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.
Gwynne Watkins (theater and writing classes, administrator) 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.
Hampton Fluker (theater arts classes, program development, program coordinator) Hampton Fluker received his BFA in acting from Boston University and studied at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has served as a teaching artist with The Actor's Shakespeare Project based out of Charlestown, MA, People's Theatre Project in New York City, and most recently, with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. He stars as Marcus Tufo on the NBC Series Shades of Blue, opposite Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta. Other television credits include the recurring role of Michael Goodwin on NBC's Chicago Med, along with arcs on Evil, The Good Wife, Major Crimes, Blue Bloods, Aquarius and Whitney, directed by Angela Bassett. His film credits include Patriots Day and Instant Family starring Mark Wahlberg, The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock, and the independent features No One Asked Me and The Depths. On stage, Hampton starred in Esai's Table at The Cherry Lane Theatre and as George in the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of All My Sons, starring Tracy Letts and Annette Benning, earning him a Drama Desk Award Nomination and the 2019 Dorothy Loudon Award. Hampton was raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and resides in Beacon, New York with his partner Amber, two dogs Bayou and Boss Man, and cat Sugar.
Andy Reinhardt (AKA Andy Rinehart; operations, tech/media, band leader) 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.
Heather Davies (movement and visual arts classes) Heather is a movement, dance, and expression artist and instructor. Drawing on her many years of experience in yoga and hoop dance, she develops integrative creative movement programs designed to deeply empower bodies and minds and has brought these programs to various Hudson Valley locations for over a decade. As a true devotee of communication and connection, Heather is passionate about creating inspiring spaces for folks to explore and authentically express themselves.
Laura Volpacchio Simon (dance classes) Laura is a lifelong dancer and multifaceted artist. After a professional dance career, Laura worked as a creative movement teaching artist for various NYC organizations including NYC Head Start, Dancing Classrooms and Kaiser’s Room. She has undergone training in working with neurodiverse & differently abled kiddos through the Marquis Studio Teaching Artist Training Institute and has taken continuing education classes in dance & arts therapies. Laura’s classes provide a safe space for kids to experience the joy and self-expression inherent in dance that is often missing in traditional dance education. Her goal in all of her work is to meet kids wherever they are, allowing them to express themselves in whatever ways feel authentic and true. Laura is a Mama to 1.5 year old Lionel “Lio” Jude - Compass has been a sacred & nurturing space during her transition to motherhood and she’s so excited to be part of the team. You can learn more about Laura at www.laurasimonphotography.com.
Caty Therese (visual arts classes) Caty has become a well-known fixture among Beacon families, serving in a variety of teaching roles at local art programs and camps. You may have seen her at Beacon Craft Workshop, Garrison Art Center, Common Ground Farm Camp, Beacon Farmers Market or Fall Kill Creative Works. Her first love is ceramics and the idea of molding a mound of clay into something magical. Caty lives with her golden retriever Bud and cats Cream Cheese, Ariana and Carlos and spends the warmer months in her organic garden and searching for the best vegan food to share on her lifestyle blog. Art serves as her daily motivation and passion.
Gabriel Pages (drawing, cartooning) Gabriel is a versatile artist & storyteller, with two decades of experience in storyboard art, digital illustration, and visual effects. He has taught drawing classes on the Outschool Platform, Education Without Walls, and the Newburgh Armory. He lives in Beacon with his family and labradoodle.
Joe Vergolina (creative writing classes) Joe Vergolina (creative writing) is a midwesterner who succumbed to New York City’s siren call in 1995 to study writing for stage and screen (BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts - dramatic writing program). He writes what he knows about and his work is a reflection of his experiences as a state fair carny, Civil War fanatic, traveling salesman, 1970s eco-horror movie obsessive, hopeless bibliophile and rock ’n roll enthusiast. Joe has had writing adventures within the commercial, corporate and academic worlds, but his passion remains the short-story fiction format. He has a masters degree in history (Norwich University) and was the co-founder and publisher of Gladys, a themed, print only paper devoted to the interactions of history, literature and culture. He has lived in Beacon, NY since 2008 with his two sons, two dogs, two turtles and one very supportive wife.
Katy Wallace (assistant Choir Director, Beacon Rising) Katy hails from California and has been teaching music lessons on and off for about 20 years. She plays and teaches guitar, banjo, ukulele and bass guitar. She fell in love with folk music, songwriting, recording and community music making while playing with the all female neighborhood band Sugar Mountain Mama Serenade in her twenties. Eventually she worked as a clerk and teacher at a wonderful music store, The Folk Music Center in Claremont, California. A few years later she joined the rhythm section of Shon Sullivan’s indie rock band Goldenboy. After multiple gritty but exciting US tours and the amazing experience of recording two studio albums; “Sleepwalker” (2011) and “The New Familiar” (2012) - both on Eenie Meenie Records, she moved to Brooklyn and started a family. Soon after becoming a mother, Katy founded the children’s music group The Sparrow Sisters and led sing-alongs at the Park Slope Library and Prospect Park adjacent cafes from 2015-2019. Her family moved to Cornwall in 2021 and now she spends the bulk of her time homemaking, community building and unschooling with her two young people.
Zach Baxter (dungeons & dragons) is a Beacon resident and has been leading role-playing games for Compass Arts since 2021. Zach has found Dungeons & Dragons to be a great community builder and creative outlet for kids and adults alike. Zach is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, but has been in the New York area for over 10 years. He has degrees in Political Science and International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.
Kevin Bertholf (dungeons & dragons) was born in the Catskills but drawn out of the hills to Beacon by an obsessive love of coffee. He is an IT professional, amateur homestead farmer, photographer, and father. In between his visits to coffee shops, you may find him running role-playing games/board games with Compass Arts or narrowly avoiding poison ivy and hornets while foraging berries. Kevin is usually the one in the overalls.