"Students, whether gifted or challenged, experience the importance of their contribution."

Dr. Sarita Belmont

Director of Literacy Programs

Gill-Montague School System

35 Crocker Avenue

Turners Falls, MA





October 21, 2003


To Whom It May Concern:


In my past and current roles as literacy coordinator and college faculty, I have observed Nick’s excellent work with children and teachers. I am very pleased to write a strong recommendation for Nick as a musician, storyteller and artist/musician in residence.  Over the last four years, I have seen Nick develop innovative musical and cultural programs that incorporate all aspects of the arts into children’s academic work, whether it  be in the area of literacy, social studies or science.


Nick has a special gift as a musician and music teacher.  He is able to draw children into a musical experience that seems to always prove to be almost magical for them.  He is able to create an inviting setting for them to take risks in creating or playing music and thus is able to expand their musical repertoire and skills. Music that might otherwise be foreign or uninviting becomes accessible, intriguing, meaningful and fun. As an experienced music teacher, Nick knows how to scaffold and choose material for students so that they can build musical skills, beginning at their own levels. He is able to actively engage students in a musical experience that can result in a peak performance, exploration or spark the wish for further study.  He is gifted at finding songs and instrumental music that is developmentally appropriate and interesting and which opens a doorway into new aspects of music.  This has often served as a springboard for students creating other inspirational work, like composing songs, poems, dances, or incorporating music into their own storytelling.


Another exemplary characteristic that Nick repeatedly demonstrates is that of a masterful storyteller who actively engages children in the world that they know and the world that they are studying.  He is impeccable at picking stories that are appropriate for different age groups and that entertain, teach or expose children to new ways of thinking. Drawing on his background in philosophy, Nick is able to weave together different disciplines into a way for children to experience the world through new ideas, incorporating art, music, movement and words. 


Nick is very thoughtful about ways that he can team with the teaching staff to expand students’ understanding of a subject through the arts. For example, during his Black History Unit, he demonstrated his abilities as musician, music teacher and storyteller as he drew students deeper into the subject.  I observed him implement this program in three different school settings, modifying his plan to fit the needs of each particular school population and different staff’s interests and strengths.  He works well with specialists, tapping on their strengths and inspiring them to use their own expertise to develop the unit even further in their own classes.  He is interested in learning from staff so that he can incorporate their suggestions and tap on their subject area expertise. For example, during his unit on world studies, in my role as literacy coordinator, we discussed the types of specific literacy skills that could be taught at each grade level through his storytelling.  He effectively developed a teacher resource guide which included curriculum ideas that helped build literacy and inquiry skills and which involved artistic or musical expression.


Throughout each unit of study, Nick successfully enlists the aid of the whole school community to prepare for a culminating event that weaves together the strands of literature, history, art, music with the stories that they have immersed themselves with during the unit.  Students, whether gifted or challenged, experience the importance of their contribution. During the first culmination program that I attended, I was amazed to see young novice musicians improvise with confidence, gusto and skill, in the tradition of Jazz. Interwoven in the instrumental and choral performances were students’ narrative and expository stories and poems about the Black experience in America and related key ethical issues. A dance performance included historically accurate movements and songs.


Nick is an explorer himself and has continued to develop additional creative interdisciplinary units, involving world cultures or our legacy as Americans. In each unit, Nick draws on his expertise as musician, teacher, storyteller and curriculum developer. He provides rich resources for teachers so that they can actively involve children in the era or culture they were studying through readings, writing, music, dance and art as tools for students to demonstrate their understanding.  Nothing is prescriptive in Nick’s approach; all engages the imagination and makes children’s studies come alive through their imagination and creative expression. Their learning stays with them. For example, repeatedly, I have seen children incorporate aspects of folktales and philosophy from one of Nick’s units in their own writing.  During  informal lunch time conversations with students,  it is clear that they now consider the music they learned from Nick as part of their current repertoire of music that they enjoy.


In closing, Nick is a gifted educator, musician and storyteller who has a great deal to offer to staff, children and parents.  He works well with others, is responsible and knows how to successfully tailor and implement a variety of types of programs in the schools. I highly recommend him as a consultant, musician, music teacher or artist in residence.  Please feel free to call me with any questions.





Dr. Sarita Belmont