2018 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Arts Education
Betsy Hamill is a passionate educator in the Flagstaff community who works with people of all ages. She is Co-Director of the Center for Indigenous Music and Culture (CIMC) along with her husband Chad. For the past 3 years the CIMC has hosted the Merveilles Gathering, a African drum and dance conference and full immersion camp with over 20 artists from different regions of West and South Africa. Betsy studied French Horn at Carnegie Mellon University and received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts (Calarts) with a focus on Ewe drumming and dance from Ghana. She has studied under master drummers and dancers such as Alfred Ladzekpo, Maputo Manesh, (Ghana) Djeneba Sako (Mali) and Fara Tolno (Guinea) and has performed in three dance troupes: Logo Ligi, Kuma Tunyale, and Kissidugu 2. Her passion for world music and dance along with her extensive years of study are invaluable assets regarding her work with the CIMC. She along with Chad have hosted over 50 indigenous artists providing a necessary platform for them to share their music and dance traditions with the Flagstaff community.
Betsy also teaches several music and dance classes at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (FALA). Her focus has been on developing a unique music curriculum where instead of having standard ensembles (band, orchestra, choir) she has established the FALA World Music Ensemble, the FALA Action Band (FAB) and a funk and jazz fusion ensemble called Falunk. These classes along with the other music classes has set FALA apart as well rounded comprehensive music program. In terms of dance she also teaches the popular West African Drum and Dance ensemble where there are waiting lists for students to get in. Parents have praised Betsy for her work with students, noting that she encourages confidence and promotes a love for music that students carry with them throughout their lives.
Along with teaching her own classes, Betsy also gives support to other students and teachers on FALA’s campus. In 2016, she assisted fellow educator, Mike Levin, by writing the music for his class’s production of MacBeth, On Austrian Soil, and Salvaged Pages. Mike speaks highly of Betsy’s work, stating that her music and student performers helped make MacBeth one of FALA’s most impactful performances.