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Artsbridge, Mullen share music with Martin Elementary School students

Martin Elementary School fourth-grader Karlie Decator plays a small percussion instrument shaped like a lizard during a music demonstration Monday at the Parkersburg school. Local musician Michael “Moon” Mullen demonstrated Appalachian music to students as part of a program through Artsbridge. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — Martin Elementary School students had the opportunity to learn and play Appalachian music and instruments from a local musician thanks to Artsbridge on Monday.

Musician Michael “Moon” Mullen spent Friday and Monday at Martin, teaching students about the history of Appalachian music, playing songs and demonstrating instruments.

“Everybody’s playing an instrument, whether they’re 4 years old or 11 years old. Everybody gets to participate,” art teacher Amy Walsh said. “It’s really great because Moon gauges the interests and the abilities of each class. Some classes are more laid back, and he takes that approach to it. Some classes were more engaged and likely to play and get excited about it.”

Some of the instruments highlighted were well-known, like a guitar, harmonica, ukulele or banjo. Mullen also showed off Appalachian-specific instruments, from a mouth bow to a wooden percussion instrument that looked like a lizard. Students even had the opportunity to play along with Mullen for some songs.

Performing for more than 25,000 students at schools since Artsbridge’s first year in 1986, Mullen said he enjoys introducing Appalachian music and that it can also show students that they don’t need fancy instruments to produce music.

Local musician Michael “Moon” Mullen explains the mouth bow, a classic Appalachian musical instrument, to students during a visit Monday to Martin Elementary School in Parkersburg. (Photo Provided)

“Fabulous part of my life is being able to play music. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing music, mostly original, but it’s all folksy. The music of the down-home, good-old-time, hillbilly music,” Mullen said. “I think Artsbridge has done such a fantastic job over these many years. I know it’s been kind of a crazy year, so pleased that Mr. Wheeler came up with the idea to do it in small sessions. This has been really good to be able to share a conversation back and forth. People can ask more in-depth questions.”

Unable to hold the event with the entire student body in the school’s auditorium as in years past because of COVID-19, Martin Principal Thomas Wheeler asked Mullen if he could perform a small group atmosphere.

“Everybody gets that up-close, intimate performance, rather than sitting in a big gym where you got 250 people in there,” Wheeler said. “They can ask questions and interact with the musician. I’m very pleased with it. The kids have been very responsive to it. You can hear them, and they’re singing, clapping and even playing. So I was just really tickled with it.”

Tyler Bennett can be reached at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

Local musician Michael “Moon” Mullen played instruments and sang Appalachian folk songs during a visit Monday to Martin Elementary School in Parkersburg. The event was made possible through Artsbridge which provides local musicians and artists for schools throughout the area. (Photo Provided)

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