Earlier this week nearly 100 students at Juliette Low Elementary School gathered in the gymnasium to watch puppet detective Sherlock T. Search-It hunt for his favorite musical sound.
During his search the detective encountered Vicki Viola:
Sherlock: (examining Vicki through a magnifying glass) Let's see, made of wood, (taps lightly) hollow, four strings wrapped around pegs - you, my dear, are a violin!
Vicki: You're thinking of my sister, Violet Violin. I'm a viola.
Sherlock: Right! Of course I should have known, a viola. (Pause) What's a viola?
Vicki: I am! I'm slightly larger than my sister and more versatile! I can play high (plays high) and very low (plays low). My sister and I are played the same way! We usually play on one string at a time, our bow moving from one string to the other (plays example). Sometimes we play on two strings at once (plays example). Do you know what a pizzicato is?
Sherlock: Of course I do! It's a pizza with avocado.
Vicki: No! It's another way my family plays - like this! (plays example).
Marge Reese, former Puppet Outreach Chair, performs for the children at Juliette Low Elementary School.
By the end of the puppet show, Sherlock, like the audience, was well acquainted with strings, bass, percussion and woodwinds and how they worked together to create symphonic music.
The program, presented by the Savannah Friends of Music, attempts to kindle an interest in classical music among preteens, hoping they'll continue to appreciate and support it as adults.
"Get 'em while they're young" is just one approach arts organizations are trying to slow the decline in concert attendance.
Studies by the National Endowment for the Arts indicate that classical music audiences are aging and not being replaced.
The average patron is 50 years old. Groups clearly need to find new fans to fill the seats in years to come.
Marjorie Reese, chair of the puppet project, said the best part of presenting the program is "watching the children watching."
The children love the show even if they don't understand it. They relate to the puppets and seem to relate to the music."
The SFOM stages the show free of charge for any school who requests it. Reese is one of four volunteer puppeteers; she's responsible for lugging eight puppets and a portable stage from place to place.
"But if we can spark an interest in classical music with just one or two children, it's worth it," she said.
Students who are exposed to classical music early on are more likely to support it later on in life, Lorraine Jones, executive director of the Armstrong Atlantic Youth Orchestra, said.
The AAYO is an educational outreach program that serves student musicians ranging from elementary to high school. It consists of four performing ensembles: Lyric Strings Ensemble I and II (a beginners-level string orchestra divided into two groups), the Atlantic Chamber Orchestra (a full-scale orchestra for intermediate players); and the Armstrong Atlantic Youth Orchestra, (composed of advanced high school students and AASU music majors).
"I'm amazed at the fever they have for classical music at such a young age," Jones said of her players.
She expects that fervor to continue for years to come. In 10 years, these students could be music majors, music teachers, or full-time performers.
"If nothing else, their children will participate in music, because they can tell it means the world to (their parents)," she said.
Savannah Friends of Music P.O. Box 15873 Savannah, Ga 31416