The joy of music

Posted on April 14th in Feature Story,News

Slater students learn how to play the fiddle with artist-in-residence

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Students at Slater Elementary School have been busy just fiddling around.Musician Kelly Thibodeaux plays a duet with Slater Elementary School student Parker Landon, who is learning to play the fiddle. Thibodeaux has been working with the students as part of a two-week artist-in-residence program. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

As part of the Artist-in-Residence program, Kelly Thibodeaux has been spending time teaching the classes how to play the fiddle.

On this particular day, Thibodeaux is spending time with Beth Davis’ first grade class. After handing out a fiddle to each child, Thibodeaux teaches the students how to properly hold the bow, and then the fiddle. In his humorous and conversational manner, Thibodeaux moves through the students, making slight adjustments to their positions.

Thibodeaux then shows the students how to place the bow on the top two strings, how to draw the bow across, and within seconds the room is filled with the sound of music.

“This isn’t orchestra quality, but I can get them to play within two days,” Thibodeaux smiled.

Thibodeaux shows the students how the length of a bow stroke produces different sounds and invites them to play along. The results are a little chaotic, but judging from the smiles on their faces, the students are having the time of their lives.

Before long, time is up and Thibodeaux asks the class to put their fiddles away. A collective sigh of sadness is heard throughout the room along with comments such as, “I could stay here forever,” and “Can I take the fiddle home?”

Originally from Louisiana, Thibodeaux is a self-taught musician who has been playing for more than 30 years. He now lives in Oakridge and has been part of the Artist-in-Residence program for about four years. “Because I’m self-taught, I know what would trip these kids up,” Thibodeaux said. “I keep it simple and let the kids have fun while they’re learning.”

Thibodeaux explained that the next class coming in would be Karen Klus’ fourth-grade class, and it would be their third time with the fiddles in their hands. “I’ll give each student a chance to play a little solo while I play guitar with them,” he said.

Judging from the results, one would never guess it had only been three days of teaching the kids.

Staff at Slater said the experience has been a positive one for the students, and also wanted to thank the Comfort Inn in Hines for housing Thibodeaux during his two-week stay.

Who knows, the next Charlie Daniels might come from Harney County.

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