Grant brings folk music workshops to Escanaba students

South Central UP

ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) awarded Escanaba Area Public Schools  $6,450.00 from the Arts in Education Residency grant.

Lower elementary school students will work with children’s music experts Tom Pease and Stuart Stotts to write folk songs. According to Lorne Watson, music teacher, the artists will write the melody and students will tell their story through lyrics.

“That’s their forte is writing and creating and teaching old folk songs from around the world but their special program that they present is that, they come in and write a song with the kids so this residency is something it’s what they’ve done before in the past,” said Watson.

The guidelines for the Arts in Education Residency grant specify that the artists must work with the students directly as opposed to a large assembly. Watson says the grant funding allows the artists to be paid for their time of planning and to visit each class individually.

“This amount of funding that I received allows it to be a meaningful and long-lasting experience for the kids,” said Watson.

The artists will visit Escanaba Public Schools between 24 and 30 times in classrooms of students preschool through second grade. Watson says they hope to do the workshops in March.

“We’ll use the same kind of melody and song structure for like the second grade and then the first grade will have that and so then usually the idea is you get all the second graders come together and sing their song but we’ll see how much we can all get together,” said Watson.

COVID-19 may cause them to have separate performances from each classroom to limit the number of people coming together. Watson says depending on what March looks like, they may try to postpone the workshops to May or later.

“To do it in person would be a lot more effective than to do it online,” said Watson.

The program will teach about song-writing and working together as a group. Watson says the sense of community songwriting as a group will teach is the biggest learning outcome.

“We all have to work together and write a song together and then the kids tell their story usually about their community, you know their daily lives and what they do,” said Watson.

Students will also learn about verse, phrasing, how to write a chorus, how to work within a melody and work on rhythms according to Watson.

“Where it crosses over and makes it really cool is that it works on their literacy too, it’s like they try and say something it’s like well that’s not really how a sentence works or maybe you could use this word instead of that word,” said Watson. “So they’re going to learn some language and especially in music with the early elementary it’s just doing all that rhythm helps them speak and read and write and just get better with literacy with music.”

Watson has received the grant as an artist before but says this time feels different because he will be bringing the artists into his classroom.

“I’m going to learn probably more than the kids,” said Watson. “Because, you know, these guys are a little bit older than me and they have a lot more experience and they have this really fine-tuned program and they’re going to bring it in and I’m going to watch them do it 25 times.”

The artists will be coming from Wisconsin to work with Escanaba students. Watson says it’s exciting that they are able to bring world-class artists into the community.

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