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John Bertles is an educator, composer and instrument-builder. For over 30 years, in 42 states and overseas his professional development workshops for teachers and artists have explored the insection of art and science. His programs can (for example) help teachers build better instruments from the simplest materials by understanding the science of sound; or combine art forms to “play” paintings of famed Bauhaus artist Paul Klee. A professional development facilitator for The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts National Touring Workshops for Teachers since 2006, he is also the founder and co-director of Bash the Trash Environmental Arts, a musical ensemble of 35+ performers nationwide using musical instruments created from reused/repurposed materials. An early advocate of STEAM and environmental arts education, he has worked tirelessly to interweave environmental issues and sustainability into his presentations. His prior work with Carnegie Hall’s Distance Learning Program meant that during the pandemic he was in high demand for virtual workshops demonstrating how to use online platforms to transform in-person educational programs into virtual experiences. He was nominated for a Grammy Award and a Drama Desk Award for on-stage instruments created from beach trash for the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit "Once on This Island”; is a recipient of Bennington College’s Visionary Leadership Award; and is a nine-time winner of the ASCAP Plus Childrens' Song-writing Award.


See a short video about John Bertles' Professional Development programs

Most Popul
ar Programs:

Building Musical Instruments from Trash:
Learn how to build a variety of simple but great-sounding musical instruments from found-object materials, explore the science behind how they work, and discover creative ways to use the instruments to enhance classroom and curricular activities. Fo
r classroom teachers and arts educators. In-person 3 or 6 hours - call for price; Virtual 1.5 or 3 hours $900/1200

The Sound of Science:
Discover STEAM and Arts Integration concepts through fun hands-on instrument-building. This workshop is a lively mix of curriculum-based science, amazing corroborative demos and videos, and simple student-created instruments that presents a model for exploring the arts and other subjects together. In-person 3 or 6 hours - call for price; Virtual 1.5 or 3 hours $900/1200

Paul Klee and Imagination:
This workshop encourages students to put their creativity and imagination to work! We’ll look first at some of the music-inspired paintings of the Bauhaus artist Paul Klee, then compose music inspired by these paintings, and perform their compositions using instruments built from reused/repurposed materials. In-person 3 or 6 hours - call for price; Virtual 1.5 or 3 hours $900/1200

Musical Tellings:
Enhancing Literacy with Soundscapes and Musical Stories - Stories are so much more fun - and fun to create - when combined with musical ideas and instruments! Discover how to create sound-effects-stories using simple noisemakers and student-built instruments; then go deeper with soundscapes and musical stories inspired by classroom texts and poems. No musical experience or expertise needed - this workshop is designed for all educators!

Other workshops available - contact me
for details

Professional Development for Arts Educators and Classroom Teachers
Composing with Children - Simple and Fun Classroom Composition
Invented and Graphic Notation - Working with Simple Notation and Listening Maps
Backwards Design for Arts Educators - Creating Holistic Arts Programs with Assessment in Mind

Skill and Career-Building Workshops - Kennedy Center Any Given Child communities take note!
The Teaching Artist’s Journey - An Introduction to Teaching Artistry
Transforming Through Performing: Enhancing Performer Skills for Young Audiences
Backwards Design for Arts Educators - Creating Holistic Arts Programs with Assessment in Mind
Arts Entrepreneurship - Building a Career in Arts Education and Performance for Young Audiences


I specialize in building musical instruments out of reused/repurposed materials (what you would call “trash” and I would call a “resource"), and then making connections to science, the environment, literacy, and cultural studies. 

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My instruments have performed in Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Smithsonian Institution among many other venues, and I was nominated for a a Grammy Award and a Drama Desk Award for the onstage instruments made from beach trash that I built for the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit “Once on This Island”.

I’ve been a Kennedy Center Arts-in-Education facilitator since 2006 presenting hundreds of live and virtual programs in over 40 states and overseas. As an Arts Integration specialist, my programs focus on connections between the arts and other subjects. Building musical instruments from found objects is a great STEAM exercise, and each and every one of my programs contains lots of useful information about incorporating environmental issues into everyday classroom life.