School's hoedown gives kids a chance to strut their stuff

THE CAFETORIUM at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge, MD was alive with the sound of a good old-fashioned hoedown. Schoolchildren and parents swung their partners and do-si-doed as Slim Harrison played fiddle and banjo and called out the dance moves.

Harrison, who performs with his Sunnyland Band and conducts workshops around the country, visited the school April 15-25 to teach the youths about American folk music, dances and instruments.


His visit was arranged through the state performing arts residency program. It was sponsored by the Deep Run PTA, helped along by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council's Artist-in-Education Program.  Some of the kids got into the theme of the night by wearing straw hats and overalls.  Many staff members dressed up as well, Ducey said.

The evening began with hot dogs and other typical American fare.  Then pupils visited arts and crafts stations situated around the school and did projects with “Recycled materials, wooden sticks, paper plates, beans and other materials.

But the highlight of the evening was the hoedown.

"The kids went first to demonstrate, then the parents were invited to join in," Ducey said.  Because the children had been practicing, they were more accomplished than their parents, whose performance frequently verged on the comical.

"The kids really knew the dances," Ducey said. "It's obvious they really learned a lot from this residency."”

— Frederick Magazine

Maple Maple Syrup Festival at Cunningham Falls State Park – Sweet and Sappy Posted on March 16, 2011 by Elaine Jean Day Trip Destination: Thurmont, Maryland Buckets catch sap the old-fashioned way at the Cunningham Falls Maple Syrup Festival. All photos by Paul Jean. While people tend to think of Vermont and New Hampshire as the maple syrup states, Maryland, Pennsylvania and even Virginia celebrate the transformation of the sap of the sugar maple tree into America’s favorite pancake topper. Step aside, Mrs. Butterworth; this is the real deal. It’s maple sugaring season, and there’s still time to get in on the fun. On Saturday, March 20 and Sunday, March 21, Cunningham Falls State Park invites you to their 41st Annual Maple Syrup Festival in the William Houck Area off Route 77 in Thurmont. See a demonstration of the traditional maple syrup making process, eat a stack of pancakes slathered with sweet goodness, and let the kids enjoy a bit of fresh air. This trip has something for everyone and is perfect for young families, scouting packs and multi-generational groups. Demonstrations take place every hour on the hour around a cast iron kettle over a wood-stoked fire. It doesn’t seem to matter how damp or cold the day is when you’re full of pancakes and standing here. The steamy cauldron produces maple syrup magic after a day of stirring and tending. The steaming cauldron is put on at 8:30 in the morning, and it takes all day for park staff to work their magic. The demonstration includes a ranger’s talk on the evolution of the process and a bit of consumer education, as well as local lore and legend about the discovery of maple sugar as a food product. Kids are encouraged to pick up and examine wooden spouts and to ask and answer questions – guides are informative and interactive and keep it simple so most age groups can understand. But that’s not to say that adults won’t learn something, too. Breakfast is served in the rustic stone lodge that is the park’s concession building, with its long dining tables for making new friends and fire pit in the center for central heating. Pancakes are offered with sausage and Maryland-made maple syrup for under $5, and coffee is a buck. The smell of a campfire and the nostalgic feelings it evokes are free. Products from S&S Maple Camp in Corriganville – one of Maryland’s largest producers of maple syrup – are available for purchase. Stop by the stand located near the demonstration area for a free shot, and taste their U S Grade A Medium Amber. Syrup is sold by the half-pint, pint, quart and half-gallon, and bags of maple sugar and candies are also available. A volunteer stokes the fire, so maple sap can cook down to our favorite pancake topper. Several heated tents offer shelter from unpredictable March weather, with more fun inside. Kids can join Slim Harrison’s Sunnyland Band and play along with him on spoons, jugs, washboards, skiffle boards, limber jacks, wash tub bass and Pennsylvania Dutch stumpf-fiddles. Best of all, they can become a card-carrying member of the band. Slim’s folk music tells of lost dogs, rainy days and the jugland boogie, but make no mistake: He’s a talented artist sharing a significant slice of Americana with our kids. And that is, after all, what this day really is all about. Slim Harrison may look like a one-man band, but he enlists a little help from his friends. When you go … ■Demonstrations are held every hour from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. ■Breakfast is served from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. ■Admission is a recommended donation of $2 per person. ■Pancake breakfast with sausage is under $5; beverages are available for purchase. ■Cash only, no credit cards or checks will be accepted. ■Pets are prohibited in the tents, dining and demo areas and are best left at home. ■A sign language interpreter is scheduled for Sunday. ■Proceeds go to the Friends of Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks.” - Elaine Jean

