Gina Samardge (director, and head teacher). Known for her warm, engaging style and ability to blur the lines between art forms, 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, be it theater, clowning or music, bringing an honesty and presence to both stage and classroom. Gina is a big believer in the power of the arts and feels that everyday she sees examples of how arts transfer more than just the ability to sing or dance but also teach us, at a root level, how to learn.
After moving to New York in 2002 Gina began performing with VOICETheatre, The Soon-To-Be-World-Famous Female Clown Troupe and the Main Squeeze Orchestra, an all female accordion ensemble, giving her opportunities to work with Cirque du Soleil and back indie band, Devotchka, as an accordion toting mermaid. She's written and arranged music for theater and film and her ongoing role as the accordion toting, hightop wearing Princess Penny made her and the clown and music ensemble, The Maestrosities, a staple in the NYC underground worlds of clowning, cirque and vaudeville, taking them all the way to Shanghai, China as a part of the Kim Tom International Clown Festival. Ms. Samardge has had the honor of studying acting and clown with such industry luminaries as David Shiner, Richard Crawford, Norman Taylor, Shauna Kanter, Seth Barrish, Jean Taylor and Sally Johnson.
Gina is currently the music teacher at Hudson Hill Academy, where she handles Pre-K through 8th grade music at their Newburgh campus. Formerly, she was a teaching artist in the Brooklyn Public Schools and directed The Brooklyn Conservatory Children's Chorus, where she produced 3 choral festivals serving the Conservatory's various outreach choral programs. 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". She is a member of the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association, the Dalcroze Society of America, the American Choral Directors Association, and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association. She is a certified Orff-Schulwerk Educator, having completed all 3 levels of training under the instruction of Danai Gagne, Judith Thomas, Laura Koulish, Mary Helen Solomon, Karen Medley and Janet Robbins, and continues her professional development in Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze and Gordon pedagogies.
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.
Romina Robinson (various workshops, including Tiny World Terrariums) Romina Robinson holds a Master's degree in Art and Design Education from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. For nearly a decade living in the New York City area, Romina worked in a wide variety of educational settings, from private cooperative home-school groups, to museum settings, public and private schools, and a truly special kids-focused art studio known as the Art Shack. This eclectic experience fueled her particular philosophies in terms of teaching "through the lens" of art making. In her classroom, nearly anything can be translated into a hands-on, creative experience. These moments are even more so enhanced when students work in a collaborative effort, talking, thinking, and problem solving together. Romina now lives in Beacon, NY, with her husband and daughter.
Jessie Shaffer (various classes, including Sing and Move Jamboree, curriculum development) 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.
Gwynne Watkins (various classes, including Team Creative Directions and Theater and Imrpov Games) 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.
Patti DeBonis;(curriculum development, Elements At Home) Patti DeBonis, a recent transplant to Beacon, has a decade of educational experience under her belt. After studying fine arts at Millersville University and philosophy at Eastern University, she was trained and worked as an ABA behavioral consultant in urban Philadelphia. Patti also served as an after-school arts program coordinator in the Greater Philadelphia public school system, as an urban farming and environmental summer camp early childhood director at Common Ground in New Haven, Connecticut, and as a private school pre-k teacher. It was in her years of classroom teaching that Patti was trained in curriculum development and found a pedagogical home as a Reggio Emilia-inspired educator. Since having her own two children, she continues to write project-based, emergent curricula for cooperative homeschool groups that aim at cultivating aesthetic sensibilities, fostering relationships with the natural world, and nurturing a sense of wonder and a love of learning in young children.
Ed Murr (Cartooning, Characters & Comics) Ed Murr can’t remember a time he wasn’t drawing or interested in art. A lifelong passion for comics, cartooning and telling stories led him to a career in illustration that has spanned nearly eighteen years. Comic-book illustration at Marvel Comics, drawing caricatures at Sardi’s in Times Square, creating storyboards for clients like Fed-Ex, Panasonic and Adidas, music videos, film and television projects both animated and live action, toy manufacturers, Six Flags amusement parks – the list goes on! Whatever the medium, at the heart of Ed's work is a focus on telling a story that needs to be told.
Chelsea Acree (Stories, Romp and Play) 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!
Sabrina Williamson (The Rising Artist) Sabrina Williamson holds a degree in illustration from the Art Institute of Philadelphia. For the past twenty years she has been working as a scenic artist in the Hudson Valley. You may have seen her Buddha sculpture for the Lincoln Center production of The King and I or her numerous sets at Madame Tussauds wax museum. Her skills have helped to create sets and props for such names as Marilyn Manson, Madonna, Metallica and more. She has worked with ESPN, The Food Network and Dreamworks Studios. For all these notable experiences her true passion has been the gift of sharing her knowledge with students. She has taught in cooperative home-school groups, private schools and afterschool programs. In Sabrina's classes she teaches how to see as an artist and translate images into art. The heightened observational skills she teaches helps students not just be better artists but to be better people as it relates to all aspects of study and community.
Eric Saiet (Imagination Playhouse, Theater Crafters) 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!