Two generations enjoy time together; Sixth-grade students Streetsboro share their knowledge of an American folk instrument

by Rachel Sluss Correspondent Published:

Erica Marshall's sixth-grade class at Henry Defer Intermediate School learned Christmas songs on the Appalachian dulcimer in BethAnn Hepburn's music course. After about a month of practicing, the students performed Dec. 18 at the Streetsboro Senior Center.

Hepburn says the sixth-grade students are learning about folk and string instruments in her class and were introduced to the dulcimer this year. The students started off playing traditional American folk songs in honor of the instrument's Pennsylvanian roots.

The students performed in ensemble groups and played an assortment of traditional Christmas songs, bringing a sweet, new ring to familiar holiday tunes. Some groups focused on harmonious pieces while others played single melodies.

After the final group played "Up on the House Top," the students greeted their audience and began teaching the instrument. The two generations immediately hit it off with many renditions of "Silent Night" playing at once. The room echoed with chiming dulcimers, chatter and laughter.

Numbers lined the dulcimer's neck, marking notes on the instrument. Students used sheet music with numbers on it, indicating what note to strum and where to strum it.

"Some of them just want to be able to talk to you," Hepburn said. "A lot of them have questions. They're not shy. One student said, 'I would to love to get a senior citizen who just likes to talk because I don't think I can teach this thing!'"

Daniel Mora, 11, hoped to meet a veteran at the event. Once he did, the two spoke for nearly the rest of the time and ate lunch together.

"I was with the veterans," Mora said. "I wanted to learn about them. I learned about the different branches and what they had to do."

Frank Tipton from Streetsboro said a student taught him to play "Rocky Mountain," a song he and the student were both very familiar with.

"I've never seen a dulcimer; I'm surprised by its sound," Tipton said.

Senior Services Director Katie Kloetzly helped organize this event in 201l at the Streetsboro Senior Center and this year, as well. She says the seniors were excited to meet and talk with the sixth grade students.

"It was very nice interacting with the students," Doris Ruediger from Streetsboro said. "It was hard to learn with the commotion and noise, but the students were very persistent about teaching -- 'A' for effort! They would probably say I wasn't a very willing student."

Marshall says she was glad her class got the opportunity to perform and teach the dulcimer for the senior citizens.

"They did a really nice job," she said. "I know that the audience really enjoyed it."

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