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Kid Pan Alley creates music with Claude Thompson Elementary

Tuesday, Feb. 18 | By Hannah Dellinger
Paul Reisler works with a group of second-graders at Claude Thompson Elementary on a song. Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Hannah Dellinger
Original music filled Claude Thompson Elementary School this week as students worked with Kid Pan Alley to create and perform their own songs.

Paul Reisler, the founder of Kid Pan Alley, started his program 14 years ago at Rappahannock County Elementary School. After working with the students for three weeks to create songs, Reisler made an album out of the children’s music. The music spread across the country.

“The next thing we knew, we were invited to make a record with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra,” said Reisler. “We had lots of well-known artists like Amy Grant, Delbert McClinton and Kix Brooks singing the songs that we wrote with elementary school kids.”

One of the songs on that album received a Grammy nomination.

“It’s kinda been going non-stop since then,” said Reisler. “After that we made an album in Charlottesville with a lot of the great artists there, including actress Sissy Spacek, Corey Harris and a bunch of fantastic artists.”

Reisler says that his mission with Kid Pan Alley is to inspire children to utilize their creativity.

“We live in a creative economy and it needs creative people,” said Reisler. “Yet in schools, we’re sort of forced to take tests, and not necessarily to encouraged to be creative. So, I feel that our job is to inspire the creativity in kids.”

Reisler believes that the fact that the songs that the children help to create will go on an album and be sung by big names in the industry, is extremely encouraging to them.

“Just imagine what it’s like if you’re a second grader and the first song you wrote got a Grammy nomination,” said Reisler. “Wouldn’t it change the way you felt about your ability to create? And that’s what we’re really doing, inspiring them to know that they can be creators of their own music and of their own culture.”

Reisler travels across the country with other singer-songwriters. Heather Mae, was with Reisler at the Thompson Elementary School project. Reisler was originally Mae’s song-writing instructor.

“I love to help children find their own creativity and their own creative process,” said Mae. “Paul thought that my experience working with children and my philosophy would be a good fit with Kid Pan Alley.”

The Thompson children were very engaged in the song-writing process. The second grade class came up with a song about a mouse named Tom that lives in the school and happily sang along while coming up with melodies and lyrics.

Victoria Frye, a second grader, said that the project made her feel more creative and excited about music.

“I wanna be a singer when I grow up,” said Frye. “My sister’s gonna give me her violin.”

William “Cash” Coonce was also having a blast singing and creating with his classmates.
“It was really fun,” said Coonce. “I was kinda nervous at the start, but it got a lot better.”

For more information on Kid Pan Alley, visit http://www.kidpanalley.org

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