The sounds of students learning to play hand chimes and dulcimers to the tune of John Prine’s song “Paradise” were heard throughout the Muhlenberg County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service during the recent Arts Day Camp.
The weeklong day camp for first- through eighth-graders taught them how to play the dulcimer or hand chimes, and introduced them to theater, movement, singing and visual art. The camp also provided a local history lesson, as each art element explored an aspect of coal mining in the county.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since becoming a fine arts extension agent,” Cora Hughes said, referring to the camp she organized. “Kids need to be exposed to all the different elements of the arts.”
Camp instructors were current or retired teachers of music, drama, art and dance. Candy Roscoe, a retired high school drama teacher, taught the students acting vocabulary, stage positions and teamwork during the camp.
“As a retired teacher, I had skills I wanted to share with others,” she said. “Here, I have the time to do things that I really wanted to do with my students.”
Kelly Harper, the camp’s art teacher, is an elementary school art teacher in the county and local artist. At the camp, she discussed how all the elements of art work together and with other subjects, such as history, cartography and science.
“It’s a positive experience for the students to be exposed to arts of all sorts and learn how all of the elements play a part in a production, from the set designers to performers,” Harper said.
A grant from the Felix E. Martin, Jr. Foundation provided financial aid for some campers and funded the purchase of dulcimers for campers to use. The extension office will loan out the dulcimers for those interested in learning how to play.
Makala Wright, 13, and Erick Moore, 10, already loved the arts when they came to the camp, but both said they’ve learned a lot.
“I came to the camp because I like drawing, but the camp has made me want to try out for community plays and get more advanced with my drawing,” Wright said.
“I’ve learned a lot about improvisation, charcoal drawing, guitar chords and dance,” Moore said.
On the final day of camp, the students showcased what they’d learned to their family and friends with a performance and art exhibit.
As a result of camp, Hughes is forming a youth dulcimer group and is considering starting a youth hand chime group.