On the Upbeat Volume 14 No. 1

President's Message

Jonathan Casañas, HCEMEC President

The Hillsborough County Elementary Music Educators Council (HCEMEC) has worked for decades to help provide greater access to music educational resources for our students and teachers in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS). Through collaboration and support from our district partners, local businesses, and general membership, we have been able to provide more access to meaningful music making opportunities for more students. It is an incredible honor to now serve as president for such an impactful organization where we continue to seek ways to support our music education community.

This year, the HCEMEC is focused on sustaining the music educational programming that our students and teachers have benefited from over the years. While we are early into the school year, our Leadership Team is already working tirelessly to ensure that this year’s offerings and events continue to grow and allow greater access to meaningful music making experiences for our students. In partnership with HCPS, we are excited to present a diverse number of programs and initiatives including the Young Songwriter’s Symposium, Fine Arts Festival, Professional Development, and so much more!

Additionally, one of our goals this year is to provide not only more programs and resources to our teachers and students but more opportunities to lead and shape our professional community. Our intention is to create space for more teachers to demonstrate their diverse talents in a variety of settings. From PLC coordinators to Fine Arts Festival conductors, we are happy to see our fellow teachers step into new roles that will help us advance our mission of providing greater opportunities for musical growth and development for all students in Hillsborough County, Florida.

HCEMEC is a group of teachers dedicated to growing music education opportunities for all students and I believe that this year is going to be one of unprecedented growth and development for our members! Through collaboration with our partners, there is no obstacle that can’t be climbed and no gap that can’t be bridged. We will continue in our efforts to grow our own capacity so that our teachers and students can continue to grow in music. I’m looking forward to another wonderful year of memorable music making with teachers and students! So, stay tuned and watch us grow! #HCEMEC_LetsGrow


Jonathan M. Casañas

HCEMEC President

Congratulations To This Year's All State Chorus and All State Ensemble Participants!

The Florida All State audition process is a rigorous one for students and their music educator. Many extra hours are spent preparing auditions and ensuring students are prepared for the All State performance in January at the Florida Music Educator's Conference. Please join us in celebrating these Hillsborough County teachers that will have students participating in an All State ensemble this year. We appreciate the hard work these teachers do to ensure their students have these opportunities!

All State Chorus

Marybeth Lambert & Jodie Donahoo, Bryant Elementary

Scott Brown, Carrollwood Elementary

Anita Travaglino, Claywell Elementary

Karen Bowman, Collins K-8 School

Jia Leikensohn, Lowry Elementary

Shannon Waggoner, Rampello K-8 Magnet

Kevin Liotta-DeVivo, Roland Park K-8 Magnet

Victoria Bernhardt, Tampa Palms Elementary

Kyla Knauer, Turner Bartels K-8 School

Katie Thomas, Yates Elementary

All State Orff Ensemble

Scott Brown, Carrollwood Elementary

Jia Leikensohn, Lowry Elementary

Victoria Bernhardt, Tampa Palms Elementary

Meet Our Elementary Music Supervisor!

Tracy Lisi, Supervisor of Elementary Music

Over a period of more than thirty years, Tracy Lisi has been immersed in music. During her first decade as an artist, Tracy performed on several stages throughout the country and overseas, singing and playing the piano. When she wasn't performing, she was recording in the studio on personal projects or working with record labels and recording artists as a background vocalist. You may have even heard her voice on a national commercial or two! During this time, she enrolled in the University of South Florida and studie music education while pursing her career as a professional musician.

The next decade caught Tracy by surprise. Her internship opened a new music avenue. She fell in love with teaching music! Over the next fifteen years, Tracy would spend her time teaching in the elementary music classroom and directing elementary choirs and instrument ensembles after school. It was during those years that she began to branch out and work with school, district, and state-based leaders to develop elementary music professional development and curriculum design.

Tracy served as the President of the Hillsborough County Elementary Music Educators Council and District 3 Chair for the Florida Elementary Music Educators Association. She was co-chair of the award winning HCPS Young Songwriters Symposium and had the pleasure of stage managing the HCPS Elementary Fine Arts Festival for four years in a row. In the late 2000's, she was accepted into the University of South Florida's Master's program for Educational Leadership and continued exploring new service opportunities. In 2018, she accepted the role of K-5 Music District Resource Teacher for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Tracy Lisi was appointed "Hillsborough County Public Schools K-5 Music Supervisor" on July 13, 2021.

