Martin Urbach picks up an empty yogurt container and demonstrates how you can wrap a rubber band around it to create a rubber band guitar.
“Depending on how tight or how loose that is, you get a different sound,” Urbach tells a class of first-graders. He lays down the ground rules for the students to make their own “instruments”: Sharing is caring, and no touching anyone else’s work. “But you can ask!” he adds.
Urbach was one of more than 20 professional artists who visited the St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School’s Lower Campus Thursday for “ARTStravaganza,” an entire day devoted to the arts. The artists led grades junior kindergarten through 5 in workshops with hands-on demonstrations and activities in everything from modern dance to watercolor.
Students also learned about world percussion instruments, collage, oil pastels, magic, French songs, environmental music, sun photography, theater games, Japanese painting and anime, Latin American art, drawing, illustration, hip hop dance, iconography, fiber art, Colonial music and toys, fife and drum, drop spindle and more.
Urbach, with the New York City environmental arts group Bash the Trash, taught students how to build musical instruments out of recycled materials: percussion, strings and “brass.” “They get excited about cleaning up our environment, cleaning up our world, because we don’t like to see our playground with any trash in it, and they also learn the science of sound and the physics” he said.
“So they learn about vibration, they learn about musical concepts like long and short, they learn what kinds of instruments make what kinds of sounds … they learn how to use different materials to alter the sounds of the instruments, for example, if you use little rocks as shakers, that’s going to be a much harder sound than if you use paper clips. So they learn about different materials, and they learn about making music."
After the session, first-grader Bryce Gunn blew on a cardboard tube and plastic bottle he used to make a trumpet. Bryce said he plans to play with it at home—and doesn’t plan to share.
What was his favorite part of ARTStravaganza? “Making these,” he said.
This is the 10th year the school has held ARTStravaganza at the Lower School, said spokeswoman Linda Stratton. The day allows students to interact first-hand with professional artists, musicians and dancers.
“They get to interact with these professionals who are doing this for a living, so what we think is it gives the children a passion for the arts,” Stratton said. “Part of our mission states that we seek to inspire an enthusiasm for artistic endeavour. And we feel like introducing our youngest students to the world of the arts in terms of what professionals are doing, it really helps to inspire that passion in them.
“So they get to do hands-on activities. They get to ask questions of the professionals. They get to kind of find out what made them want to go into this area of arts, just kind of see what’s out there to spark that interest.”
Third-grade teacher Jonathan Lamkay, whose class participated in a modern dance session Thursday afternoon, said the day allows students to immerse themselves in the arts.
“They’ve had some activities that have to do with art, some dancing, some singing and some instrumental music,” he said. “And it’s just a day for them to sort of explore everything that the arts has to offer, whether that means moving their bodies in different ways or listening to different songs or expressing themselves in different ways. It’s a way for them to immerse themselves fully in the program that the school believes so much in.”