Arts and Entertainment

Chautauqua kids create a lasting musical fable

From left, Chautauqua music teacher Andy James and students Sayde Garrett, Bryce Coley and Stella Harrison lead a parade down a school hallway, carrying one of the puppets created in the process of Chautauqua’s “Nana Mirium” music project.   - Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo
From left, Chautauqua music teacher Andy James and students Sayde Garrett, Bryce Coley and Stella Harrison lead a parade down a school hallway, carrying one of the puppets created in the process of Chautauqua’s “Nana Mirium” music project.
— image credit: Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo

Hundreds of Chautauqua Elementary students will soon be able to take home something almost as impressive as a straight-A report card — a CD full of original music they composed and recorded during music classes at the school. 

The CD — “Nana Mirium,” which musicalizes an African folk tale about a brave girl who must subdue a shape-shifting monster — is the result of a year-long project launched by Chautauqua music teacher Andy James.

James worked with students at all grade levels in the school to create the CD, and he said that the children were entirely responsible for the music and flow of the narrative within the CD.

“This year, I can tell you the spot where every class played something, even the kindergartners,” James said.

It’s the second year in a row that James and Chautauqua kids have created an original album.

Last year, James’ music students worked all year to create a CD called “The Whistling Monster,” which was then adapted into a dance performance staged by Blue Heron Dance this spring. 

This year, James said the project has been even more involved, resulting in a CD with seven more tracks than “The Whistling Monster.”

“I think I had a better handle on the process. And I expanded things this year, because it wasn’t ambitious enough last year,” James joked.

For “Nana Mirium,” James met once a week before school all year long with a group of almost 35 students, who worked on every aspect of the CD.   

The early morning sessions, James said, including drumming, writing lyrics, dancing, creating artwork and simply “holding forth and having opinions.” 

James also recruited an impressive roster of Island artists, including Bill Moyer, Lelavision, Geoff Johns and Kim Newall, to lend a hand as guest instructors. Bunraku puppets, crafted from plywood, were built to help illustrate the story behind the music.

The community will have a chance to listen to “Nana Mirium” at two upcoming events — one this Sunday at the Blue Heron and another on Monday at Chautauqua. 

For James — one of several Vashon School District employees who could see his hours reduced because of budget cuts — the shows will be one more opportunity for his students to shine and take pride in their achievement. 

“I insisted on them chewing on it until it was theirs,” he said. 

A one-hour show, featuring the students singing, drumming, dancing and narrating “Nana Mirium,” will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Blue Heron. Tickets, $7 and $10, can be purchased by calling 463-5131. 

And at 9:30 and 10:15 a.m. Monday there will be two more chances to listen to the CD during assemblies in Chautauqua’s multipurpose room.

CDs will be sold for $10 at all the presentations.

 

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