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Musician, visual artist and educator Michael Stanwood introduced Parkview Elementary School students to a variety of ethnic instruments on April 15 in an assembly program sponsored by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
Stanwood’s program, “Sound Ideas,” combines his teaching experience as an artist-in-residence across the country with training in guitar, folk and ethnic instruments in the United States and abroad. Audience members helped sing songs like “Macaroni and Cheese,” from Stanwood’s children’s CD Yeahbut Shoehead, while student volunteers played instruments ranging from a Thai xylophone to the gopichand, a one-stringed instrument used in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
For many students, the high point of the assembly came toward the end, when Stanwood used circular breathing to draw deep, resonant tones from the didgeridoo, a wind instrument native to Australia. Several students tried their own hands — or mouths — at playing homemade didgeridoos made from PVC pipe, some to hilarious effect.
“We wanted to give the kids some knowledge of different music from around the world, new sounds and opening their eyes to different cultures,” said Beth Scoggins, the parents’ representative and president of Parkview’s PTO. “For example, in hearing the conch shell, they realized that people make music out of different things, not just what we see or classify as a traditional instrument.”
Since the 1970s, Stanwood has played instruments and recorded music in “The Tank,” a local water tank turned sound studio for which more than $46,000 was raised last year for performance, recording and education purposes. Stanwood recorded his album “Portal” there and was The Tank’s owner for several years.
He said he hopes The Tank will become a vehicle to teach students about sound in ways they’ve never experienced before.
This year, the PTO has sponsored an internet safety program, a family game night and a math-based ice cream social and hopes to bring in another special performer next year. Future PTO projects include purchasing moral focus banners for display and making a donation to PVE’s new library, slated for use this fall.