The Roaming Planet

Slim Harrison, Artist in Residency at Rockburn Elementary   Slim's folk music tells of lost dogs, rainy days and the jugland boogie, but make no mistake: He's a talented artist sharing a significant slice of Americana with our kids. And that is, after all, what this day really is all about. Slim Harrison may look like a one-man band, but he enlists a little help from his friends. The children all sang and played along with Slim Harrison the past two weeks at Rockburn Elementary School as he worked with and presented American Folk Music to Kindergarten through 5th grade children. Each child participated in both a Music and Folk dance class during the 8 days that Slim presented his Exploration of American Folk Music Residency. Slim Harrison is Wolf Trap Master Artist, performing residencies for the Wolf Trap Institute since 1983.  He is a master of the claw hammer banjo and award winning dance fiddler. He is a renowned square dance caller and a regular caller for McDaniel College's Common Ground on the Hill Festival. He is a previous Howard County Arts Council Outstanding Artist of the Year and a 2005 nominee for the State of Maryland Art Educator of the Year. He has conducted numerous artist in residence programs for the state of Maryland for over 25 years. Slim Harrison, renowned musician, educator, and storyteller, took the students on an exploration of the roots of American Folk music and dance. On his first morning, Mr. Harrison introduced a variety of traditional American folk instruments. The origin and cultural history of each instrument was briefly discussed and then the instrument was used to play a song. Towards the end of the morning, students were invited to come on stage and play in a jug band with the many instruments Mr. Harrison had brought to the school. During the rest of the week, students took part in an instrument workshop during regular music classes. Each student was given a chance to play a variety of instruments including the Jug, Wash-Tub Bass, Washboard, and Spoons. At the end of the workshop, Mr. Harrison fiddled some classic tunes accompanied by the students in a "Jug Band."  Mr. Harrison also explained how to make instruments out of recycled junk and encouraged students to make their own instruments at home.  Students can make an instrument and join the “Sunnyland Band” on stage. During the second week, Mr. Harrison conducted dance workshops with the students during P.E. classes.  Mr. Harrison accompanied the dance sessions with his fiddle and other instruments. On the last day of the residency, students will take part in an authentic Hoedown with Mr. Slim "calling the dances”. Each grade will demonstrate their country dance to their fellow students. Music will be provided by the Sunnyland Band made up of students playing their own homemade instruments. This two-week residency was sponsored by the PTA and partially funded by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County, the Maryland State Arts Council, and NEA. Hope to see you at the Hoedown!” - Eileen Bottemiller

