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Performer helps local schools create musical masterpieces

It’s not every day that students are asked to imagine their schools without teachers, and it seems downright subversive to ask those kids to sing a song about it in front of all their peers.
Performer Lowry Olafson runs through the crowd at Central Elementary Wednesday while playing Pachelbel’s Canon.
Performer Lowry Olafson runs through the crowd at Central Elementary Wednesday while playing Pachelbel’s Canon.

It’s not every day that students are asked to imagine their schools without teachers, and it seems downright subversive to ask those kids to sing a song about it in front of all their peers.

But that’s exactly the kind of imagination and interaction encouraged by Lowry Olafson, a folk-musician/children’s-entertainer from British Columbia who visited Central Elementary on Wednesday. Olafson lead a class in a song-writing workshop where they got to decide what – and who – they wanted to sing about.

The 30 or so kids wrote a song called “No More Teachers,” and with the accompaniment of Olafson on guitar they belted the brand-new tune to the entire school…

“We can skateboard in the hallways, Go home and get our pets, Order a hundred pizzas, Start dancing on our desks!”

…went the number; and with the help of a projector, soon every student – and most of the teachers – were singing along to the newest edition of Olafson’s Songs by Kids project.

Olafson has been going to schools across Western Canada for the last eight years or so, acting as the funnel that elementary to high school students can pour their musical creativity through. He estimates that in that time, he’s sung with 70,000 kids who’ve wrote over 300 songs.

Olafson, who is an established folk musician and has released eight albums, first started working as a children’s performer after being continually invited to play at the schools in whatever town he was performing in. He wasn’t used to working with kids and quickly had to learn how to relate to his new, younger audience.

“At the start, I would just come to do some outreach at the schools,” he said. “I had to learn how to be a children’s performer – I hadn’t planned on it.”

Soon, he realized that there was a lot of great music being made in his workshops, music that deserved to be heard outside of the classroom.

“The kids were writing some great songs – but they weren’t going anywhere,” Olafson said. “That’s when I thought it would be great to share their music.”

Olafson recently released My Dog Ate My Homework – Songs for Schoolkids, a collection of 18 songs written by students – including creative numbers like ‘Friends are like Noodles,’ ‘The Lemons are Coming,’ and the catchy ‘21 Ways to Bug Your Teacher,’ which Olafson sang to the crowd at Central Elementary.

He also performed a few other songs off of the album, as well as a layered, loop-pedal violin version of Pachelbel’s classic wedding song ‘Canon in G Major’ – which saw Olafson playing the melody while running through the crowd before finishing it off with a fuzzed-out, Hendrix-style solo.

He also got students, teachers, and local law enforcement off their backsides to dance to “The Funky Chicken,” another song off Dog ate My Homework. Olafson also entertained JAWS and Dr. Swift earlier in the week, where participants wrote: “Keep on Keeping on,” and “You Can’t Jump on Jello.”

To hear the songs written by the Lac La Biche students visit - http://bit.ly/nbBGcH.