The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the talents, humor, energies and wisdom of some of our amazing people. Today we’ll meet the Jody, Alan, Theo and Elliott Ferber. Theo is a new Villa di Maria student this year; he is in his second year in the Checkerboard Lower Elementary classroom.
Villa di Maria: Tell us a bit about you and your family. Where are you from and what brought you to St. Louis?
The Ferbers: Alan was born and raised in the Bay Area of California, and went to UCLA. Jody lived in MO, IN, OH, and NC as a child—and notably, in Kirkwood from age 7-11! Jody went to the Cleveland Institute of Music, UC Berkeley, and Manhattan School of Music for undergrad & grad degrees. We met while playing a chamber music rehearsal at the Musicians’ Union in Manhattan in 2004, and lived in the NYC area until summer 2020. After we had our second son Elliott in the fall of 2018, we knew we were ready to live in a smaller city, and began to weigh options.
We chose St. Louis because Jody’s parents live in Labadie, just west of the city, and we were attracted to the high level of cultural offerings here in a midsize city. A strange coincidence: as a child, Jody moved to St. Louis in the summer before 2nd grade, and now 34 years later, our oldest son Theo moved to St. Louis the summer before his 2nd year!
VdM: How did you find Villa di Maria?
The Ferbers: Early in the summer, when we decided to move to St. Louis, we did lots of research on different school options and drove by many different schools. Theo (a 2nd year in Checkerboard) was with us when we first drove by VdM. As soon as he saw the playground made of cedar structures, he exclaimed, “I want to go to school here!!” We set up a meeting with Laura, and were impressed by the large outdoor campus with woods and garden, and inspiring indoor facility. The clear priorities of hands-on, tactile, and experiential learning, as well as appropriate outdoor recreational time, were important to us.
Laura’s anecdotes about various VdM students and their interests/pursuits helped us know that VdM would be a great fit for Theo. In NY, Theo went to a traditional public school for K and 1st grade. We could tell half-way through 1st grade that we needed to find a learning environment where his enthusiasm and creativity for hands-on learning would be embraced and supported as part of his school day. We started to explore Montessori schools last winter in NY, and when we decided to move to St. Louis, we were really glad see options here, as well. We feel so lucky to have found VdM, and after only a few months, we see Theo’s enthusiasm for learning reignited! Our whole family is enjoying the process of learning all about Montessori, and both Mom and Dad are jealous and want to be Montessori students!
VdM: Tell us about your backgrounds, what do you and your spouse do career-wise?
The Ferbers: We are both professional musicians. Alan is a trombonist, composer, and arranger, working in jazz and commercial music, and is adjunct jazz faculty at NYU Steinhardt School. He writes music for his own Big Band and Jazz Nonet, as well as arrangements and original commissions for other artists and ensembles. Many recent projects have been for vocalists with big band. He co-teaches the BMI Workshop, a weekly coaching for professional musicians to improve their big band composing.
Jody is a cellist, composer, and vocalist. Although she is classically trained, she plays a lot of different styles of music and often plays with jazz artists. Alan and Jody record regularly for albums, films, and commercials, and have both released a number of albums as composer/bandleader. You can hear Alan’s music at www.alanferber.com and Jody’s music at www.jodyredhageferber.com. Jody also teaches private cello lessons and leads the Jitterbugs: Jazz for Kids online classes. Since 2017, Alan and Jody have performed chamber jazz as the Ferber Duo, and had a recent livestream concert at the World Chess Hall of Fame here in St. Louis. (Alan’s identical twin brother Mark joined us for that concert on drums—so this time, Ferber Trio!)
VdM: Do you have any hobbies? How do you and your family enjoy spending your spare time?
The Ferbers: We love to hike, camp, bike, kayak, and make nature art together (we always have a “collections” box of cool looking natural materials we’ve found). We love to travel, so when one parent has a concert in a great location, we try to bring the family along, when possible. Also, Theo plays the drums, so we often play “Family Band.” (Elliott, age 2, is our dancer!). Theo went through a huge Beatles phase in 1st grade, so we learned “Come Together,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “Hey Jude” as Family Band. As anyone in Checkerboard knows, Theo loves baseball, so we often go to our local Fox Park and play at the baseball diamond. Theo is a natural gardener and is constantly starting plants from seed—so although Mom and Dad don’t have green thumbs, Theo is encouraging us to learn and stretch. This year Theo planted dozens of seeds in pots during the 2nd week of COVID lockdown and we had our first garden with actually edible proceeds this summer: kale, chard, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, beans, and carrots. Yum!
VdM: What are you most looking forward to this school year?
The Ferbers: We are so excited for Theo to learn in the Montessori style, and for him to have the opportunity to make lot of new friends. We are also enjoying spending time with the grandparents, with whom we’ve been in a “bubble” since June. It’s been really special for the boys to see them often, something we never could do before when we lived so far apart! Although it’s a challenging time to get to know a new city, we’re really enjoying take-out from SO many yummy St. Louis restaurants, and have tried to catch live outdoor music when possible!
VdM: A question for Theo – What is one of your favorite things to do at school, so far?
Theo: Grammer Box III, because of the colored water, and you get to use the science stuff to make the colored water. It is SO FUN!
Thank you Jody, Alan, Theo and Elliott! Welcome to Villa di Maria—we are thrilled to have you in the VdM community.
Photos courtesy of the Ferber family.