For SCN by Heidi Zemach
Several hundred children in Pre-K through 6th grade sang softly along to the Seward Elementary Guitar Club’s renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” The six boys in Jim Pfeiffenberger and Terri McKnight’s lunchtime club strummed like pros and were treated like rock stars, and given the high-five treatment as they returned, smiling, to their seats. Their performance, and that of guest guitarist Rick Brooks, wrapped up five months of lunch hour practice, making it all come together. The students stepped it up a notch higher, clapping and stomping when Brooks, a performer from Anchorage, started out his set by playing a blusey solo whose words were to the effect that if you can’t find anyone to love you, learn to love yourself. They cheered when Brooks asked if they’d like to hear a Justin Bieber song, but looked mildly confused when he played them “Oops, I did it again,” a 2000 Britney Spear’s song, instead.
Brooks wowed another audience with another concert later in the evening at the Ressurect Arts Coffeehouse and Gallery Friday, sponsored by the Seward Arts Council. He held a small workshop in fingerstyle playing at Pfeiffenberger’s house on Sunday. He’s a skilled player and teacher with vast experience and talent in blues style and early English folk revival guitar-picking music, and he’s also quite a well-versed music historian.
After listening to Brooks, Seward Elementary students watched 16 of their own “cheerleaders” perform a series of cheers. Those that could did some cartwheels. In one cheer they faked air guitar playing, but they all looked great to me and the rest of the audience in their matching blue sports tee-shirts.
The assembly finished up with a Mars-Rover contest with original models that teams of students had created under the leadership of QUEST instructor Agusta Lind, and with help from parent-volunteers. They ran these along an obstacle course that included a ramp, bubbly-wrap, through some martian rocks (coffee cans) and into a space station.
With Spring sprung, and the school year fast winding down, it looks like the schools are making extra efforts to keep the kids engaged in learning, and to provide new creative opportunities. On Monday, a Shakespeare group from Fairbanks performed at a high school/middle school assembly. On Wednesday, the middle school 7th grade will be taking a marine-science cruise on Resurrection Bay aboard a Kenai Fjords Tours boat.