Outreach program explains art of songwriting to children
Under the direction of Karen Reynolds, the FBISF’s In Schools Program will provide 12 presentations at schools in Baldwin and Escambia counties during the fest. Assisting will be Perry Bonck, like Reynolds, a featured writer at the fest.
“I was primed to be able to do this,’’ the veteran songwriter said from her Tennessee home. “We started out with one school 10 years ago and at this point we have worked with 18 to 20 different schools. It’s grown exponentially.’’
Reynolds expects to work with students from Warrington Elementary, Episcapal Day School, Blue Angel Elementary, Elberta Middle and Swift Elementary School as well as students in the Gulf Shores After School Program during the fest.
She and Bonck will talk to students about the various aspects of songwriting as a career, answer questions and perform original music. There is no cost to schools or to students. Presenters also work with students on their own compositions.
“This is in an effort to recognize as many students as possible and to encourage them to continue to write as a path to self-expression, creativity and greater cognitive skills,’’ Reynolds said. “Statistics show that programs such as this can benefit the students with social skills, self-confidence and self- esteem, as well as improve math, English and vocabulary skills.
Reynolds spent September as an FBISF Writer in Residence at Episcapal Day School in Pensacoa, where she shared her expertise about music recording, engineering, editing and mixing. She hopes to find sponsorships that would allow her to extend that program to nine weeks.
“The program offers so many advantages to help them across the board,’’ she said. “Critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. This program is a fun way for students to learn and develop these proficiencies.
“Our goal is for the student’s excitement to carry on beyond the presentation,” she added. “We feel whatever we can do to expand interest in the younger set is important. And that’s been the driving force behind this all along: To create opportunities to help the students build skill sets that will serve them beyond (school).’’
The In-Schools program now has its own page on the FBISF website and sponsors are being solicited to try to extend the FBISF Writer-In-Residence Program, also directred by Reynolds.
“It went very well at Episcopal Day School and a couple of the schools are interested in mini WIR’s as time permits,’’ she said. “We are trying to secure sponsors so we can continue to offer this program to the Gulf Coast communities.’’
Although wearing a variety of hats, including university professor, Reynolds is first and foremost a singer-songwriter.
“I love the ‘conversation’ between audience and artist. When you connect with the folks listening, music takes on a whole new meaning,’’ she said. “It becomes a necessary communication where we can relate to each other, simply, as human beings. It can erase prejudice, cross boundries and change minds. It’s a blessing, really.”
With vocal comparisons compared to Randy Travis, Bonck has performed at a variety of venues and was a former winner and judge of the Tennessee’s Got Talent competition. His CD released is a mix of well chosen covers and self penned songs.
Take a smattering of Jazz. Blend in a pinch of Gospel and then fold Traditional Country into the mix. What cooks up is the Americana style of singer, songwriter, Perry Bonck.