to perform at Folk Festival
history was highlighted
in songs by schoolchildren
(May 2009) While most children love to listen
to their favorite tunes, they would certainly avoid history class if
they could. In a unique way to teach the areas history, schoolchildren
from Jefferson County, Ind., teamed with a professional songwriter to
write nine original songs.
Youthsongs of Jefferson County, Madison and Hanover, Ind., will perform
their works at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Ohio River Valley
Folk Festival. The festival, which features a variety of folk musicians,
artisans and storytellers, will be held along the riverfront at Madison
Bicentennial Park on May 15-16.
We are always looking at ways to involve our youth in the community
event, said John Walburn, festival chairperson. We felt
this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the areas
young and talented musicians.
The project evolved last year when Alva and Drusilla Tripps Madison
Performing Arts Inc. decided to organize a program for area schoolchildren.
More than 300 students from Lydia Middleton, Pope John XXIII and Southwestern
Elementary Schools helped write and then perform nine songs that highlight
the history of the area.
Canadian singer-songwriter Katherine Wheatley was hired to help lead
the students in the project. She developed a program for schools across
North America in which she helps the students write songs about their
local history. Prior to the lyric writing, local historians are brought
in to the schools for presentations about certain aspects of the areas
history. She will return to Madison to perform with the students at
the folk festival.
will perform at the
Ohio River Valley Folk Festival with area
schoolchildren. The Youthsongs Project
will take the stage
at 3:30 p.m. on Sat.
In Jefferson County, historians Jae Breitweiser, Ron Grimes,
John Staicer and Heidi Krugel were brought into the classes for presentations.
It was a fun, fun project, said Wheatley during an April telephone
interview. Each class was very different, and we all learned that
the area has a very rich and interesting history.
She said that during the creative process, students are encouraged to
listen to and respect each others ideas as well as offer their
own ideas. What they may find is that their idea didnt end up
in the song but it led to an idea that led to another idea that ended
up in the song.
In this way, the kids learn that respect for each other and courage
are key components of collaboration and creativity, she said.
Even the shy kids got involved after I encouraged them.
Wheatley spent several hours with each class, and once the students
decided upon the topic, they did point of view exercises
that helped them imagine being that person, such as Freeman Anderson,
a slave who was also a conductor for the Underground Railroad in the
Then, with guitar in hand, Wheatley helped the students pick the notes
to go along with the lyrics. After picking eight or nine notes,
the song simply repeats and varies those notes, she explained.
This process also helps demystify the music process for the students,
and the kids feel a sense of accomplishment and boost to confidence
When all of the classes finished their compositions, they compiled a
CD. Now, many of those students have been invited back to perform their
songs at the folk festival.
Lynn Maricle, a retired Madison Consolidated High School music teacher,
was the liaison that coordinated Wheatleys visits to the classrooms.
The program was absolutely fantastic, Maricle said. The
songs the students composed were really good and need to be out in the
public. She said the project was inspired by the desire of the
schools to put together a music project for the Madison Bicentennial
These songs need to become the fabric of Madison, she said.
I can just hear Saddle-tree, Saddletree being played
over and over at Historic Madi-son Inc.s Saddletree Mu-seum.
She hopes Wheatley will be asked to come back to do more projects with
the area schools.
Tony Schroe-der, who works in student services at E.O. Muncie Elemen-tary
and a member of the folk festival organizing committee, coordinated
the effort to bring the Youthsongs project and the folk festival together.
I think the audience is in for a real treat with the Youthsongs
performance, he said. The students and Wheatley did a phenomenal
For more information about Katherine Wheatley,
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