CLEARFIELD — For the first time since Antelope Elementary School opened 25 years ago, a Steinway grand piano sat on its stage, having been delivered by a professional moving company for a special presentation of Sergei Prokofiev’s musical tale for children, “Peter and the Wolf,” sponsored by the Davis Arts Council.
The production is currently being presented at schools throughout Davis School District with actor Jay Perry from Plan-B Theatre Company doing the narration and Kary Billings, a pianist from the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, providing music.
“We love sharing music with children, enhanced with storytelling, because we want to make an impression that will last a lifetime,” said Billings. “This is a rare thing to have a concert grand 10 feet away from these kids, many who have never seen or been this close to a grand piano before.”
This certainly isn’t any ordinary piano, Perry said Monday, telling the students about the unique opportunity of experiencing a Steinway — considered to be among the elite of pianos.
Perry then said there are numerous ways to tell a story — with words, pictures, dance, or music. They were going to experience all of those forms during the 45-minute performance.
The kids began by envisioning a story, written by Aaron Copland for the piano, about a cowboy going to a hoedown, meeting a girl, and concluding with a kiss. As the pianist’s fingers danced about on the piano, the students’ heads began nodding to the beat. Many pretended to play the piano as they imagined a hoedown on the stage.
Things got even more interesting as Perry read to them the story of “Peter and the Wolf,” a children’s short story about a hungry wolf interested in a duck, bird and cat, whose actions are thwarted by the brave hero, Peter, as the students provided actions for different characters in the story.
With menacing low notes on the piano representing the lurking wolf, the kids imitated their own wolves with pointy fingers against their heads for wolf ears while sneering appropriately. Then along came Peter, who trapped the wolf, as the music bounced about in majestic and triumphant chords, while the students responded in kind with joyful smiles and waving arms.
One student was fascinated by the music.
“I liked how it sounded on the piano and how you could imagine what the people were doing with the music,” said sixth-grader Brooklyn Smith.
The Davis Arts Council has been bringing creative plays to area schools for the last five years, to help fill in where funding for arts programs is lacking.
“We feel like we are filling a critical need, especially where there have been numerous studies that show education in music improves all sorts of curricular competencies,” said Kirt Bateman, Davis Arts Council director.
The council hopes these performances will introduce kids to the arts, especially watching a world-renowned classical pianist on the Steinway.
“Even if just one kid is motivated to ask about piano lessons or get into theater, it’s worth the entire program,” Bateman said.
The director of the production, Christy Summerhays, said one little girl was so enamored with the piano during one of the recent performances, she came up afterward just wanting to touch the piano. Summerhays said:
“I love that they get exposure to things they otherwise wouldn’t, and to make it fun for the kids, so classical music isn’t boring.”