Perhaps the most gratifying thing I have done so far this year has been Americana Music Academy’s Kids Music Camp. I spent five hours a day for five days with fifteen beautiful children– and I’m not much of a kid person. Take me to a nursing home or senior center and I feel right at home (my friends in Concordia rightly nicknamed me “Grandma” a long time ago!), but a room full of kids tends to stress me out. Still, working with Peter Lague (Americana Music Academy executive director and chief organizer of camp) and Amber to help kids explore their creativity through music, art, and movement was a powerfully exhilarating experience. Our camp kids ranged in age from five to thirteen years old. It was a broad age range, with a broad span of personalities. Some moments, I was incredibly frustrated– every child running a different direction, four kids at a time tugging on my skirt to ask a question, boys squirming and girls skirmishing, and all the while I’m trying to teach them something positive about life. Other moments, though, I saw glimpses of the kids “getting” it– a boy who created something he thought was impossible, a child strumming wildly on a ukulele while making up his own song, a girl discovering the joy of fingers on dulcimer strings, children fighting one moment and dancing peacefully together the next moment. The smiles on their faces made every frustrating moment 100% worthwhile. Something special happens when a child begins to tap into their own creativity and explore that part of them. And watching that happen, guiding them into that experience, is a beautiful gift.
Here’s a little overview of what our Kids Music Camp looked like last week:
Sing-alongs: Jenny Jenkins and Turkey in the Straw were camp favorites
Play-alongs: The “Mama Don’t Allow Band” is a sight to see– lots of homegrown percussion instruments like spoons, ice cube trays, tin cans, and washboards. They even learned to play a cup.
Folk dance: They nailed the Heel Toe Polka and attempted a bit of Irish step-dancing
Improvisational Singing: Start with a sound or very short melodic phrase and then build from there
Bucket Percussion: Who knew you could have so much fun with a 5 gallon bucket and a couple of drum sticks?
Art: Paper boxes, shaker eggs, handmade cards, and giant bubble wands– individual creativity abounds
Instrument time: Students who had an instrument brought it; other students had the choice between learning mountain dulcimer or ukulele. Every student also got to put their hands on a guitar, a hammered dulcimer, a bass, and a musical saw.
History Lessons: Each day we focused on a different group of instruments or style of folk music. We showed related videos and demonstrated connected ideas all day.
Performances: Thursday evening, the kids joined us for a special concert open to the public. Friday, they did an extra special performance just for moms and dads.
Interested in more information about this Kids’ Music Camp program? Visit www.AmericanaMusicAcademy.com/ There will be two more weeks of camp in Lawrence this year– an advanced music camp for students who have had an instrument for at least a year, and another entry-level music and art camp. We also dream of taking this camp into small communities throughout the midwest to share the joy and beauty and excitement of folk music and arts with kids who might not have a chance to experience it otherwise. To learn more about what it would take to bring a camp to your community, please call our camp director, Peter Lague, at 785-830-9640.