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.
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!
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.
Jessie Shaffer (various classes, including Sing and Move Jamboree) Jessie Shaffer officially got her start in music playing classical violin as a child, but way before that was singing and picking out melodies by ear with her mom at home. She used to spend hours alone, listening to her Fisher-Price record player, while her mom got SO MUCH DONE around the house. Now as a mom herself, Jessie is constantly delighting in the joy of sharing music with her daughter, and with the children of other parents. She has also practiced yoga for the past two decades and earned a master's degree in art history from Brooklyn College that allows her to teach college students in addition to toddlers. Over the years, Jessie has honed her improvisation and songwriting skills, and picked up the banjo as her main instrument for singalongs. Recently, some of Jessie's music for grown-ups was featured in the 2019 off-Broadway play Reborning, by Zayd Dohrn. Since 2015, Jessie has co-led singalongs and taught music classes with the Brooklyn-based children's music group, The Sparrow Sisters. A recent transplant to Beacon, Jessie has been blown away its ultra-creative and welcoming community, as she finds her path here.