Maryland US: Sixth graders enjoy West African culture

African Fun and Joy: Easton Kids Onstage

African Fun and Joy: Easton Kids Onstage

EASTON — They sang, they danced, they shouted, they swayed to the music and played drums.
More than 370 Talbot County sixth graders from three schools packed the Avalon Theatre Wednesday morning, Oct. 16. They were there to see “Anansegromma of Ghana,” a two-man show done by Kofi Dennis and Kwame Ansah-Brew, two native Ghanaians who are artists and teachers with the Wolf Trap Institute, Goucher College, and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art.
The pair offered an engaging, first-hand exploration of West African cultural traditions, beginning with teaching the audience “call and response” songs.
After a little training, the sixth graders, who were from Tilghman, St. Michaels and Easton, soon became old hands at responses and knew some words among the nine different languages in Ghana.
Dennis and Ansah-Brew offered an exhilarating program of traditional music and storytelling revolving around the themes of cooperation, courage, hope, caring and sharing.
The West African show for the sixth-graders was the first in a series of outreach programs given by the Avalon Foundation this year.
“Sixth graders are always the most lively,” Al Bond said, who is Executive Director of the Avalon Foundation.
Along with the sixth-graders, the Avalon will be serving second-, fourth-, seventh- and eighth-graders this year for a total of five outreach offerings.
In-school events include lessons to middle school band players from jazz composer and musician Jeff Antoniuk of Annapolis. After several lessons, the student musicians come to the Avalon and play on stage. Bond said that the effect is really inspirational.
“Imagine jazz improvisation done by middle school kids,” he said. “It wouldn’t happen without this resource. The great thing is, the kids really get it.”
Informally, the Avalon has been doing outreach for years, but began to assemble a formal program about three years ago.
Bond said one of the aims was to get young people to appreciate the performing arts.
“Unless there’s a world full of people who can appreciate art, art cannot survive,” he said.
Next up, fourth-graders will be enjoying the U.S. Army Field Band, Dixieland Band Ensemble on Nov. 1.
Wednesday’s program was made possible through support from The Star Democrat and the Talbot County Arts Council.

Source: CHRIS POLK cpolk@stardem.com|Stardem.com

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