"The most fulfilling part of this musical journey has been experiencing in real time my evolution as an artist and educator, and our evolution as a music community. I'm extremely proud of our elementary music teachers and the rich, diverse, and fun experiences they deliver daily to our students. Our students are extraordinary, and I can't wait to watch their real time evolution!"

-Tracy Lisi

Welcome to the Stage!

What an amazing--and enormous!--group of new teachers we have this year. We are so grateful and excited you have joined us. Many thanks to Kyla Knauer for mentoring; we know it makes a huge difference. Check out the list below to see where these fabulous educators are located.

Tresa Williams, Belmont Elementary

Shannon Frick, Bryan Elementary- Plant City

Luz Perez Barrera, Cannella Elementary

David Wilson, Carrollwood K-8

Aaron Woodfin, Cimino Elementary/Lithia Springs Elementary

Karen Bowman, Collins PK-8

Lauren Jensen, Collins PK-8

Kelsey Jones, Cork Elementary/Folsom Elementary

Tony Guilliano, Dover Elementary

Edepson, Gonzalez Rodriguez, Dr Carter G Woodson K-8

William Baran, Dunbar Elementary Magnet- Strings

Anna Brown, Forest Hills Elementary

Bethany Rogers, Forest Hills Elementary/Bellamy Elementary

Nicholas Osborn, Foster Elementary/Kenly Elementary

Aaron Vaughn, Kenly Elementary

Eduardo Crespo, Knights Elementary

Kendal Hancock, Lincoln Elementary

Lindsey Henderson, Lithia Springs Elementary

Alyssa Entenza, Mabry Elementary

Stephen Lamb, Mango Elementary

Amanda Odom, Mintz Elementary/Schmidt Elementary

Aaron Calabrese, Oak Park Elementary

Richardo Da Silva Pozenatto, Palm River Elementary

Randall Griffin, Pizzo K-8 School

Daniel Watson, Pizzo K-8 School

Valerie Finch Smith, Pride Elementary

Rosalie Lathers, Rampello Downtown Partnership

Amber Terry, Robles Elementary

Laura Owens, Sessums Elementary

Israel Rivera, Sessums Elementary

Amy Bennyhoff, Summerfield Crossings Elementary

HCEMEC Grant Recipients

HCEMEC is proud to be able to provide grants to our hard-working teachers! Teachers are able to submit proposals for professional development or items to enhance their teaching. Take a moment and read about some of the ways our teachers have been impacted by HCEMEC grants last year!

Marissa Rollins, Suzuki Unit One Training

I am excited to say that I have officially completed the Suzuki Violin Unit 1 Training! It was a 10-day training held at the Suzuki Institute in Ithaca, New York. Concurrent to the teacher training, they also have a student institute occurring where students attend private lessons, group lessons, and play-ins. The training included 28 lecture hours and 15 hours minimum of observations. The entire experience was magnificent, especially their education philosophy and multitude of teaching strategies.

It was incredible to watch instructors teach the foundational pieces in such a variety of ways. I cannot wait to employ detailed strategies of finger placement, movement, and much more for my students. It was incredibly beneficial observing classes where instructors had several miniature pieces (Pre-Twinkle selections) to prepare students with different types of learning needs. Additionally, all teacher trainees were introduced to resource websites that have supplies made specifically for encouraging healthy practice habits, memorization, and engaging repetitions for young violinists. I cannot thank HCEMEC enough for this profound learning experience.

“Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability, just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.” -Shinichi Suzuki (Founder of Suzuki Talent Education).

Cliff Fouts, Orff Mallets

Many thanks to the Hillsborough County Elementary Music Educators’ Council for funding my grant request to purchase new mallets for our Orff instruments! Having new mallets will impact my teaching in that now, when I emphasize to the students the importance of properly handling the mallets, it will make sense to them. Although we have taken great care of our instruments and mallets at Deer Park, no amount of care can slow the passage of time and frequent use. After 17 years of playing with the same mallets, which I believe were kept in really good shape, time was long-overdue to replace them. Now, with these new mallets, when I emphasize to students the importance of handling the mallets correctly and they can see new mallets compared to the old, the lesson and consequences of not properly handling the mallets will be so much more vivid to the students.

