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Whiz Kids

Through the Whiz Kids Music Program, CCM Students are Bringing Arts Education Back to the Classroom

A Whiz Kids student discovers the rhythm of "Bingo."

A Whiz Kids student discovers the rhythm of "Bingo."

In 2006, UC alumnae Shelley Bamberger (BFA in Musical Theatre, 1975; MM in Theatre Arts, 1976) and Jane Florer (MED from McMicken College, 1986) approached Cincinnati's City Gospel Mission with the idea of bringing music to the mission's already successful after-school literacy program.

City Gospel Mission's Whiz Kids program provides one-to-one tutoring and mentoring at 64 locations in Greater Cincinnati. Bamberger and Florer's concept was to use this program to reach students at disadvantaged schools in Cincinnati, which no longer have music programs of their own.

Through this arrangement, students could now elect to receive after-school tutoring in reading and writing followed by music education.

Five years after Bamberger and Florer initiated this partnership, then-graduate student Sarah Taylor (AD, 2014) joined the team and began to integrate her interest in classical and instrumental music into Whiz Kids. Soon, she was inviting friends and fellow students from CCM into the classroom as guest artists to teach about instruments and lead group activities.

Nearly 50% of public schools in Cincinnati did not have music programs when Whiz Kids started, "which just obviously was really heartbreaking," Taylor explains.

When CCM's administration found out about this alumni and student-led initiative, they were impressed and immediately stepped in to offer assistance.

Amy Dennison, the Assistant Dean of CCM's Preparatory Department, joined the endeavor, along with Karen Tully, CCM's Director of Development and External Relations, who proposed a formal ArtsWave grant for funding and support.

In June of 2012, CCM received an ArtsWave Community Partnership grant. Out of that grant emerged the Whiz Kids Music Program (WKMP), an after-school outreach initiative, which brings CCM students to elementary schools in the Greater Cincinnati area to teach weekly, after-school music classes.

Each of the four schools—Chase Elementary School in Northside, Rees E. Price Academy in East Price Hill, John P. Parker Elementary and Roberts Academy—now employs three CCM students who are paid to teach an average class of 10 to 15 children.

Over the course of the school year, at-risk elementary school students are taught the basics of rhythm, singing, instrumentation and music appreciation. The goal is to equip the students with a general knowledge and appreciation of music, while simultaneously creating organized teaching opportunities for CCM.

Through this collaboration, elementary students form relationships with their teachers, creating encouragement and support for these otherwise at-risk students to stay in school and to live healthy, successful lives in the community.

Clockwise, CCM students Katie Garringer, Sarah Taylor and Owen Alderson lead a Whiz Kids class.

CCM students Katie Garringer, Sarah Taylor and Owen Alderson lead a Whiz Kids class in rhythm.

Owen Alderson, a second year drama student at CCM, just finished his first year of teaching at Rees E. Price Elementary. He heard about WKMP through a friend and shadowed a couple of classes before deciding to become a volunteer teacher.

Alderson sees firsthand how an arts education can impact young children.

“Every class, the kids always amazed me with their energy, imagination and playfulness. Being able to work with them inspired me to be the same way in my own work, and the experience has helped me develop more of a sense of humor and not take everything so seriously when it comes to my training,” explains Alderson.

“I think volunteering in the arts and in arts education is vitally important to the community. WKMP gives kids a way to express themselves that they don’t get to explore during regular school hours or at home. It also gives them something to be proud of that is theirs alone, with a newfound ability and confidence in music.”

For more information about Whiz Kids Music Program, visit or check out the Facebook page at:

Whiz Kids