AT THE HELM: THE MAGIC OF MUSIC

May 24, 2008 12:00 am

By Scott Graves

Pilot staff writer

It was a Saturday evening, the end of another successful Second Saturday Art Walk in Brookings. I was packing my percussion instruments into the truck when a boy, about 8 or 9 years old, approached me. I recognized him and his mother – they had stopped to watch me and guitarist Marshall Thompson perform inside one of the local galleries.

"You sounded really cool," the boy said, somewhat bashfully. "I wish I could play drums like that."

My reaction was mixed. I was flattered, for sure, but I had to stifle a laugh – I'm not that good; I've only been practicing hand drums for a year or so.

I smiled and said, "Thanks."

Then I asked if he played any instruments. "No."

Would he like to? "Yes."

"Well," I said. "You're just the right age to start playing an instrument."

The boy beamed. His mother stepped forward and told her son, "Maybe we'll check into it." She thanked me and the two moved on.

I hope the boy's mother followed through on her promise – the boy had caught the music bug and it would be a shame to waste it.

It was that boy I was thinking of when I volunteered to teach a rhythm and drum class during the city's recreation program this summer. This is my first teaching gig. I'm nervous and excited. It should be lots of fun.

My class is one of many being offered during the eight-week course scheduled June 23 through August 15. Classes, many of which will focus on the arts, will be held Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Kalmiopsis Elementary School. The program is open to all children with a 97415 zip code entering first grade through sixth grade this fall.

Registration is June 3. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, call Carolyn Milliman at (541) 412-7479. To sign up to teach a class, call Alicia Lunde at (541) 661-0568.

When I heard a small group of people were seeking volunteers to help resurrect the summer recreation program this year, I jumped at the opportunity. So did my wife, Jacque, who will be teaching group guitar lessons.

Music is very important to us, and we're convinced that it can really make a difference in a person's life. Numerous studies have shown how certain types of music – from Mozart to Metallica – can help children do better in school and deal with life's challenges. It can also bring hope to those dealing with mental illness and disease.

Yet, we continue to see more public school music programs disappear – mostly the victims of budget cuts. Brookings-Harbor School District is fortunate that it still has some middle and high school arts programs.

I feel strongly about exposing children, and adults, to the power of music. It doesn't matter what instrument one plays. One doesn't even need an instrument – anyone can sing, dance or clap along with music. All children are musicians. All it takes is some exposure to music to discover that, and there are plenty of opportunities here in Curry County.

The Pilot's Bulletin Board regularly lists a number of free or low-cost musical events. For example, local bands will be performing a variety of musical styles today and Sunday during the Azalea Festival (near Washington Mutual Bank). A hootenany and open mike are scheduled monthly, and the American Music Festival's Sunday concerts at Azalea Park begin June 8.

I urge everyone to take advantage of the growing number of music opportunities in our community. And I encourage musicians to take a moment to share their love of music with a child. It could make all the difference in their world.

It has in mine.