Every teacher has a unique worldview. In the Crater Performing Arts Theater Thursday morning, Jenifer Knippel assumed the worldview of a unicorn as she took nearly 500 Central Point elementary students on a virtual trip around the world in "The Magic Cape Show."
"Here we are in Israel!" she said to her companion onstage, Ashland sixth-grader Emma Johnston, after they had spun in place and left Sweden behind. Emma's magic cape, the inspiration for the play's title, had transported the pair there.
Then the main highlight of the performance began: Johnston and Knippel (in the guise of JenUwin the Unicorn) began to dance while singing a song in Hebrew. The three-piece Rainbow Band played behind them. At every location to which the pair traveled onstage — Japan, Spain, Iceland and onward — a new song in a different language and a dance followed.
This is how Knippel introduces kids to the concept of her after-school music groups, called the Choristers. The Choristers is the children's outreach arm of the organization Rogue World Music, and it's looking to expand, with the help of a grant from the Jackson County Cultural Coalition.
Knippel said the purpose of her program is "exposure and appreciation through positive musical experiences."
Rogue World Music first offered Choristers at schools in the Phoenix-Talent School District. The classes, which run once a week at each school for five weeks, three times a year, are aimed at districts that don't have as many opportunities for elementary students to pursue music. Now, Knippel is establishing partnerships in the Central Point School District.
Bringing music into schools lines up with the goals of Rogue World Music, whose mission is "building community and cultural awareness through world music performance, education and participation." The nonprofit was founded by Megan Danforth as an adult choir called the Rogue World Ensemble. She said the group sings folk music from around the world in a variety of languages, as Knippel did in "The Magic Cape."
"People come into this choir because they experience so much joy, and a challenge and a feeling of getting out of their small world and into the broader landscape," Danforth said.
Danforth said the group's members represent various ethnicities, mostly from Europe, she said. The groups learn music and dance styles from multiple continents, however, so Danforth said the group brings in guest performers and teachers to learn "direct from the source."
Knippel said she makes efforts to avoid what she called "cultural misappropriation" when teaching young students about different world styles of music. She said she tells stories and gives details about the environment to give a sense of the reality of the country and its people.
"I try to get a feel for the place," she said. "That’s kind of how I approach it with (students of) that age. I can basically let you know that these things exist."
"The Magic Cape Show" performance is, at the heart, an outreach for the Choristers program to reach potentially interested teachers, students and parents. The winter season of Choristers is scheduled to kick off Monday, Feb. 5, at Talent Elementary School. Tuesdays will be at a Central Point elementary school — possibly Sam's Valley, Knippel said, although it is pending district approval — Wednesdays at Orchard Hill Elementary, and Thursdays at Jewett Elementary in Central Point. The cost is $15 per student, and participants are accepted into the program on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the 15-student cap is reached at a school, students are placed on a waiting list to participate the following season.
Knippel said interested parents or teachers should contact her at jenifer@JenUwinplaytime.com or 541-891-9964. More information is available at www.rogueworldmusic.org/rogue-world-choristers.
Rogue World Ensemble will perform with Mexican dance company Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at Crater Performing Arts Center, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, at the SOU Recital Hall in Ashland. Tickets for the show, called "Southbound," can be purchased at www.rogueworldmusic.org.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.