Building the Audiences of the Future: Creating Educational Concerts for the Very Young with Barbara Hankins and The Licorice Allsorts Clarinet Quartet

Canadian clarinetist Barbara Hankins and her quartet the Licorice Allsorts Clarinet Quartet (Cathy Erskine, Lynne Milnes and Carla Perrotta) presented a lecture about building audiences and creating educational programming. This presentation was one of the single most practical and worthwhile demonstrations of the entire conference. Hankins and her group played excerpts from programs of their own creation, developed for elementary-aged children. These original “mini music dramas” contained text, poetry, costumes, singing, motions, imagery, and carefully selected musical excerpts delightfully arranged for the quartet.  The incredible effort that went in to creating these programs seems overwhelming.

My favorite story that the group presented during this lecture was “The Three Musical Pigs and the Wolf.” Connecting with a well-known children’s story, the three little pigs in this version each had a favorite composer: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. The quartet performed an excerpt from famous music from each composer whenever each individual pig was referenced in the story (e.g. Rondo Alla Turca, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony). The performers sang, used props (piggy ears on headbands, fuzzy brown gloves for the wolf), and encouraged audience participation through hand motions allowing the children to play a part in the drama (students were asked to help by blowing each time they heard the well-known phrase “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down”). The performers kept up fast-paced action by incorporating variety in short snippets: playing their instruments, singing, acting, and allowing the audience to participate; no giant chunks of narration allow boredom to creep in for young children with their short attention spans.

There is a huge educational push these days for student engagement, and lecturing from the front of the classroom is no longer acceptable. Teachers must plan interactive activities to encourage active participation in learning. This impressive presentation by Barbara Hankins and the Licorice Allsorts Clarinet Quartet should be a model presented to elementary teachers of all subjects, as it incorporates almost every identified learning style: auditory, visual, kinesthetic and linguistic. Ladies, have you thought of publishing/copyrighting your programs? Teachers everywhere would line up to buy a copy!

–Notes by Melissa Bowles Snavely
Melissa Bowles Snavely holds degrees in performance and music education from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins, Shenandoah Conservatory, and James Madison University. She currently teaches and performs in the Washington DC area.

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