Arts Education Artist Page

Gregory Acker


Louisville, Ky.


Gregory Acker is a community artist from Louisville, Kentucky. Since 1990, he has provided community-building world music workshops and related arts activities for groups of all ages and abilities. A musician, instrument builder, and arts educator, he works with the Kentucky Arts Council, VSA Kentucky (arts for students with disabilities), the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, numerous churches, community groups and juvenile treatment centers. He also serves as programming artist for the Arts Council of Louisville.   

As a performer and composer, Mr. Acker works with the Afrophysicists—an Afrobeat (electric African) band; with Pati Kele—a traditional West African drum and dance ensemble; and with Ut Gret—a world music and progressive jazz ensemble.

Mr. Acker holds a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology and is a former Peace Corps volunteer in two countries in Africa, with extended study experience in India and Indonesia. He teaches college-level world music courses and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, South Arts, Greater Louisville Fund for the Arts, and the City of Louisville. Selected by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation as “one of America’s most skilled and experienced community artists,” he is also an APPEX fellow (Asia-Pacific Performance Exchange, UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance), and has received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. 

Potential Residency Project


Residencies may be adapted to suit all ages, and the artist will work with teacher applicants to craft a project that meets the needs of the students and the school community.  All residency activities reinforce core content with regard to general music competence and culture-based studies, with related activities reinforcing language arts, science, math and wellness. Students learn through abundant hands-on activities, occasional short audio and video clips, examples of related art forms, and frequent opportunities to reflect and respond to their learning experiences. Residencies often conclude with student performances, and the artist can provide documentation (photos and edited audio CDs, video). Pre- and post-residency activities are provided in a residency hand-out. If desired, the artist can offer an after-school professional development workshop on culture-based and/or accessible group music-making strategies for teachers and interested parents.

·         KUVEBO! A West African Drum and Dance Celebration

This residency introduces the music, dance, and related art forms of West Africa. Mr. Acker, a former Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, will introduce West African music and related art forms, which can build or strengthen a group’s sense of community. Students begin by reviewing their knowledge of the elements of music and their awareness about Africa. They learn how to play the various West African percussion instruments (bells, shakers, and different sized drums), as they develop traditional rhythm-based compositions and sing songs in West African languages (Ewe and Ashanti ethnic groups in Togo and Ghana, among others). They also develop group dances inspired by the social dance movements that accompany West African drumming, and explore related visual arts forms (fabric design, masks). The project's culminating activity is a student performance for parents, teachers, community members, and other students. Collaborating teachers for this project can include regular classroom teachers, music, art, physical education (dance-movement), arts and humanities teachers, and special education teachers.


During this residency, students will create and perform a shadow-puppet show with musical accompaniment on homemade gamelan instruments (Indonesian-style percussion ensemble). Students will compose their own music, write accompanying song lyrics, build and decorate their own shadow puppet, and develop dramatic dialogue and movement for their puppets. As a result, students will learn not only about the arts and culture of Indonesia, but will utilize collaborative creative processes to insure maximum participation.

The multiple art forms employed in this residency encourage students to try numerous avenues of creative expression. Core content for each of these art forms is embedded in the learning process. Student projects may focus on a theme chosen by the group or one suggested by the teacher (an Owensboro class wrote music about a tornado they had survived; others have included advice to youth on how to stay out of trouble, a vernacular version of Hamlet, a shadow Jack Tale, Kentucky flora and fauna and history, short stories from Asia, a project about dreams, and even a shadow-show about hairstyles).

Gamelan musical instruments do not require reading Western-style music, and are accessible to students with mobility, hearing, vision, or mental disabilities. Some elements of the science of sound residency are included as part of this project.

HOMEMADE MUSIC: The Science of Sound

What fills the air almost all of the time but we can rarely see? Sound, of course! This residency explores the science behind the sounds we hear all the time, invites students to create their own musical instruments out of readily-available materials, and provides a world-music framework for understanding music across many cultures.

Using musical instruments from many cultures as springboards for learning, students will learn by doing: free improvisation and student-conducted orchestras encourage everyone to join in and put all the musical elements to use. Examining the design and materials of instruments helps in the teaching of music history, the families of instruments and acoustical physics. Prepared with the basics about vibration, students build their own instruments out of recycled materials and develop small-group compositions for recording and performance.

Cross-cultural approaches to playing music using core content examples are introduced and explored as ways we organize human sound making. Student-generated music can be used as accompaniment for storytelling/drama, dance  or with visual art. Critical response techniques are introduced to facilitate improvement in a "safe" climate of artistic respect.