Monday, November 28, 2011

Canjos for kiddos (IW#012 - IW#34)

I got into a conversation with the nice folks from the Bernice M Wright Lab School that ended with a chance to come do a canjo workshop with 22 two- and three-year-olds.  There are so many things I love about small children, not least that they have not yet learned what they can't do, if you know what I mean.  They are so ready to make music or sing or build or draw, they have not had the creative instinct hammered out of them by schools or peers or societal assumption.  So of course I was excited.

Some of the parts require a fair amount of care, so a friend helped me get the necks ready and drilled and get the tuning pegs in.  Then I met with some parents to build the instruments, which was fun in itself.  I often forget how foreign the simple act of putting in a screw or drilling a hole is for most folk.  This is not intended as a pejorative statement, there are plenty of activities that I am not good at that others do constantly and consistently.  I find it useful, though, to be reminded about the assumptions I am making that I forget I am making.  We got 22 canjos ready for the children in very short order, many hands making light work.

That's a lot of canjos!

When the days came, I got to hang out with roomfuls of toddlers, who sprinkled dried flowers onto clear contact paper that we backed and wrapped around the cans.  When everyone was done we sat in a circle and everyone plinked away, some with more abandon than others but most of them engaged with the instrument at some level.  I have a feeling it would be harder to get adults to do the same.  The look of joy on the faces of some of the children when they realised that they could make a noise by plucking the string was worth the whole thing.  The understanding that they could directly influence something like that was so powerful, and watching them understand that was so affirming.

Though I can't show photos of the children here for confidentiality reasons (which I wholly support, believe me) here are some of the finished canjos.

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