A Rhumba Of Rattlesnakes – New Children’s Book by Kristen Lape

A prickle of porcupines? A lounge of Iguanas? A delightful new children’s book, featuring whimsical yet scientifically accurate illustrations of animals, is written in a fun A-Z format that teaches the names of animal groups … like “a zeal of zebras.”

Written by local author Kristen Lape, My Love is bigger than a Rhumba of Rattlesnakes is targeted for ages preschool through elementary school – and is likely a fun read for any age.

Lape (Lape rhymes with grape) grew up in Butte County and spent her initial college years at California State University, Chico, before moving to Santa Cruz where she serendipitously met Sylvie-Marie Drescher, Rhumba’s talented illustrator. Drescher’s animal illustrations, showing animals in their natural habitats, were a perfect fit with Lape’s book idea.

art-1115-rattlesnakes2Lape’s idea for Rhumba was first inspired by her two sons. “When they were small, we read a lot of books about animals and spent a lot of time outdoors in nature.” In her work as an elementary school counselor for Chico Unified School District, Lape has often been reminded of how much children love animals. And she has a related concern: “A lot of the world’s animals and habitats are being destroyed,” Lape says. “I think about that too.” Continue reading

The Snoopy Plate Program Benefits California Museums

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A program that has been years in the making combines two of my favorite things: Snoopy and museums.

The Snoopy Plate Program is the brainchild of the California Association of Museums. These special interest license plates raise funds for a grant program to benefit CA museums, to be administered by the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (a state agency). Continue reading

Hai Ho! Hai Ho! It’s Off to Taiko We Go! – In Mt. Shasta: Taiko Classes for Youth

© Lisa Shara; Published at North State Parent

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Taiko is an ancient Japanese style of drumming that, in the last half century, has undergone an evolution into an ensemble performing art. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a taiko performance, you may already be hooked on the excitement, skill and team work exemplified.

Julie Bennett has been a member of Northern California’s Shasta Taiko ensemble for 16 years. The ensemble was formed by Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba over 25 years ago.  Last February Julie began fulfilling a personal dream: “I have wanted to teach taiko to children for a long time,” she says. “Having seen taiko performers who have grown up in the world of drumming, I realize how it can impact a child’s growth and talent, and motivate them to pursue their artistic passions.”

art-115-taiko3“The young people I see in taiko today are centered, focused, extremely dedicated and disciplined.  I am so impressed with their maturity and abilities,” says Julie. In her classes, students work together as a team through exercise, creativity and rhythmic awareness, as well as solo improvisation. Keller King, age 6, was a student in Julie’s first children’s class series. He says, “Taiko was really fun. We learned patterns, how to count to ten in Japanese, and drum beats.”

Movement is an important aspect of taiko, explains Julie. “Taiko is based on the elements of nature: the taiko stance or “kata” (body position) Continue reading

How Does a Small Town & Small School Make Room for Music Education?

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent January 2014

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McCloud is a small rural town on the southern slope of Mount Shasta. It’s also an exemplary model of promoting arts in education – each year the town proves that communities and educators can work together to keep music alive in public schools.

McCloud Elementary School, in collaboration with arts non-profit Young Imaginations, provides music education to its student body of approximately 85 children. Principal Shelley Cain makes sure time is scheduled for weekly music classes. Students in grades 4–8 attend choral classes, and many also attend an after-school SAFE instrumental program designed for their age group. For its younger students, ages 3-8, classes are based on Kodály and Orff methodologies and introduce children to singing, playing instruments, and the mysteries of reading music.

At McCloud’s high school, music education includes a class where students learn piano/keyboard skills and music literacy; additionally the school has a student rock band, led by staff member Jeffrey Westcott. Continue reading

Mi Escuelita Maya Preschool & Children’s Performing Arts Program – A Place of Learning and Inspiration

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a setting best described as welcoming and warm, where diversity is honored and creativity abounds, children go about the business of learning with great enthusiasm. Smiling teachers clearly are having as much fun as they guide students in discovery and play. The inspiration is palpable. Continue reading

Angélique Kidjo – Enough Energy, Passion & Focus to Influence the World

This article first appeared in North State Parent magazine in March 2008; © Lisa Shara

On March 15th, 2008, the legendary Angélique Kidjo came to Chico’s Laxson Auditorium Angelique Kidjo Cover to share her world-renowned music. Kidjo is also known for her role with UNICEF, her association with Oxfam, and for the organization she founded and holds close to her heart: Batonga Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to expand secondary school opportunities for poor and orphaned girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Even in the flurry of activity following her recent Grammy win for Best Contemporary World Music Album for her 2007 release Djin Djin, Kidjo took time to speak with us about her passion for music, education, and for making a difference in the lives of children and teenagers.

Continue reading