Basics of the bow

Written by Lisa Britton/For the Baker City Herald October 24, 2012 12:13 pm

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald Some of  instructor Kelly Thibodeaux's fiddles are decorated with paintings, like this tiger face appearing to watch every movement of Haines Elementary student Goldie Ewing.
S. John Collins/Baker City Herald Some of instructor Kelly Thibodeaux's fiddles are decorated with paintings, like this tiger face appearing to watch every movement of Haines Elementary student Goldie Ewing.
By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

HAINES — Out of sight, it sounds like you’re standing in a meadow on a summer night, surrounded by crickets and frogs.

Very loud crickets and frogs.

Peek around the corner and you see the source of the sound — a bunch of kids sawing away at pint-sized fiddles.

All the students at Haines Elementary — grades kindergarten through six — are learning fiddle basics from Kelly Thibodeaux, an artist-in-residence.

He works with every class this week, Monday through Wednesday, culminating in performances on Thursday.

He was here last year, too.

“They remembered everything,” he says. “They’re playing a grade level above. Their bow strokes are right on.”

Thibodeaux is from Baton Rouge, La., and lives in Western Oregon.

He and his Etouffee Band play “swamp rock” — Louisiana dance music.

In the schools, he teaches students some simple bow strokes and songs.

“I’m self-taught, so I know what will trip them up,” he says.

He brings a bunch of small fiddles, allowing the students to play the instruments at the first meeting.

Remember, he only has three days with these kids.

“Since I don’t have much time, I use every trick in the book,” he says. “I teach them how to saw.”

These high intensity music lessons fit nicely with the state’s curriculum, he said.

“They emphasize rhythm, beat, dynamics,” he says. “The bow stroke itself is rhythm.”

His love for the fiddle is contagious.

When Elijiah Smith comes in for a quick lesson, Thibodeaux first tunes the fiddle.

He plays a short song.

“That’s a wolf howl,” he says, earning a smile from Elijiah.

As he plays a little more, Elijiah’s smile widens, his eyes riveted to the instrument.

Thibodeaux tells the kids about the power of fiddle music.

“It’s magic,” he says. “This instrument makes people move.”

The students will present their music skills to parents on Thursday. Each grade performs during the day, and the evening brings a performance and parent involvement night from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call the school at 541-524-2400. 

To learn more about Thibodeaux, visit his website at www.etouffee.com.