Teaching Artist Spotlight:
Ms. Jenny Florinicia
May 2019…Musicopia and Dancing Classrooms Philly (DCP), partner organizations, are sometimes lucky enough to have overlap among their talented Teaching Artists! Such is the case with Jenny Florinicia, who has been a Teaching Artist (TA) with Musicopia since 2018 and with DCP since 2016. As a TA for Musicopia, Jenny teaches two residencies at the French Communication Institute for pre-K and kindergarteners – a voice residency and a “movement and me” residency -- and at The Center School she teaches a FAME vocal program for 1st-8th graders. FAME (Fostering Artistry and Musical Excellence) is Musicopia’s year-round music education program through small group vocal or instrumental performance coaching. As a TA for DCP, Jenny is currently teaching in-school residencies for 5th graders at St. Athanasius School, St. Francis Xavier School, and Jay Cooke Elementary.
Jenny is a musician, dancer, and actor, and has a degree in Musical Theatre from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she studied ballet, tap, jazz, and partnering. She also teaches voice out of her home studio; she performs in musicals around the tri-state area; and is a singer/songwriter. Click here to see Ms. Jenny’s original song submission to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.
For both Musicopia and DCP, Jenny is able to intertwine her love and knowledge of dance and music. At the Musicopia program at The Center School, students learn that their whole body is used as an instrument when you sing. Jenny helps those students develop healthy vocal and physical technique and empowers them to become their own instrument. “One of the things that I like to teach on Day 1 is that your body is your instrument when you’re singing, so if you want to be aware of your instrument, you have to be aware of your body,” said Jenny. “I also teach breathing techniques, and explain to the students how breathing like a singer is different than breathing like in everyday life. We also do stretches to help stretch out our instrument and work on posture so that the best possible sound can come out.”
Jenny also knows that it is important to keep the students engaged so that the positive impact of the music education will be even greater. “To keep them engaged, I like to make a list and take an inventory of what the students are listening to right now. Then I listen to those songs and decide which songs I think would be good ones for them to learn,” she said. “I’ve noticed that when they have this type of input, they embrace their own voices more and actually start to like the sound of them. I’ve also noticed them working as a team--as an ensemble--by singing together.”
Jenny herself understands the value of music education. “Music and musical theatre are important to me. I respect the art form by giving it my all and inspiring others to do so,” said Jenny. “If children are never exposed to music, there could be a talent or a passion that they would never know they had because they didn’t have the opportunity to explore it. Music is a really beautiful way to express yourself, and it’s a beautiful way to work with other people to make something beautiful happen.”
As a Teaching Artist for DCP, Jenny once again melds her music and dance training by helping the students connect the rhythm of the songs with the dances, and engaging them to think of their bodies as a musical instrument within the song. Over the course of the in-school residency, she sees a transformation among the students. “In just 10 weeks, I see their confidence grow. They elegantly become ‘real ladies and gentlemen,’ as Pierre Dulaine* says. I see a sense of pride that they’ve accomplished learning several dances in that time frame, and that they can share their newfound skills with their friends and family,” Jenny said. “After the program, they stand taller and carry themselves with more elegance and grace.”
Just as Jenny believes in the importance of music education, she also believes in the importance of dance education. “So many people are disconnected from their bodies and their movement,” she said. “DCP provides a safe, fun space for children to become more physically and spatially aware. The program encourages respect towards self and others, and teaches teamwork amongst girls and boys at a pivotal stage of their development.”
For Jenny, dance has helped her to be free and expressive in her body, and she is continuously challenging herself to become stronger, sharper, and more flexible.
As a TA, Jenny also likes the connection between challenge and reward. Sometimes she has students who are not engaged, but she strives to find ways to relate to them and continues to set high standards for their work. By the end of the dance or music program, the students are proud of the new skills they have as well as what they have accomplished.
“I love that I am influencing kids with some of my favorite art forms, and showing them new possibilities for their time, talents, and expression.”
*DCP is an affiliate of Dancing Classrooms, Inc., which was founded in 1994 by award-winning ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine.
By Talia Yellin Fisher