— Howard County Times

Kids learn about blues music and instruments at Blues in the Schools Posted: April 1, 2011 - 11:00pm ·Photos MAGGIE FITZROY/Staff Blues musician Slim Harrison performs on a Cigarbox Guitar Tuesday with a student band at the Blues in the Schools program at Beaches Episcopal School. Harrison invited students to make a homemade instrument and join him on stage today during the Springing the Blues Festival.  Back Photo: 2 of 7 Next   MAGGIE FITZROY/Staff Palmer Catholic Academy eighth-graders listen to the music during the Blues in the Schools program Wednesday.  Back Photo: 3 of 7 Next   MAGGIE FITZROY/Staff Blues musician Slim Harrison (left) performs with Palmer Catholic Academy eighth-graders Wednesday during the Blues in the Schools program.  Back Photo: 4 of 7 Next   MAGGIE FITZROY/Staff Beaches Episcopal School preschool students, including (from left in the front row) Brock Ottendorf, Grayden Bouchard and Lindy White, enjoy a presentation of blues music Tuesday.  Back Photo: 5 of 7 Next   MAGGIE FITZROY/Staff Beaches Episcopal School second-grader Alex Buerck plays a stick instrument during the program.  Back Photo: 6 of 7 Next   The Times Union Nicole Hart at the '08 Springing the Blues  Back Photo: 7 of 7 Next Shane Dwight   By Maggie Copyright 2011 The Florida Times-Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. April 2, 2011 - 12:00am Kids learn about blues music and instruments at Blues in the Schools Children from around the Beaches and Jacksonville have been invited to perform with blues musicians on stage today at the George's Music Springing the Blues Festival in Jacksonville Beach.  They learned about blues music this week through the Blues in the Schools program, held in conjunction with the free annual three-day festival that began Friday and ends Sunday at the SeaWalk Pavilion. Many of the children who took part learned to play simple blues instruments with Slim Harrison, a Maryland and Pennsylvania Arts Council artist in residence who conducted this year's program.  Harrison's Sunnyland Slim Band is slated to perform at 1 p.m. today on the west stage at the SeaWalk Pavilion. He invited all program participants to bring a homemade or personal instrument to the festival and join the show. The annual school program aims to educate students about blues music prior to the festival, and to get them excited about the unique American art form. Harrison accomplished that by teaching kids about many different instruments, including some he made. He formed impromptu kid-bands on stage. And he taught them simple repetitive blues songs to introduce them to the style of music that originated in the 19th century in African-American communities in the deep South. Come to the festival and bring your parents," school blues program director Lisa Hines said as she introduced Harrison at Beaches Episcopal School on Tuesday. "You'll have a great, great time. Palmer Catholic Academy eighth-graders studied the blues in anticipation of Harrison's visit to their school Wednesday in Ponte Vedra Beach. As part of the project, they wrote their own blues song as a group. Music teacher Catherine Urso said she hoped it would encourage many to go to the festival.  "It's piqued an interest in something they didn't know about before," she said. This is the festival's 21st year, and the Blues in the Schools program has been held for many of those years. Artists traditionally visit schools around the Beaches, but since St. Johns and Duval County public school students were on spring break this week, Harrison presented programs at private schools and at children's clubs. In addition to Beaches Episcopal and Palmer Catholic at the Beaches, he performed at the Boys and Girls Club and the Carver Center in Jacksonville Beach, and for the public Thursday night at George's Musician's Superstore in Jacksonville Beach, title sponsor of the festival and sponsor of the school program. Blues derived from field songs and chants and shouts, and features narrative ballads about life and its challenges. Its form is incorporated in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. Explaining at the Beaches Episcopal performance that blues can be performed with a variety of instruments, Harrison demonstrated some of the many he brought to his show - including some from other countries and cultures. He demonstrated a large mouth organ, or harmonica, that was invented in the 1800s in China, made of bamboo and beeswax. He played a Native American Indian songbow or mouthbow that resembled a bow and arrow. He brought a few students to the stage to make music with spoons and bones while he accompanied them with a two-string “diddley-bow” instrument from Africa. I got the blues," he sang slowly. "I got the blues, I got the blues, I got the blues. What kinds of things give you the blues?" he asked. "When your dog ran away? My dog is gone," he sang. "My dog is gone, I got the blues. Harrison brought students up to play instruments throughout his shows. Those in the audience joined in singing, clapping and slapping their knees to the rhythm. At Beaches Episcopal School, he demonstrated how to make a kazoo out of a pocket comb and piece of wax paper. Then he showed the kids how easy it is to turn a jug over and make a drum. He formed a 21-student band to perform "When the Saints Go Marching In." Some students played washboards with spoons; others played tambourines, stomper-doodles or simple drums. At the end of the show, he handed out his band's “Official Membership Card” to any student who wanted one.   It is also their official stage pass to perform on stage at the festival.  "If you make a homemade instrument, you're invited to join the Sunnyland Band," he said. Could be a crowded stage! maggie.fitzroy@jacksonville, (904) 249-4947, ext. 6320. Read more at” - Maggie Fitzroy

— Jacksonville Times, Florida