Youth and Music in Geneva

January 6th, 2017

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

Our plan for the Music in the Key of Geneva project included youth involvement. As we began talking to folks about their musical memories, the 1950s through the 1970s were easy to document. Everyone mentioned Wilmer and the Dukes, the Appleknockers, and other groups that were hard to miss. These were the memories from their youth, which invited the question: what are the experiences of today’s youth?

We put out a call for contributions for a music zine. Zines (pronounced zeens) are do-it-yourself, non-profit, ad-free booklets that promote freedom of expression. Since they’re given away for free, the best form of distribution (or “distro”) is to read it then leave it anywhere someone else might find it: the doctor’s office, a coffee shop, an oil change waiting room, etc.

This zine has been distributed in the schools but can also be found around town. There are copies at the Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge, Stomping Grounds, the Smith Opera House, Area Records, and other locations as we get around to them.

We received some contributions ranging from 3rd grade to the high school. I supplemented submissions with an introduction, some historic newspaper clippings and photos, and a story about Scott LaFaro. Our audience was school-age youth, but everyone can learn from it.

Here are two submissions that weren’t included. We had two interviews with Ms. Laurie Williams, general music and chorus teacher at North Street School, so only one was used in the zine. The interview with Mr. Ken Foster, band teacher at North Street School, slipped through the cracks.

If you don’t have children (or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews) in the Geneva elementary schools, this is a glimpse at the school music programs. These are the folks who give the children their first taste of performing as a group and in public. The Christmas concerts are past us but there will be mid-winter and spring concerts. It’s worth attending to see the excitement.

Ms. Williams, right, plays flute for English country dances in the area.

Ms. Williams by Kaitlyn Combs, 5th grade

Ms. Williams, the music teacher at NSS and musician, is a great influence to our staff and kids in North Street School.  She has a heart for music and has a family who plays music around her.

Woman holding a flute and standing behind a woman seated at a piano

Ms. Williams, right, plays flute for English country dances in the area.

Ms. Williams has choruses for 5th, 4th, and 3rd graders – so the kids in her choruses can sing their heart out and have the joy of just not singing in music class, but outside their comfort zone.

I did an interview with Ms. Williams and asked her, “Why did you want to be a musician?”  Ms. Williams said, “I love music and I like to work with kids.”  I also asked Ms. Williams “What music do you like?”  “Jazz – because my father is a jazz pianist,” Ms. Williams said.  Another question I asked her is “What instruments do you play?”  Ms. Williams said “I had to learn all of them in college, but I mostly play flute and piano.”

Ms. Williams loves chorus.  She said it was the best part of her job.  Ms. Williams has been a teacher for 30 years and has been enjoying her job.  Ms. Williams is a great teacher and a positive influence to all of us.

Mr. Foster (left center with tiny trumpet) and the 5th grade jazz band at the 2014 Strawberry Festival at the Presbyterian Church

Interview with Mr. Foster  by Emily Hay and Katie Strojny, 5th grade

  1. What instruments do you play now?  Most woodwind and brass instruments
  1. What instrument did you play first? Saxophone
  1. What inspired you to play music? There was a saxophone player on TV, I thought it was cool and I wanted to play

    outdoor concert by a youth jazz band

    Mr. Foster (left center with tiny trumpet) and the 5th grade jazz band at the 2014 Strawberry Festival at the Presbyterian Church

  2. What age did you start playing? I was in fourth grade band and I was nine
  1. When did you start teaching? The day after college
  1. How do you feel about music?I like it
  1. Do you like teaching?  Why or why not? Yes, every day is an experiment
  1. What is your favorite instrument? Saxophone
  1. Did you teach in any other schools? Yes, I taught at the University of Nebraska, Skaneateles 4th – 12th grade, Waterloo Junior High and High School Principal, Naples High School Principal and then I came to NSS to teach band.


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