Camp On Wheels, a summer camp-inspired project, was created to invite School on Wheels students to dive into the arts this past August.
It was conceived by Volunteer Support Coordinator, Stephanie Swenseid, who then shared the idea with volunteer tutor, Sheryl Meyerson, who had a background in the arts. Together, along with the help of Student Support Coordinator, Cheyenne Parker and Volunteer Support Coordinator, Manmeet Sodhi, Camp on Wheels came to life.
“Learning should be fun and I was determined to create something fun for the student and tutors in my region”, Stephanie said.
Meyerson, with the help of School on Wheels Student Support Coordinator Cheyenne Parker, enlisted some truly inspiring artists to establish an experience for students outside of the realm of academics. Nine professional musicians, 4 professional dancers, and a handful of School on Wheels employees and volunteers met online for an hour every Saturday morning in August with students ranging from K-12. The team encouraged partners to share the program with any students who might be interested in the experience. It worked—a new student attended and subsequently joined School on Wheels! This was not only a way to build community and deeper connections between students and tutors, it helped to inspire a love of music and dance.
Some of THE most talented musicians and dancers in Southern California showed up to share their gifts. They created songs and raps and showed everyone a few dance moves. Students got to learn about the origins of certain styles of music and dance. By the end of the month, several students expressed intent to apply to our scholarship program, which encourages artistic pursuits like learning how to play an instrument or taking dance lessons.
The impact and importance of the arts in a young person’s education can’t be overstated. Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making skills, and inventiveness. It boosts critical thinking and teaches creative problem-solving skills. A study of Missouri public schools in 2010 found that greater arts education led to fewer disciplinary infractions and higher attendance, graduation rates, and test scores. Integrating art with other disciplines engages students who might not otherwise be interested in classwork. It connects students with their own culture as well as with the wider world.
None of this would have been possible without the talent and time of the incredibly generous artists who showed up week after week. School on Wheels would like to give a huge thank you to David Ellis and Tom Zehdner from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica; the wondrous voices of the Mixtape Quartet, Misha Vayman, Michael Siess, Juan-Salvador Carrasco, and Nathan Ben-Yehuda; the delightful people of MUSE/IQUE, Marc “Mojo” Joseph, Corey Williams, and Heather Lipson-Bell; as well as amazing dancers, Devin Dixon, Eunique Browder, Malik Stanford, and Caylon White.
David Ellis earned both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at USC. He has been a guitar instructor at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica for the past “thirty-something” years. His students have been accepted into music programs at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, and the Berklee College of Music.
Tom Zehnder is a versatile musician—a songwriter, singer, and guitar player. He enjoys engaging students at all levels and is proud to be part of the accomplished team of music teachers at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.
Misha Vayman is a professional violinist, educator, and dog lover. He’s a faculty member of the Pascale Music Institute and the Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities, where he runs the online violin program.
Violinist Michael Siess began his musical studies at the age of four in Portland, OR. He holds a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from USC Thornton School of Music.
As a Los Angeles Orchestra fellow, cellist Juan-Salvador performs with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, mentors the young talents at Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, and studies with Ralph Kirshbaum at USC.
Nathan Ben-Yehuda has been studying piano since he was four years old. He completed his undergraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music in London and his Master’s degree at the Juilliard School. Joining Mixtape in the summer of 2020, he is now co-artistic director.
MUSE/IQUE is a member-supported nonprofit performing arts organization making radically engaging live music experiences accessible for all. Their mission is to build empathy and expand imaginations through transformative live events and strong partnerships with fellow nonprofit organizations in Pasadena and the greater Los Angeles area.
MARC “MOJO” JOSEPH
A lifelong drummer and New Orleans native, Marc is a recent inductee into the New Orleans Music Westside Hall of Fame. He also conducts private music lessons and public music clinics for adults and kids of all ages.
Corey Williams, aka Thelonius Kryptonite, is a musician, songwriter, producer, and radio host. A new wave-modern hip hop artist, he currently hosts the first hip hop show on WWOZ 90.7 FM in New Orleans.
HEATHER LIPSON-BELL: artistic producer at MUSE/IQUE
Performer, choreographer, and educator Heather Lipson Bell works nationally and abroad on stage and screen, in both the classroom and the community. Currently, she is co-artistic director of Teatro Filarmonico; founder and creative director of Performing Arts For All; assistant director and co-choreographer with Los Angeles Opera Education Department; and a Wharton Performance Certified Flexibility Technician. Her work with special needs individuals is featured in the short dance documentary FREEZE! Try Again.
Based in Atlanta, Devin has been dancing for 10+ years and has experience choreographing, teaching, and performing. He’s also served as president of the collegiate hip-hop dance crew “Physical Graffeeti”.
High school teacher by day, dance instructor by afternoon, and Netflix binge-watcher by night! Eunique currently teaches English courses and advises the dance team at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.
Malik is a Los Angeles resident working in health care IT as a project manager. He has a background in hip hop dance and served as president of the dance crew “Physical Graffeeti” while in college. Malik also taught cardio dance for 5 years.
Caylon is based in Los Angeles and currently works at UCLA as a senior administrative officer. Caylon has been dancing for the past 6 years and his favorite styles of dance are hip-hop, vogue, and waacking. He’s a firm believer that anyone can dance if they have enough confidence and attitude.