July 22, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart
MEET MY CELLO: Sandy Kiefer introduces the students at Arlington Elementary School to her cello.
Sandy Kiefer and her cello visited the students at Arlington Elementary School before the end of school as part of a grant from the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Citizens Bank. The “Talking Cellos” program was just one piece of a three-part musical experience for students, which also included a visit from “The Whompers” and a trip to a Rhode Island Philharmonic performance.
Kiefer brought her cello from classroom to classroom, introducing it and its many parts to the students.
“I travel with my beautiful instrument and it’s not a guitar, not a violin, and it’s not a piano. It’s a cello,” she said.
In Kim Case’s kindergarten class, Kiefer showed the students all of the animal sounds that her cello could make.
As a way of integrating music and writing, Kiefer and the students in Kim Fera’s second grade class created a story together. She gave the students choices for characters, setting and events for each part of the story and together they chose the direction in which the story would go.
Once finished, Kiefer read the story in words, and then she and her cello “read” the story aloud musically as Kiefer played what the students had written.
“The cello is an amazing instrument,” Kiefer said. “You can do so many things with it.”
Kiefer spent a few minutes speaking to the students about the bow, which is the piece that is used to play the cello itself.
“The bow is not big and curvy like my cello. A long time ago it used to look like a rainbow and then they straightened it out,” she said.
After showing the bow to the students, she had them guess what the bow was made out of. Several students guessed material such as string, cotton and rubber, before the correct guess was made: horse hair.
Because the cello’s bow is so tightly kept, Kiefer loosened the peg so that the students could see the similarity to a horse’s tail.
“It’s not electric, it’s not an iPod, it’s not a DVD player, it’s just horse hair,” she said.
Finally, Kiefer asked the students to imagine if they only knew four words and had to make all of their sentences using just the words: mom, popcorn, cat and school bus.
“The cello can make a couple of thousand sounds, and I’m only playing about 100 of them for you today,” she said.
Before Kiefer left each classroom, she gave all of the students a Mystery Cello worksheet, which had a drawing of half a cello on it and asked the students to fill in the missing parts to the instrument.