Passing Music on to Alaska's Youth

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Our school programs feature week long classes in singing, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, square dancing, and Native drumming.  We invite elders to teach with us and help students sing in their Native languages.   Songs range from bluegrass to country, folk and rock 'n roll.  Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are favorites.  High school students often bring us songs they want to learn.   Instruments are marked with colored dots (guitar chords) and lines (fiddle fingers) for ease in learning. Songs are written out on big pads of paper with colored chords and easy fiddle notation.  These pads remain in each village, so students can continue to jam and sing along.  By the end of the week concert—elementary students can play ten songs on the guitar and several on the fiddle.  High school students can play twice that many songs—even though they may never have played before! Donations fund new instruments for each village—and repairs of existing ones.  We like to say that musical instruments save lives—and we've talked to adults who say this is true.  Dancing with the Spirit staff work with local musicians, teachers, and the community so the program can keep on going…  It has begun in Tanana, Arctic Village, Beaver, Stevens Village, Venetie, and Hughes…And now we've worked in Allakaket, Anvik, Chalkyitsik, Chenega, Circle, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Grayling, Holycross, Huslia, Kaltag, Koyukuk, Manley Hot Springs, Minto, McGrath, Nikolai,Northway, Nuiqsut, Nulato, Ruby, Tetlin, Point Hope, and Yakutat.

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