The Soundbone Traditional Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mandate to preserve and promote the folk arts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our school touring presentations developed out of the Vinland Music Camp – a traditional music and dance workshop organized by the Foundation which has been held annually in Gros Morne National Park since 2001. We employ ten of the province’s most experienced musicians, storytellers, dancers and songwriters, collectively known as Lomond Sound. For the School Touring Program eight members of the group are employed for two week-long school tours – four artists for each tour.
The first group – Hugh Scott, Dave Panting, Gerry Strong and Jane Dennison – will visit schools in Central Newfoundland (May 6-11, 2018) teaching songwriting, mandolin, tin whistle and dance. The second group – consisting of Christina Smith, Eric West, Heather Walter and Gayle Tapper – will visit schools on the Northern Peninsula (May 27-June 2) teaching fiddle, ukulele, singing and dance. At every school we make an effort to teach instruments, songs, and dances that are culturally relevant to the area we are visiting, with a cross section of material and performance styles from around province. We strive to make our presentation both entertaining and educational.
Lomond Sound’s school presentation consists of day-long performances and workshops, beginning with a hour-long concert for all grades. During this period we demonstrate our instruments as well as perform a number of songs and dances, discussing their history and how they relate to our cultural history. Our opening set finishes with a question and answer discussion, followed by a closing set of tunes. During the next two periods the students are divided into four separate groups during which we conduct concurrent instrument, singing, songwriting and dance workshops. Depending on the musical experience of the students, we usually start with basic technique; then move on to teaching a simple tune or dance which they can perform together. During the first period after lunch students return to their workshop classrooms and we rehearse the tunes, songs and dances covered in our workshops, splitting the period into two 30-minute sections corresponding to the morning sessions.
Our presentation concludes with a hour-long performance for the entire school. This concert involves students and instructors – and occasionally musicians and dancers from the community. The final concert is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their newly acquired skills to their classmates. It’s always an exciting and rewarding time for everyone. Reviews and comments from previous tours can be found here. A sample timetable for the day’s activities can also be viewed online; we can adapt our program to the school’s schedule.
Younger students (K-2) often have difficulty holding instruments such as the fiddle and guitar so we accommodate them by having separate workshops in singing and dancing for this age group. For larger schools we confine the workshops to grades 4-8 though all students can attend the opening and closing concerts. We have found that the ukulele is better suited than the guitar for grades 2-6 so we bring along about 10 of these instruments. We recommend that schools order tin whistles (in the key of D) in advance if they wish to have workshops in this instrument. We usually limit our class size to a maximum of 25 students for instrument workshops, though dance can involve a larger number of participants (up to 35) since it usually held in the gym.
At the end of each school visit we often leave copies of sheet music, song lyrics and dances that were taught during the day. We also provide an online Folk Arts Resource Guide for the schools so teachers and students can follow up their interest in traditional music and dance. We encourage students and teachers to follow up their musical interest by joining us at the Vinland Music Camp. Although the format described above is the one we have used for most of our school tours, we can adapt our program to meet the needs of individual schools. For example, if there is a student folk group at a school we can arrange our schedule to spend some time with them.