Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 21, 2013

Playing America’s music at McKell Elementary

SOUTH SHORE — Children filed into the gym at McKell Elementary School to the sounds of the jazz standard “Fly Me to the Moon” and almost immediately started tapping their feet.

When Wheelersburg jazz musician Gary Billups finished the piece they burst into spontaneous applause, and showed the same approbation for each tune he played.

“I like the way it sounds,” said fifth-grader Madisen Conley, searching for just the right term. “It sounds ... vibrant.”

“It’s very lifelike. It sounds more real than on the radio,” said Adam LeMaster, also a fifth-grader.

Many in the audience of fourth- and fifth-graders were hearing jazz for the first time, and certainly few, if any, had had the pleasure of a live jazz performance. Billups, an artist in residence this week at McKell, made sure the children learned the rudiments of America’s indigenous musical genre, and played more standards on keyboards, clarinet, tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone.

“Children seldom get a chance to hear jazz. It’s hard to find it on the radio,” said Billups, a professional musician and retired music teacher.

He made sure to share a wide range of jazz styles, from Scott Joplin’s ragtime tunes to Dixieland to blues, and introduced them to the improvisational essence of the form on several pieces. “What makes jazz fun is improvisation. You’re a composer on the spot. When you improvise you can play how you feel. If you feel happy you can play happy. If you feel sad you play sad.

McKell music teacher David Bare brought Billups to school through an Area Education Grant mainly to broaden children’s musical horizons.

Besides an introduction to the genre, Bare wanted the children to experience a live performance. “Kids today experience music mostly through headphones. There’s no connection. Music should have a personal connection between listeners and musicians,” he said.

The children will write essays on their listening experience in their classroom journals, he said. Teachers also will seek to connect the experience with lessons in other subjects.

Most important, the introduction may lead to further personal exploration of jazz. “We spark things at school and hope something catches on fire,” Bare said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • News in brief, 07/31/14

    About 450 marijuana plants were confiscated during an eradication effort in Lawrence County on Tuesday.

    July 30, 2014

  • 0731facelift1.JPG Painters finishing up work at ACTC

    When Ashland Community and Technical College students return to campus Aug. 18, they will find fresh paint, clean windows and pressure-washed brickwork on the college’s original building on College Drive.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Night Moves on tap for First Friday

    A chance to enjoy an evening run through the streets of Ashland will be among the things to do during the First Friday ArtWalk and Downtown Live for August from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

    July 30, 2014

  • Fairview school district being investigated

    State education investigators were scheduled to arrive in the Fairview school district this morning to interview school officials.

    July 30, 2014

  • Advisory committee on landfill to meet

    Members of the county’s new advisory committee regarding Big Run Landfill enforcement are encouraged to attend the group’s first meeting next week.
    Committee facilitator Mike Clevenger of Cannonsburg said the panel will meet the first Monday of each month, starting next week. For now, all meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Boyd County Community Center.

    July 30, 2014

  • Highway dedicated in Morehead man’s name

    During Wednesday morning’s highway dedication ceremony for late airman Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, the man was honored as a Kentucky hero for dedicating his life to the U.S. Air Force until his untimely death last year.

    July 30, 2014

  • Stumbo questions Noah’s Ark incentives, backs off on expanded gambling

    Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo on Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of state incentives for a Noah’s Ark tourist attraction in Grant County.

    July 30, 2014

  • Night Moves for First Friday

    A chance to enjoy an evening run through the streets of Ashland will be among the things to do during the First Friday ArtWalk and Downtown Live for August in downtown Ashland from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

    July 30, 2014

  • ‘Arts in the Vines’ will be in conjunction with U.S. 60 Yard Sale

    Offering a different taste of life in Carter County, the owners of RockSprings Winery are inviting locals and visitors to the U.S. 60 Yard Sale to spend some time in their vineyards during the first “Arts in the Vines” from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.

    July 30, 2014

  • Grimes zeroes in on women’s issues with latest ad

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is out with a third television ad posing questions from Grimes’ supporters to Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

    July 30, 2014