Jubilation Fellow Aaron Nigel Smith

Aaron Nigel Smith

Lake Oswego OR
Fellowship: 2017

“Creativity is key to unlocking potential in all areas of life,” says Aaron. “I am a teaching artist because I am called to cultivate creativity, communication, and community through the universal language of the arts.”

For the past 15 years, Aaron has worked to educate, empower, and entertain by teaching chorus and drumming. His passion is youth work, and his non-profit, 1 World Chorus, is committed to building bridges with music. Since 2009, more than 3000 students from the USA, Kenya, and Jamaica have participated in collaborative drumming, chorus, recording, and multimedia projects. He has also worked with Peace Village since 2014, a program that teaches practical and concrete skills in conflict resolution, building empathy, creating inner peace, connecting with the natural world, and collaborative leadership.

He has a range of skills, including songwriting and performing, and has collaborated with Ziggy Marley on the children’s record, “B is for Bob,” and joined the cast of the PBS kids’ show, “Between the Lions.” His annual Rox in Sox Children’s Music & Book Festival collects socks, shoes, and books in the U.S., which are then distributed in Jamaica and Kenya. In conjunction with Ben & Jerry’s, The Bob Marley Foundation, and PYE Global, Aaron organizes the One Love Youth Camp, which brings kids from rural and urban Jamaica together for a week of creativity and community building.

Teaching philosophy:
“Music IS math, science, English, and social studies. Helping students discover and expand on these connections is a cornerstone of my teaching philosophy.”

How do you produce a vibrant learning environment?
“I encourage participation, improvisation, and active listening. It is my goal to create a safe, comfortable, and open community that promotes exploration, risk-taking, and growth.”

How do you foster youth leadership?
“When our youth are invited to step into their power as leaders, it not only increases their self-confidence and overall development, it also has a positive impact on the community. When we grow leaders from within a group, we benefit from their unique understanding and insights. I identify leaders in any given workshop, performance, or class and encourage them to model concepts that I am teaching. They are encouraged to share songs, rhythms, or movement with their peers.”

How have you evolved as a teacher?
“I am incredibly grateful for the mentors who helped shape my teaching practice. Over the years I have learned to develop curricula centered in processes rather than performance. My intention is to help youth make meaningful connections between creativity and the overall well-being of individuals and communities.”

What is an example of a good day teaching kids?
“I recently led a drumming class in central Oregon. During the warm-up, each student created a simple rhythm that the rest of the class played back. Campers then broke into teams of three or four and worked together to compose a multi-part rhythm. When, at the end of the class, each group shared their musical creation, it was a delight to see their creativity, teamwork, and pride in accomplishment. We closed with a question: How can drumming have a positive impact in other areas of our lives? The kids’ insights, comments, and questions demonstrated a profound understanding of how music can help build community.”

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