Laura Boosinger - Music of the Southern Mountains
Feb 23, 2018
 Lancaster News 
The Lancaster News
By Gregory A. Summers
February 9, 2001

Kids make 'mountain' music

In the days before electricity, computers, Nintendo and television, what would you do for fun? "You'd run around in the yard, play music and do stuff like that," said Brooklyn Springs third-grader Timothy Terry.

"Stuff like that" is what folk musician Laura Boosinger is teaching Timothy and 118 of his classmates at Brooklyn Springs Elementary School this week in a study unit on South Carolina history. Not only are they learning dates and places of interest across the Palmetto State, the students are learning about mountain music, instruments and a few dance steps.

"The banjo came here from Africa," said 9-year-old Eric Cauthen. "It was made out of goatskin and they used deer skin for the strings." Seven classes of third graders are getting a hands-on look at banjos, canjos, dulcimers and other traditional stringed instruments. On Wednesday, each student got a chance to play a few chords on the 36-stringed Autoharp. Boosinger compared it to a dishwasher, clothes dryer and vacuum cleaner. "That's the deal about an Autoharp - it does it automatically just like appliances do," Boosinger said. "You press the buttons and strum the strings and you could play the melody. A hundred years ago, you could buy one from Sears and Roebuck catalog for about $4. Ministers carried Autoharps with them to lead the singing because they traveled from church to church to preach. They couldn't carry a piano with them everywhere - it was too big and too expensive."

Boosinger said the folk classes give students a chance to experience other types of music - some of the students' only exposure to music has been through N'Sync and Brittany Spears. Others, she said, think folk music is "something old people listened to in the 1960s." "They don't have a clue about anything having to do with Southern mountain music and the fact that you don't have to do popular music to make a living," Boosinger said. "Having forms of music before electricity is a concept many of them can't realize."

Boosinger is a strong advocate of participatory classes. The classes, she said, are structured to help students develop cooperation skills and find their own niche. Boosinger said she wants them to understand that music is something that's accessible to them. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to help the youngsters find a way to make music a part of their lives. "Some of these kids are just now learning that they're musically inclined and classes like this help them branch out and explore other areas than academics," she said. "And some of the kids start to show leadership skills for the first time in this type of setting.

"Let's face it," she said, laughing, "As hard as he would've tried, I don't think Mozart could've made it in the classroom, but there's no doubt he made his mark in his own way."

Folk musician Laura Boosinger, far right, teaches Brooklyn Springs third-graders a dance Wednesday morning. Boosinger has been working with children at the school all week as part of a study unit on South Carolina history. The students pictured are in Breda Bailey's class.

Lorna Twitty, right, and Kayla Ivey, left, sing and clap to mountain music Wednesday morning during a class at Brooklyn Springs Elementary with folk musician Laura Boosinger. In the background are, from left, Tyrell Clyburn, Jasmine himson and Cory Baldwin.