Evergreen students sing along with singer and guitar player Billy Farmer. Photo by Hugh McMillan, KP News

Thanks to untimely snow, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day program at Evergreen Elementary was delayed until March 3. Though tardy, it was a huge success as the kids sang along with popular singer and composer Billy Farmer.

Farmer, a Tacoma resident who performs at regional festivals, markets, and concerts, is a ’79 graduate of Tacoma’s Stadium High School. He attended Tacoma Community College in the ‘80s before embarking on a 15 year touring career that covered the western hemisphere, 36 states and five Canadian provinces.

Ramona Dickson of the sponsoring Two Waters Arts Alliance (TWAA) said, “Billy’s love for folk music and passing along the gift of song has found him new joy in TWAA’s ‘Artists In Schools’ program as the ears and hearts of so many children leap when singing the anthems he performs.”

He has been working with TWAA’s AIS program for two years thanks to Vaughn Elementary music teacher, Mary Farr, who recommended him.

“One thing I liked about the Billy Farmer assembly was that we got to sing along with him, not just sitting and listening to him, we were active. I hope Billy can come again,” said Stasi Rogers, a fifth grader.

With guitar, banjo and slides, Farmer told the story of Dr. King’s historic “I have a Dream” speech at the Washington Mall and all he did for the Civil rights movement. Fifth grader Tyler Wall said he “liked when Billy talked about the famous speech at the Washington monument (sic) and how MLK changed the world and how he never gave up.”

TWAA is a nonprofit, community-based organization committed to providing opportunities for Key peninsula residents of all ages to create and experience art at many levels.

In a partnership between TWAA and the Peninsula School District, the AIS Program enhances school arts programs and creates new arts curriculum which will help meet Washington’s Essential Academic Learning Requirements in the arts.

“This program engages children in exciting ways that stimulate their creative expression and interest in art,” said Dickson.

Evergreen 5th grader Jonathan Desjardins, “liked that (Farmer) had a sense of humor and that he was a good singer, guitar, and banjo player. I loved the assembly.”

Today, state funding for art education is at a minimum. AIS gives teachers an opportunity to select artists to work with them in the classroom and gives artists an opportunity to share their work and passion with students.

In 2011, TWAA will focus on AIS expanding opportunities for workshops, classes, art auctions, children’s theater, family events and promotion of local artists.

TWAA is supported by donations, memberships and volunteers. Artists in Schools is currently flourishing at Evergreen Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle Schools. Contact Erika Arnett for further information. re_arnett@hotmail.com or 253 884-2322.

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