St John's Lane Elementary Residency

"Exploring the Roots of American Folk Music & Dance" Have you ever played a stumpf fiddle or washtub bass? How about the spoons or limberjack? The students of St. John’s Lane Elementary School (SJLES) have been playing music with all of these instruments while learning about American Folk Culture with Mr. Slim Harrison. Mr. Harrison spent two weeks as an Artist-in-Education Resident at SJLES teaching about the musical instruments and the folk dance traditions that are part of American Folk Culture. This residency was funded by the SJLES PTA and a grant from the Howard County Arts Council, through a grant from Howard County, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Columbia Foundation, the Washington Post and Target. During the folk music workshops, the students were given the opportunity to play ten different instruments. Mr. Harrison taught the students about the background of each instrument and how to play them, but it was up to the student to stay on the beat while playing traditional folk songs. Mr. Harrison also encouraged the students to make their own musical instruments by recycling household items to play in the Sunnyland Band. The folk dance workshops introduced students to the basics of square dancing and traditional line dancing and circle dancing from do-si-do to promenade. Each grade learned a different folk dance to perform at the hoedowns that were held at the conclusion of the residency. The family hoedown was held on Friday evening, November 14. The students demonstrated the dances to the audience and then went out to ask a family member or friend to join them on the dance floor. Mr. Harrison called the dances and the Sunnyland Band, Mr. Harrison together with close to 100 SJLES students who brought their own homemade instruments, provided the music. It was a fun-filled evening, and an appropriate ending to a two-week program that will not be soon forgotten.