Early Tuesday morning, fourth grade students at Northlake Hills Elementary followed Native American musician Martin Espino to create their own renditions of Native American songs using traditional instruments like deer antlers and clapper sticks.
The educational and interactive performance program was part of the school’s first Native American Day where students in Kacy Duncan’s, Meg Waymire’s and Beth Chamberlin’s fourth grade classes learned about the culture and traditions of California’s local, indigenous tribes.
“I hope they develop an appreciation not just for this culture that I’m teaching, but for the culture of their own,” said Espino, who gives similar lessons and performances in three to four local elementary schools each week.
Espino’s own musical inspiration comes from his history and culture rooted in Native American tribes in Mexico.
Throughout his performance, Espino taught the students about the music of California’s tribes like the Tataviam and the lifestyles of the hunter gatherers.
“Think of how these people lived,” Espino said to the crowd of students. “One (way of living) was to stay in one spot, and one was to travel.”
During his lesson, Espino led the group in singing two indigenous welcome songs and one hunting song while they created music with his traditional, handmade instruments.
“If you think about it, we’re using three instruments: our voices, the clapper sticks and our hands,” Espino said. “The music we made, that’s what it sounds like now.”
The students were able to use a variety of instruments like deer antlers, rocks, shell shakers,
rattles and clapper sticks, which were created by California Native Americans.
“They [instruments] all have different sounds or different voices,” Espino said. “Beautiful instruments and rare sounding things do come from other places, but they do come from this place as well.”
With his lesson, Espino also taught the students to respect different cultures, languages and songs.
“All native means is a living thing that is from somewhere on this earth,” he said. “You all come from somewhere on the earth… we’re all the same.”
The musical program and lesson was part of the schools PAC K-12 partnership with College of the Canyon’s Performing Arts Center, which has grown from partnering with one elementary school in 2011 to more than 30 today.
“The importance of arts education has really taken a hold in the Santa Clarita Valley and the community realizes there is a need for it,” said Linda Candib, arts education specialist at COC’s PAC.
During Native American Day, students also created Native American crafts, like woven baskets and dream catchers, and learned this history of local tribes.
Mary Bates, who helped coordinate the performance and whose son is in fourth grade at Northlake Hills, hopes the Native American Day will continue in years to come.
“Hopefully we can build upon it,” she said. “Not all the children learn through books… some learn through hands-on experiences.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_