2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in Arts Education
Betsy Hamill is a dynamic teacher of African dance and world music here in Flagstaff, Arizona. Hamill’s background includes extensive musical training from Carnegie Mellon University, where her focus was on the French Horn, and the California institute of the Arts where she received a BFA in World Music with a focus on Ewe Drumming and Dance from Ghana. Throughout different periods of her musical career she has composed many pieces, releasing her first album entitled “Water on the Field” in 07.
Hamill began teaching band 16 years ago and has since started 7 programs at various schools including public, montessori, charter, and waldorf. Hamill began her journey into West African dance 20 years ago when she studied Ewe drumming and dance at the California Institute of the Arts under Alfred Ladzekpo. She has since studied under master dancers such as Maputo Manesh, Djeneba Sako, and Fara Tolno from Ghana, Mali and Guinea and has performed with three dance troupes, Logo Ligi, Kuma Tunyale, and Kissidugu 2.
For the past 6 years Betsy Hamill has served as Co-Director at the Center for Indigenous Music along with her husband Chad. She also teaches multiple music and dance classes at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (FALA). She has established the FALA World Music Ensemble, the FALA Action Band (FAB) and a retro jazzy fun music group called Falunk. Her classes at FALA are so popular that there are waiting lists for students to get in.
Along with teaching her own classes, Hamill also gives support to other students and teachers on FALA’s campus. She recently lent her musical talents to the FALA production of Macbeth, directed by fellow educator and former Viola Award winner, Mike Levin. Levin praises Hamill’s accompaniment of the performance, describing it as “off the charts” and claims that her abilities helped make it one of FALA’s most impactful performances.
More importantly Hamill has a tremendous positive impact on her students; an impact that is not lost on the parents of FALA students. Dean of Academy, Deidre Crawley, shares this statement from a parent of one of Hamill’s students:
“Three years ago our son transferred from a public middle school to Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. He was nervous about this change and knew not one student who attended the FALA. He made this giant leap because he knew after hearing about the incredible teachers and welcoming artistic community this was the school for him. Our son has always been an introspective, creative, wise, and quiet kid. He has focused on building his classically trained piano skills since the age of 6. After the move to FALA, he encountered one of the most motivating, encouraging, musical and expressive instructors. This teacher not only encouraged our son to spread his musical wings by exposing him to a variety of musical genres but also by learning to appreciate a plethora of musical instruments from around the world. From this experience, our son had gained confidence in playing music and performs widely within the community of Flagstaff. Thanks to inspiring awesome teachers like Betsy Hamill, he now wants to pursue his college career in music. Thank you Betsy. We will forever be grateful to you and your passion for teaching and your unwavering devotion to the importance of music in all of our lives.”