Creative, Comprehensive & Customized
Education for Musicians

From the Founding Generation of The Walden School

Avivo is dedicated to cultivating creativity through music. We are a community of musicians devoted to the art of teaching drawn together by the legacy of educator Grace Newsom Cushman. We believe in teaching music as a language that is available to all as a means for personal creative expression.

Our Approach


Our approach to music education is full of life. It is playful and active, integrated and embodied. We help teachers and learners of all ages embrace music as a living language available to them for personal creative expression. We help educators creatively infuse their teaching with new life. We help students transform and enliven their relationship to music. We do all this by promoting a mother-tongue approach to music education in which students discover music vocabulary for themselves, engage in artful drills and games that build aural, intellectual, and creative facility, and finally create original music through improvisation and composition. This process informs everything we teach – from traditional instrument study, to theory & aural skills, to electronic music and jazz. It is a process of teaching and learning with life.


Avivo Teaching Artists have designed, developed, and implemented proven curricula in the areas of musicianship, computer musicianship, jazz musicianship, theory, solfège & rhythms, choral studies, improvisation, composition, and private instrumental study. Our curricula are conceived organically, approached thoroughly and designed to reinforce concepts from a plurality of perspectives. We are passionate about helping musicians of any age, from any background, and with any amount of prior training develop stronger, more versatile skills – skills that will empower and enrich their creative expression.


Avivo Teaching Artists will work with you to create a workshop, a course, or an interactive lecture. We will help you design creative curricula or develop a mentoring relationship that will empower you to make the changes you desire. We will help you identify what you do well and what you want more of in your unique teaching and learning environment. We will nurture your creativity and offer new ways to enrich and enliven your teaching. We will work with you to fulfill your unique needs for professional development.


What We Offer

Workshops, Courses & Curricula

Avivo Teaching Artists will work with you to design and implement professional development workshops from two or three hours in length to a full day, a weekend, or a full week. We are available as Curriculum Development Consultants or to serve as Guest Lecturers or Guest Faculty in teacher education programs. We are eager to help you and your program honor your dreams, live and move creatively into your goals, and more effectively meet the needs of your students. Learn More.


Avivo Teaching Artists are experienced in working in one-on-one mentoring relationships – both in person and through expertly crafted distance learning arrangements. We can help you learn and master skills that will allow you to change your teaching in powerful ways. We can guide you in practicing and experiencing your own creativity. We can help you develop and implement new curricula. We are excited to help you bring your particular creative project to life. Learn More.

Avivo Teaching Artists have authored several texts:

The Walden School Musicianship Book: A Manual for Teachers
(Tom Lopez, Patricia Plude, Pamela Quist, Leo Wanenchak)

The Walden School Musicianship Book: Solfège & Rhythms Supplements I & II
(Patricia Plude, Leo Wanenchak)

Jazz Musicianship: A Guidebook for Integrated Learning
(Bill Stevens)

Read a Review of The Walden School Musicianship Book


Avivo TTI 2016 was featured in the National Federation of Music Clubs Magazine.

Avivo teaching artist Bill Stevens has recently released his first album, “A Blues by Any Other Name” by The Bill Stevens Trio. The recording is from a live concert at Santa Clara University and features all original compositions. Available for preview and purchase on iTunes and Amazon.

Avivo’s 2016 Summer Teacher Training Institute, in partnership with Junior Composers, was a great success! Seventeen creative musicians gathered in Minneapolis to explore Creative Tension & Transformational Learning.

Read about TTI 2016!

Over the course of many years, I have come to depend on the team of teachers at Avivo; they define the practice of master teaching for me. They empower and encourage students’ learning and musicianship through simple and easily adapted methods.

Randall Davidson
General Director, Junior Composers Institute
Administrative Director, National Lutheran Choir

Avivo’s approach reflects all the best in pedagogy of any sort: active learning, multi-modal activities, thoughtful sequencing, and a brilliant – and in my experience unique – combination of rigor and creativity.

Susan Key, Ph.D.
Program Director
SF Symphony Keeping Score Education, 2005 - 2011

[With Avivo’s approach] musicians become teachers, not only in schools and communities, but also as ensemble members, chamber musicians, and solo performers. Avivo’s mission has aligned itself with national and state music standards, while engaging students in hands-on, constructivist learning.

Dr. Jody Kerchner
Professor & Director of Music Education
Oberlin Conservatory of Music

The Avivo approach to music pedagogy and improvisation is completely effective and thoroughly indispensable for the contemporary educator and performer of music.

David Dueñas
Founding Member
San Francisco Guitar Quartet, 1997 – 2012

Avivo teaching artists are fresh and fluent musicians, brilliant and masterful teachers. Their love of creative teaching and their boundless dedication to their craft has helped launch – and will continue to help launch – the careers of many lucky young musicians and teachers!

Carol Thomas Downing
Founder & Director
Virginia Children’s Chorus, Norfolk, VA

Avivo is a huge resource for music teachers and education organizations.

Adam Johnston
Incredible Children's Art Network Music Program
Santa Barbara, 2010 –2013