Name: Sean Elligers
Organization: Berkshire Children and Families’ Kids 4 Harmony
Title: Teaching Artist
Music Genre: Mostly classical
Years in the field: 9
What do you do at Kids 4 Harmony?
At Kids 4 Harmony, I teach music theory, composition, trumpet, and some string technique to students ranging 3rd to 11th grade. I work with students on various music theory skills (scales, arpeggios, chord structures) and, through collective improvisation or using the notation software, Noteflight, students compose their own music based on those concepts. I also play the role of unofficial photographer for our program.
Why do you do what you do?
My students are incredibly smart, curious, introspective, often (intentionally) hilarious individuals and I feel incredibly fortunate to have developed close connections with them. As someone who thrives on collaborative work, I am instantly swept away and energized by their ideas and am committed to helping them gain access to the tools and knowledge they seek to pursue their compositional and performance ambitions.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
Engaging with the students and their families. More specifically, one of my favorite things to do is go to a student’s parent at the end of the program and brag about the new composition that their student has started or how great the student played in orchestra. The students will be the first to tell you that I’m far more excited than they are, but the parents still appreciate it.
What challenges you in this work?
I regret never being able to spend a sufficient amount of time to help each student on their individual compositional projects in class. Despite running around to each student, helping them navigate questions with the software or find that initial spark of inspiration for their piece, it’s frustrating when class ends and there are eight students raising their hands begging you to come listen to their compositions or their revisions. I’m thrilled that they are eager to share but it always burns to tell them they’ll have to wait until next class.
What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Thanks to Berkshire Children and Families, the social service agency that Kids 4 Harmony is part of, our program is given the support and visibility that has helped us make collaborative relationships with the local schools, colleges, and other arts programs in the Berkshire community. Our families are always generous to share their appreciation for our program and for the opportunities the students are given to perform at these events.
How do you blow off steam?
I chip away at my own compositions, try to make sense of synthesizers, and try to get better at instruments I’m less familiar with, like the violin or accordion.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I drive a lot and I often find myself in a low-stakes crisis of what music I want to listen to. I might pull from a range of artists/genres (Ambrose Akinmusire, Mount Eerie, Bjork) but as of recently, I’ve found myself unexpectedly defaulting to any original soundtrack from SEGA Genesis or Super Nintendo video games.
Do you live with any animals?
I do! Her name is Cammie and she’s a chihuahua mix. True to her breed, she keeps us on our toes: shaking when we come home, shaking when she wants our food and shaking during thunderstorms.