THE MAGIC OF MUSIC CLASS

July 11, 2008 11:00 pm

By Scott Graves

Pilot staff writer

For the past three weeks, my wife and I have taught a music and rhythm class during the Brookings Summer Recreation Program. It's the first time I've ever taught a class, let alone taught children.

It was a lot of work, but all the planning, preparation and stressing out paid off when I saw the huge smile on a girl's face as she drummed a steady rhythm on the djembe drum. It happened again when I saw a boy's face light up as a visiting musician played one of his favorite country songs. And again as I watched a group of four determined children trying to play their first guitar chord.

None of these magical music moments – and many more – would have happened without my wife, our volunteer assistants and the local musicians who took time out of their busy schedules to perform and answer the students' questions.

Among the highlights of the music class was a visit from Mombo Hernadez, a professional percussionist who lives over the border in Del Norte County.

Mombo (yes, that's his real name) was the first musician I asked to visit my class, and he accepted immediately. His visit was magical, taking the level of entertainment and teaching to a fever pitch as he led students in several drumming activities. He also dazzled the class, and its teachers, with his wide array of world music percussion.

Next was Brookings artist and musician Horst Wolf, who played jazz on his portable keyboard. He was joined at times by Brookings teenager Stephen Rushton, who played a few rock riffs on his electric guitar.

On July 3, Brookings multi-instrumentalist Carl Rovainen and his merry band of musicians, called the Boondock Band, delighted the students with rousing renditions of patriotic folk songs. The students grabbed percussion instruments and played along.

My father-in-law, Jim Speas, delighted the kids with a show-and-tell of his many homemade instruments, including a strum stick, canjo (a banjo made from a cookie tin), several PVC pipe recorders and his one-of-a-kind stand-up bass.

The next guests was the fledgling acoustic folk/rock quartet Freeflight, who played a collection of cover and original songs. The members appeared to have as much fun as the students.

The acoustic folk duo Lon Goddard and Aura Wright performed a variety of covers, including the delightful rendition of country/bluegrass song "The Fox" and Randy Newman's "Tickle Me."

Last, but not least, was guest musician Marshall Thompson, who played a mix of blues, rock, country and folk on his guitar. Surprisingly, many of the students were Beatles fans and requested several of the band's songs, which Marshall played.

Toward the end of Marshall's performance, as had happened during previous musical performances, students from other classrooms filed in to listen. At one point, we had more than 50 students packed in the room, swaying and clapping to the music.

Pure magic!

Overall, the music class was a rousing success. While my wife and I got the ball rolling, it was the musicians, volunteers and the students who scored the goal.

Thank you, each and every one of you.