Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy

Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions

Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions introduce children to the joys of classically based, structure music, through interaction with a narrator and chamber music ensembles such as a brass quintet, woodwind quintet, string quartet and piano trio.

Each session can accommodate up to sixty children. This intimate number allows the interaction between the audience and the performers to work. Each child must bring at least one parent or guardian so that they can share ideas about the music at home.

The session begins with the musicians demonstrating their instruments. A violinist would say, "this is a bow." The musician draws the bow across the strings to show the sound made. The second violinist adds, "strings can also be plucked." The violist points out the lower voice of his instrument, and is followed by a similar demonstration by the cellist. Sequential bowing from the violin to the cello shows the descending ranges. After demonstrating the individual instruments, the quartet plays a simple tune in unison.

Throughout the tune, the children are encouraged to ask (and answer) questions. After the tune is played, the quartet plays it again, this time with harmony. They perform the tune in a number of arrangements to simulate different styles: Bach, Beethoven, Bartok and even Bernstein! This arranged playing is introduced by stating in simple terms that composers use the different voices to create different effects. Throughout the forty- minute session a narrator correlates musical concepts and improvises the ideas for the children, creating situations which allow them to assimilate the music into a context with which they are comfortable. The narrator allows the children to jump, dance, hum, laugh, clap, even squirm as the music is played. At times the narrator will create a little scene in which the music is a literal part. Through these scenes, the music becomes butterflies, birds, storms, shouts, greetings, good-byes and whatever else the imagination creates. The narrator explains how different music makes us feel happy or sad, lively or relaxed. Short examples are played.

Eventually, the session gets to the point where part of a classical work is performed to show the higher art of the musical form. Questions are called for and interesting parts of the piece are pointed out. Usually a concert will go through sections of about four pieces, using just enough music to capture a theme and its development.

During the last five minutes, the children are allowed to come to the musicians and personally ask them questions. The children are allowed to touch, even play the instruments. This last element of the session has become their favorite time. Children love to feel the instruments vibrate as they are played.

From September through June, GPAC holds twenty Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions exposing over 1,200 children to classical music. Many children subscribe to all of the sessions. At the end of the season, these children are familiar with musical terms, the instruments, and have their favorite performers.

These sessions take place at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre and are then taken to Douglas Elementary School, an inner-city school in Memphis. The positive effects of this program have been recognized nationally. Listening to classical music has been a proven tool in increasing intelligence quotients in students. Children who are exposed to classical music at an early age are likely to continue embracing cultural and artistic endeavors throughout their lives. By exposing our children to the arts, we are developing our community by promoting self-esteem and open-mindedness in our children, and by providing them with positive alternatives to dangerous activities.

Through the initiatives and financial support of the City of Germantown's Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Germantown Community Foundation's Board of Directors, our corporate sponsors, and the Memphis City School Board of Education, GPAC is able to provide this wonderful and irreplaceable program to the children in this community.


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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