Find­ing na­ture’s song

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE -

Kid Pan Al­ley founder and artis­tic di­rec­tor Paul Reisler could not be­lieve his eyes re­cently when he asked school chil­dren in Rap­pa­han­nock and Page coun­ties to raise their hands if they have never vis­ited Shenan­doah Na­tional Park.

A sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of arms went up into the air, par­tic­u­larly at Lu­ray El­e­men­tary School — its class­rooms be­ing the clos­est to park head­quar­ters.

“I was shocked,” re­called Reisler, point­ing out that Page and Rap­pa­han­nock coun­ties are gate­way com­mu­ni­ties to Vir­ginia’s first na­tional park. All of which has made the lat­est song­writ­ing project un­der­taken by Rap­pa­han­nock’s most cel­e­brated mu­si­cian all the more ful­fill­ing.

In ob­ser­vance of the 100th an­niver­sary of the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts re­cently awarded Kid Pan Al­ley a $10,000 grant for a col­lab­o­ra­tive song­writ­ing project with Shenan­doah Park, the Shenan­doah Park Trust and the Vir­ginia Mu­seum of Fine Arts.

Apart from in­spir­ing chil­dren to be creators of their own mu­sic, the grant was de­signed to phys­i­cally bring kids into the na­tional park to ex­pe­ri­ence its beauty, majesty, and im­por­tance to nat­u­ral and Amer­i­can his­tory. Even if it meant a mu­si­cian lead­ing the way.

Reisler and his small but tal­ented team at Kid Pan Al­ley have been more than happy to oblige.

“Our roots are deep here in Rap­pa­han­nock,” he re­flected upon the con­clu­sion of well-at­tended con­certs Fri­day night at Rap­pa­han­nock El­e­men­tary School. “Kid Pan Al­ley started here 16 years ago.”

At­tract­ing a com­bined crowd of more than 600, the pair of con­certs was the cul­mi­na­tion of weeks of in­class song­writ­ing ses­sions and re­hearsals (Lu­ray El­e­men­tary hosted an ear­lier con­cert that sim­i­larly fea­tured songs writ­ten by chil­dren about their park ex­pe­ri­ences).

“We wrote with nine classes from Rap­pa­han­nock El­e­men­tary, Hearth­stone and CCLC [Child Care & Learn­ing Cen­ter]—about 175 kids in all. ” Reisler noted, in many cases the chil­dren us­ing vis­its to the park “as the in­spi­ra­tion for their songs.”

Per­formed to re­sound­ing ap­plause Fri­day night, for just one ex­am­ple, was “I Love Shenan­doah Na­tional Park,” cre­ated by Ms. Way’s sec­ond-grade class at Rap­pa­han­nock El­e­men­tary with the as­sis­tance of Reisler and Sahffi Lynne (ad­di­tional con­cert mu­si­cians in­cluded Mar­shall Keys, Ch­eryl Toth and Ki­aya Aber­nathy):

The woods are a sym­phony of sound With the birds up high They’re the flutes of the sky With the bear on the bot­tom It’s to­tally awe­some I love Shenan­doah Na­tional Park

“I have cho­sen this work be­cause I know first­hand how it can change your life,” Reisler ob­served. “You can see it in the chil­dren’s eyes, hear it in their voices and watch it over­flow as they dance down the hall­ways or out to their bus.”

And onto the trails of Shenan­doah Park.

— John McCaslin

BY MATTHEW BLACK

Young singer-song­writ­ers belt out a num­ber with Kid Pan Al­ley mu­si­cians Mar­shall Keys, Sahffi Lynne and Paul Reisler at last Fri­day's Kid Pan Al­ley con­cert at RCES.

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