Furthermore, this will impact the students learning as they will not only see the difference in new mallets, but they will also HEAR the difference when using them to play. When we teach the instruments and discuss proper technique and playing to produce a nice tone, I believe it will be so much more evident to them playing and hearing new mallets that have not been through the hands of thousands of students through the years This grant has allowed us to better illustrate proper mallet handling and tone production, and for that I am very thankful!

-Cliff Fouts, Deer Park Elementary

Anita Vani, Orff Carts


Thank you so much for awarding Citrus Park Elementary the Grant to purchase Orff Carts! With our limited space, the narrow carts are amazing! My school is 112 years old, with the original 1 room schoolhouse on site and still in use. There is no music suite, so I'm in a regular classroom. The carts are so useful, now I don't have to physically move Orff instruments from one place to another, we can just roll them where we need to, whether into use, or to the side. I am so very grateful, and the students are excited to use them! They work for lots of other uses as well, especially in classrooms not designed for music. It allows me to easily change my room from movement to instrument use. The fact that HCEMEC funds Grants to improve the lives of our music teachers is such a gift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

-Anita Vani, Citrus Park Elementary

Professional Study Day 2023

HCPS music teachers learning singing games with Lindsey Jones during PDS.

Refreshing Our Resources

Three cheers for a fresh approach and a ton of takeaways! This year's K-5 Music PSD started with the energy of our colleagues' live performance, a rapid round of necessary updates from our fearless leaders, and a chance to connect with others over a real-life lunch break. The afternoon was incredible: what a gift to have rotations that allowed us to have refresher courses in many areas without having to pick and choose. Attendees had a chance to learn more about recorder with Quaver (Jeff Henson), starting classes with a Song of the Week from around the globe (Kevin Liotta-Devivo), revitalizing our choral techniques (Kyla Knauer), laugh-inducing singing games (Lindsey Jones), and bringing the fun of small-group games into our music rooms (Altamese Simard). I have used multiple resources from each presenter already in my classroom this year! Thank you so much to all who worked so hard to provide us with an informed and re-stocked start to this school year. We appreciate you! - Jessica Kendal, Dunbar Magnet

Exploring our new Quaver recorder curriculum with Jeff Henson
Kevin Liotta-DeVivo sharing how he uses Song Of The Week in his classroom.

Upcoming Events

Mark Your Calendars!

Thursday, November 9th- Young Songwriter's Symposium Concert @ Sparkman Wharf 6pm.

Wednesday, February 28th- Fine Arts Festival 6:30pm at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts

HCEMEC Leadership

Jonathan Casañas, President
Kevin Liotta-DeVivo, President-elect
Katie Thomas, Secretary
Rebecca Traenkner, Treasurer
Lindsey Jones, Past President
Stacie Emory, Advocacy/On the Upbeat
Craig Rohrbacker, Event Shirts
Samantha Snow, Fine Arts Festival Coordinator
Marissa Rollins, Fine Arts Festival Coordinator
Lydia Stokes, FMEA Conference & Professional Development Coordinator
Sophavy Vann, Music Will (Previously Little Kids Rock) Coordinator
Kyla Knauer, Mentoring
Kim Opperman, PLC Coordinator
Dawson Worley, Social
Cliff Fouts, Technology in Music Education
Anita Travaglino, Young Songwriters Symposium Coordinator
Dann Shea, Young Songwriters Symposium Coordinator
Deon Smith, Member At Large

Thank You To Our Supporters!

SSG Commercial Development & Management
Van Ayres, Superintendent of Schools
Nadia Combs, Board Chair, District 1
Stacy Hahn, District 2
Jessica Vaughn, District 3
Patricia "Patti" Rendon, District 4
Henry "Shake" Washington, District 5, Board Vice Chair
Karen Perez, District 6
Lynn Gray, District 7