DEBORAH SKYDELL PASTERNACK, Creative Director
After getting her degree in English at Haverford College, Deborah decided to pursue what she truly loved--choral singing and conducting! She went on to get a Master's in choral music from the University of Illinois. She then decided to move to New York City, where she accepted a job teaching grades 2-4 general music and chorus at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn. This way, she thought, she could earn a real salary and benefits while pursuing her choral conducting in the evenings.
Armed with the arrogan--er, confidence that came from a masters' in music, Deborah took Level 1 Kodály and Level 1 Orff courses the summer before her teaching job and felt fully prepared to teach 2nd-4th graders. Then, she encountered actual children. It turned out that handling a day of six 45-minute music classes for kids was more difficult than anything she had ever done. When Deborah watched excellent classroom teachers and general music teachers, their teaching seemed effortless. Their classes were engaging and purposeful, and the kids left the classes happy. Deborah decided that she would figure out how to be that kind of teacher!
After a year of struggling to understand the kind of activities the children truly loved, and the kind of classroom management that really works, she started to find a glimmer of hope. She began to understand why some things worked and others didn't, and how to fix mistakes she had been making. Teaching started to be fun! She loved the kids, and they loved her back! Her previous interest in conducting adult choirs was replaced by her new passion--teaching general music to children. She returned the next year armed with only a few favorite songs and games from the year before, determined to find more. From that time forward, she learned hundreds, possibly thousands, of songs, games, activities, and management strategies for the music classroom. Deborah went on to get fully certified as a Kodály specialist, and also furthered her training in Orff and Dalcroze. She became the head of the music department at Tuxedo Park School, teaching grades PreK-9. A few years later, she went on to teach lower school music at Columbia Grammar and Prep School on New York's Upper West Side.
As she became an experienced teacher, Deborah began to create her own games, arrangements, materials and strategies. Over the years, she began sharing her work with other teachers, both informally and through lectures and workshops. Their response was so positive that Deborah began thinking about how to share her ever expanding collection in a way that would not only give teachers sheet music and descriptions of games, but all the successful approaches she had discovered in order to teach them effectively. She also wanted to share the potential pitfalls of any activity! Writing it all down in a book didn't make sense--she wanted to be able to show what she meant. A website was the perfect platform. In that way, The Singing Classroom was born. Deborah met Gregg in 2008, and the two were married in 2009. They moved to her hometown of Chicago in 2011, where they run The Singing Classroom together.
GREGG PASTERNACK, Executive Director
Gregg grew up in Brooklyn and attended Vassar College, where he majored in Economics. Despite the fact that all of his professors were confirmed Marxists, they somehow sparked a capitalistic streak in Gregg. He moved to Boston and started the Ageless Wonder Temporary Service, a temp agency dedicated to helping workers over the age of 50 find jobs. Gregg later sold the company and moved back to New York to help run his family's business, which was a paint and hardware store. Gregg handled commercial sales and started a website for the store. Soon, online sales accounted for more than 70% of the total revenue of the business.
In 2008, Gregg decided that it was time for a career change and decided to help other small businesses grow their presence on the internet. He started a consulting company in online sales and marketing. At the same time, he met Deborah, who was trying to create The Singing Classroom and thought that "online marketing" meant "shopping online at my favorite markets." Once she understood that it meant promoting online businesses like the Singing Classroom, she immediately married him.
Besides being The Singing Classroom's Executive Director, Technical Liaison, Marketing and Social Media Guru, and Camera Man, Gregg is also an accomplished playwright. He has had seventeen plays produced Off-Broadway! He is also a long-suffering New York Mets fan, so be gentle on the guy.