Towne Salute: Elizabeth Melvin & Julie Snyder of Creating Communities
Oct 02, 2017 02:18PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
Elizbeth Melvin and Julie Snyder come from two completely different backgrounds, but have one thing in common: they have a passion for teaching children.
That’s when the duo teamed up to run the Arts Ambassadors program as part of Creating Communities, which is a non-profit organization founded and directed by award-winning musician and community leader, Rob Levit.
Arts Ambassadors is an afterschool program for students at Bates Middle School that meets once a week to learn world drumming/vocal music and creative writing, and to practice goal-setting and teamwork.
With two diverse areas of talent, Melvin takes pride in drum instruction while Snyder facilitates the writing.
“I’m not a drummer and I’m not a musician,” Snyder laughs. “Although, I am learning how to play the drums, which I love. The first year, I was horrible. However, one thing we both do is mentor the kids and get to know them and spend time with them.”
In order for a student to be a part of the program, they must fill out an application and a permission slip. The best part is that no one gets turned away.
The program runs every Wednesday, where Melvin and Snyder begin each session with an ice breaker.
“They’re a lot of fun,” Melvin admits. “Sometimes it involves making a rhythm out of your name, passing it on to the next person, and building it up while remembering the person before you. It’s all kinds of really quick, easy, make you laugh warmups.”
When it comes to the drumming aspect, Melvin teaches the kids traditional West African based drumming, specifically designed for middle schoolers, making it a bit easier, while Snyder develops a writing prompt that will coincide with the days lesson.
“What’s really amazing with the writing is when you get down to it, the things they come up with are really thoughtful,” Snyder says. “When they put pen to paper, they really put a lot of thought into it and they’re very open. It helps them to think outside the box.”
According to Melvin, the school community puts on a quarterly arts showcase, which she immediately wanted Arts Ambassadors to be a part of. The students performed “One Love,” by Bob Marley and did such an incredible job that both the teachers and audience members were singing along.
Outside of Creating Communities, Snyder works as a grant writer for the Community Action Agency of Anne Arundel County, which empowers people by reducing poverty and building resilient communities. She is also the founder of Community Action’s Green Summer Works program that gives low-income youth the opportunity to obtain skills needed in the workforce, financial literacy training, and a hands-on work experience through a paid summer internship.
Melvin works with two different choirs, one of which is a member-supported choir, and she also teaches various summer camps and song workshops.
Starting in January, Melvin directs The Freedom Choir to prepare for their annual concert, which performs each May. After its initial concert, Melvin took it upon herself to propose the idea of allowing the concert to benefit the Creating Communities organization. Each concert features performances by Levit and other guest artists highlighting songs about hope or determination.
“It just felt really good to be able to do that and give back to him [Rob] the opportunity he had provided for me,” Melvin explains.
The team of Melvin and Snyder goes above and beyond what is asked for the Arts Ambassadors program by providing transportation, snacks, and mentoring for the kids.
With a lot of hard work, determination, and dedication, Melvin and Snyder have created a safe environment allowing nothing but self-expression and openness for these kids. They’re also a force to be reckoned with.
“To have this opportunity to work really closely with my own community right here in Annapolis, just makes me feel even more connected than I was,” Melvin admits. “And to work with children is a joy I wish everyone could experience.”
For more information on Creating Communities, visit Creatingcommunities.net