. She's written and arranged music for theater and film and her ongoing role as the accordion toting Princess Penny made her and the clown/music ensemble, The Maestrosities, a staple in the NYC underground cirque and vaudeville scene for many years. Gina was selected as a Time Out NY Kids' Top Choice for her sing-a-long birthday parties and in early 2012 she appeared on Sesame Street in the episode "The All Of Our Senses Club."
As a music educator and teaching artist, Gina has worked with every age group in nearly every capacity imaginable; private school, public school, community music schools, as an outreach artist, and in a variety of arts enrichment programs. She directed The Brooklyn Conservatory Children's Chorus, producing youth choral festivals for the Conservatory's outreach choral programs and is a certified Orff-Schulwerk Educator. When she's not teaching, making music and theater, or steering the CACP ship, she loves to grow veggies in her garden, study permaculture, hang with her chickens, and hike, bike, travel, and eat good food with her husband Andy. She is proudly neurodiverse and she feels an immense amount of gratitude to live in a city that values the process of creativity, play, arts making and community.
Gina's Parents' Choice Approved album, "Together," perfectly combines her 3 loves: performing, travel and teaching. Backed by a stellar group of musicians from the indie and jazz worlds, and former student choristers, Gina takes you on a journey around the world, from Puerto Rico to Liberia to the playground in your own backyard. Spontaneous and lively, you can't help but move to the intricate rhythms of the drums, bass, flute, fiddle, accordion and guitar.
TOGETHER is available on iTunes HERE.
Romina Robinson (program development and various arts classes) Romina Robinson has been teaching, learning and growing with Compass Arts since 2017. Her roles include teaching visual arts classes and early childhood programming, coordinating and facilitating community outreach programs, and other administrative support. With a Master's degree in Art & Design Education from Pratt Institute, and over ten years teaching experience with children ages 2-14, Romina brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for creative learning to everything she does at Compass Arts. She is particularly keen on creating connections with her students, spending equal amounts of time offering invitations to make and explore with arts materials as she does observing how students approach things on their own terms. She loves to support learning and growth through taking the time to understand her students interests and strengths. When not teaching, Romina loves spending time outdoors exploring nature alongside her two daughters, as well as reading, cooking, and making art.
Jessie Shaffer (program development and various music classes) Jessie Shaffer has a deep background in music, art, and art education. She studied studio art and art history at Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, earning her Master's degree in Art History in 2016. Jessie taught at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and Brooklyn College, worked in museum education at The Whitney Museum of Art, and gained curatorial experience at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum before moving to Beacon in 2018. A classically trained musician and songwriter, in 2015 Jessie began leading children's singalongs and teaching music classes with the Brooklyn-based kids' music group The Sparrow Sisters. Recently, some of Jessie's music for grown-ups was featured in the 2019 off-Broadway play Reborning, by Zayd Dohrn. Jessie is a member of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association and a student of its method, which informs her approach to teaching music. Her approach also includes incorporating yoga into her music classes and she is currently studying for her children's yoga teaching certification from Cosmic Kids Yoga. Since moving to Beacon, Jessie has been blown away by Beacon's ultra-creative and welcoming community, and you can find her teaching music at Tioronda Learning Center when she's not here at Compass Arts.
Eric Saiet (theater and improv classes) Eric has been working in the entertainment industry since he was just a kid himself. As a screenwriter, Eric has written features for Walt Disney, Amazon Studios, and Fox/Blue Sky. He also writes for PBS children's shows, such as Super Why and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. As an actor, he has appeared in over 40 TV shows and movies, including guest-star roles on hit shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ER, and The Good Wife. All the while, Eric's favorite job has been teaching kids the joy and life skills that improvisation, creative writing and acting can bring!
Chelsea Acree (various creative/modern dance classes) Chelsea Acree has been dancing and teaching in New York for fifteen years. Since receiving her B.F.A. from SUNY at Purchase College she has had the opportunity to perform and teach nationally and internationally during her time as a company member of the Mark Morris Dance Group. While dancing for Mark Morris, Chelsea was one of the primary teachers on tour and at the company's school in Brooklyn, teaching modern dance to professional, pre-professional, and community groups of all ages and abilities. She highly valued the company's goal of making dance accessible to all and led workshops for community organizations, orphanages, senior centers, groups with special needs, local dance studios, performing arts programs, universities and professional programs as well as leading summer intensives and company auditions. She is also a certified Dance for Parkinson's Disease instructor and a personal trainer. Since moving to the Hudson Valley Chelsea has taught at Ballet Arts Studio, Vanaver Caravan, Barefoot Dance, The Manitou School and Adriance Poughkeepsie Library. Chelsea loves encouraging young creative minds to express themselves through movement while connecting with their friends and community. She has been providing modern and creative dance to her local community under her own management and is excited to have joined forces with the Compass Arts creative team!
Samantha Palmeri (drawing and painting classes) Samantha is a visual fine artist with a demonstrated history of working in the arts as an artist, teacher, curator, and arts administrator. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, her experience includes over twenty years teaching visual arts to children and adults both inside and outside the classroom. A Beacon resident since 2014, and currently a board member of BeaconArts, Samantha is a longstanding advocate for arts in the community.
Gwynne Watkins (various theater classes) Gwynne Watkins is a writer, theater artist and mom living in Beacon, New York. She is the bookwriter and co-lyricist of the widely-produced children's musical Space Pirates! (Winner: 2015 Children's Musical Theater Festival) and wrote book and lyrics for the 2010 off-Broadway musical Tea with Chachaji (New York City Children's Theater). Her four original Christmas pageants (published by Beat by Beat Press) are performed annually by churches and schools worldwide. Locally, her short plays have been selected for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Community Bake-Off and the Aery One Act Play Festival. She is a graduate of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and a member of the Dramatists Guild. Gwynne's performance credits include the original cast of Daydream, the kid-friendly adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream that ran for six summers in Prospect Park. A former staff writer at Yahoo Entertainment, she has narrated many videos and conducted dozens of on-camera celebrity interviews. As a journalist, Gwynne has written extensively about the arts and popular culture for both online and print publications, and was a founding editor of the parenting website Babble.com. Her work with Compass Arts is focused on building community, encouraging creativity, and giving kids the tools they need to express themselves.
Andy Reinhardt (AKA Andy Rinehart; operations, tech and media) Andy is Compass Arts' financial and operations whiz, Internet technologist and resident musician / band leader / multi-media author. Andy operated a web development business for over two decades before branching more recently into financial services and becoming Compass Arts' chief operating officer. A graduate of the music conservatory at SUNY Purchase (focus on composition), Andy has recorded with such notable musicians as David Torn (from David Bowie's band), and Mick Karn (of the band Japan) and has had his music released worldwide. The magazine Jazziz said of his second CD Jason's Chord, "might be the best progressive album of the year, if not the entire decade," and the December '06 issue of Guitar Player held a songwriter feature examining Andy's unique approach to writing.