Jubilation Foundation Teaching Artist Fellow Joanie Leeds

Joanie Leeds

New York City
Fellowship: 2022

“Creating a safe, gentle space is just as valuable as the lesson itself.”

Joanie has been an early childhood music educator in several nursery programs over the past two decades while writing music for families. Teaching led to entertaining at birthday parties and pre-schools, and soon progressed into concert performances nationwide. She has released nine albums, most recently All the Ladies, a female empowerment folk collection, which earned a GRAMMY in 2021.

What led you to be a teaching artist?
In my early 20’s, I came across a job listing for Gymboree Play and Music. I had never worked with children before, but after playing all the NYC nightclubs well into the
wee hours of the night, the idea of singing with kids DURING THE DAY was thrilling! Teaching at Gymboree was a crash course, and I soon found that teaching young children was my calling. I was promoted, and managed a staff of 15 teachers and 300 families in Manhattan while teaching music classes to babies and toddlers.

The kids in my classes inspired me to write original music based on their interests. One child asked for a song about a dinosaur who lived in his neighborhood so I wrote “Dino on the UWS.” As I started to write more of my own curriculum and music, I ventured out and became a teaching artist in two nursery schools. I curated my own lesson plans, emphasizing core values and themes such as environmental responsibility, kindness, inclusion, diversity, empathy, and changing the world.

Teaching philosophy:
All students and teachers in my classroom belong to a caring community. While everyone learns in their own way, supporting each child through several methods will allow everyone to grow, learn, and feel empowered.

When I present a song or theme, I begin with an age-appropriate introduction to prepare them for the musical journey on which they are about to embark: sometimes showing how to use their bodies, other times using visual props and storytelling, or playing a piece of music. Using instruments such as guitar, ukulele, xylophone, shakers, and rhythm sticks, I combine music, movement, and play.

Describe a good teaching day:
When the children are engaged, and I sense the material is reaching them both emotionally and musically. If the kids are raising their hands enthusiastically and
singing along, I feel good about the lesson I’ve prepared and the way I’ve delivered it. A good teaching day turns into a GREAT teaching day if the kids leave the classroom
singing songs we’ve just learned, or if they come back the following week asking to sing a song they learned before.

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