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Sierra Gallagher’s second/third grade class plays rhythm games during an assembly May 9 organized by Plumas Arts. Photo submitted

Plumas Arts hosts musician Joe Craven for school assemblies

Submitted by Plumas Arts

“I’ve got music in my soul. I carry that music everywhere I go,” sings a chorus of voices from the seats at the Town Hall Theatre on Monday morning, May 9. The singing was part of a call-and-response exercise led by musician Joe Craven.

Plumas Arts brought Joe to Plumas County by  as part of an Arts Exposure grant from the California Arts Council. Plumas Arts has used this grant to expose elementary and high school students around the county to Flamenco Dancing, classical piano paired with digital art, and a variety of other arts assembly programs.

Today’s assembly started off with a heartbeat sound and brought up the idea that we have been instilled with rhythm since the womb. Joe quickly moved on to the idea that we can find music, rhythm, and different tempos everywhere we turn from a lawn sprinkler to walking or running down the street. “Music is just organized sound. Music is everywhere and in everything, even everyday speech,” Craven tells the students.

Joe Craven displays his handmade bedpan-dolin. Photo submitted

Joe quickly puts his concepts into action by digitally looping a variety of sounds and words (all of which are created on the spot) and then plays or sings a melody to his newly created background music. He is the king of making music from found objects. He’s been seen playing everything from a rubber frog to cake pans. Today’s presentation featured a “can-jo” made from a 100 oz food tin, a “bedpan-dolin” made from an old metal bedpan, pot lid, and fork, and a donkey jawbone.

After the 45-minute whole school assembly, classes broke out into 35-minute one-on-one hands-on workshops, where Joe focused on problem solving and cooperation as a non-traditional method to thinking about music creation.

“We’re so thrilled to be able to expose children to musicians like Joe Craven,” says Plumas Arts Executive Director Kara Rockett-Arsenault. “He wants to help kids to think outside the box, develop critical thinking skills, and learn how to listen and be open to all the possibilities that could be right before them.”

Starting Tuesday, Joe will be traveling to all the other elementary schools in Plumas County. His first stop will be Chester, then Taylorsville, Quincy Elementary School, and Portola.

Joe Craven has been playing music professionally for over 40 years and has played with the likes of Jerry Garcia, Del McCoury, and many others. For Joe, it’s more an issue of believing you are music, rather than doing or playing music.

Joe is a self-appointed and now recognized arts activist. “My passion is to help folks realize the importance of seeing art and arts education, not merely as enrichment or enhancement, but as the bedrock of one’s life.”

Joe Craven holds a donkey jawbone during his May 1 performance. Photo submitted


Cindy Thackeray’s sixth-grade class works on critical thinking and cooperation. Photo submitted

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