About Us

The SongWorks Educators Association (SWEA) is a community of educators who engage learners through SongWorks, a principles-based approach to teaching music.

SongWorks principles and practices offer teachers both grounding and flexibility in making purposeful, caring choices in their interactions with people and music. Songs are the foundation for study and learning experiences that nurture playfulness, responsiveness, and musicality.

Through developing and sharing ideas centered around the SongWorks teaching approach, SWEA members support each other in growing as educators and learners.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of the SongWorks Educators Association is to nurture the vitality of teachers and learners as we:

  • Promote playful teaching and vibrant learning through the use of SongWorks principles and practices.
  • Inspire the inherent playfulness, responsiveness, and musicality in teachers and learners.
  • Embrace a community of life-long learners who grow together with care, respect, and grace.

Our Principles of Teaching and Learning (SongWorks I)

  1. Students have the right to be treated with respect and dignity for their ideas, skills and stages of development. (Video)
  2. Students deserve an engaging learning environment in which they feel safe enough to demonstrate freely their understandings and skills through various types of participation.
  3. Student learning is the responsibility of both teachers and students.
  4. Learning is holistic and constructive.
  5. A teachers attitudes, behaviors, and methodologies should be compatible.
  6. Accurate and constructive feedback helps students become independent learners.
  7. Quality of life is enriched through music and singing.

Bennett P. D. & Bartholomew, D. R. (1997). SongWorks I: Singing in the Education of Children. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Our Principles of Teaching and Learning Music (SongWorks II) (Video)

  1. The major goal of music study is the development of a responsiveness to music.
  2. The musicality that is critical to music performance is just as important in music study.
  3. The fundamental skill in music behavior is listening.
  4. The way music sounds rather than how it looks guides the selection and presentation of patterns for study.
  5. A distinction exists between skills and concepts that are musically easy and those that are musically simple. (Video)
  6. Song provides direct involvement for making music and studying sound relationships.

Bennett P. D. & Bartholomew, D. R. (1999). SongWorks II: Singing from Sound to Symbol. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Origins of the SongWorks Educators Association

Following a 20-year association with Mary Helen Richards’ work, Education Through Music, SongWorks was incorporated in 1992. “English EdVentures” of Japan became affiliated with SongWorks in 1995. We believe that Mary Helen’s enthusiasm for teaching and playing with children, her compassionate approach, and her attention to musicality are evident throughout the work of SongWorks.

For more about the history of SWEA, see:

More about SongWorks and SongWorks Practices

During SongWorks teaching, learning often takes place in the form of singing games. The games provide the context for student immersion in social interaction, movement, language, thinking, listening, and music. Singing activities are designed to be engaging and enjoyable, and at the same time they provide groundwork for serious progressive study and skill development. Challenges that elicit maximum responsiveness from students are constructed by the teacher and provided through the singing games. (Video)



President: Rachel Gunderson (AZ)

President-Elect: Anna Shelow (OH)

Past President: Jake Harkins (VA)

Secretary: Max Mellman (NJ)

Treasurer: Lisa Schoen (MN)

Registrar: Alice Nordquist (MD)


Director-at-Large: Natalie Neugent (TX)

Director-at-Large: Katie Herzberg (IL)

Director for USA: Alison Carter (CO)

Director for Canada: Bethany Beaudry (MB)

Director for Japan: Eiko Oyoko (Nara)


2025 Conference Chair: Vacant

Nominations Chair: Jake Harkins (VA)

Academic Coordinator: Taryn Raschdorf (VA)

Grants/Scholarships Administrator: Emilee Knell (UT)

Emerging Pioneers Coordinator: Sammi Smith (PA)

Visiting Scholar Coordinator: Vicky Suárez (TX)

Website Chair: Nathan Daniels (MD)

Networking Chair: Natalie Neugent (TX)

Newsletter Editor: Kylie Decker (UT)

Historian Chair: Jake Harkins (VA)

SongWorks Certification Executive Director: Betty Phillips (OR)

Past Presidents

Jake Harkins (2023-2024)

Nan Fitzpatrick (2022-2023)

Aimee Newman (2021-2022)

Lisa Schoen (2020-2021)

Vicky Suárez (2019-2020)

Max Mellman (2018-2019)

Taryn Raschdorf (2017-2018)

Ruthanne Parker (2016-2017)

Samantha Smith (2015-2016)

Leah Steffen (2014-2015)

Terolle Turnham (2013-2014)

Judy Fjell (2012-2013)

Marilyn Winter (2010-2012)

Deb Eikenbary (2008-2010)

Mary Springer (2006-2008)

Tony Williamson (2004-2006)

Sandy Murray (2002-2004)

Marty Stover (2000-2002)

Terolle Turnham (1998-2000)

Anna Langness (1996-1998)

Judy Suvak (1994-1996)

Sandra Verschoot (1992-1994)