June 21 – World Music Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated every year on the summer solstice, World Music Day, also known as the Fête de la Musique, brings together professional and amateur musicians to ply their trade and entertain audiences for a day full of sound. The day was first conceived in 1982 by French Minister of Culture Jack Lang, who elicited the help of Maurice Fleuret, the Director of Music and Dance. When Fleuret discovered that half of the nation’s children played a musical instrument, he devised a way to bring people out into the streets for a music festival. Since then, the event has become an international phenomenon, celebrated in more than 700 cities in 120 countries worldwide. To participate consider organizing or attending a  free concert or enjoying music in your favorite way.

Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Written by Anne Rockwell | Illustrated by Colin Bootman

 

“Have you ever known someone who was always trying to turn bad into good, always seeing hope where others saw despair?” This question, which begins the biography of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins and the orphans he loved is as relevant today as it was in the early 1900s, when this story takes place. Reverend Jenkins was the pastor of a small church in Charleston, South Carolina. One night while collecting scrap wood at a railroad yard, he discovered a group of boys huddled and sobbing inside a freight car. Reverend Jenkins took them to his church, fed them, and gave them a warm place to sleep. He knew what it was like to be an orphan because he had been one too.

Soon more orphans showed up at the church door, and Reverend Jenkins accepted them all. Room grew tight so he convinced the city officials to give him an abandoned warehouse for his orphanage. There was just one drawback: the warehouse was next to a prison, where less-than-desirable sounds emanated from the walls. Reverend Jenkins figured out a way to drown out the noise, however. He gathered the orphans and led them in song outside the orphanage door. The kids were good singers, and that gave the reverend an idea.

He had grown up during the Civil War and remembered the marching bands that led the soldiers into battle. He remembered the instruments these musicians carried and asked for any that were now unused to be donated to the children. Instruments poured in! They were polished and tuned and the children learned to play under the direction of the best teachers in Charleston. With the money Reverend Jenkins thought they could make entertaining people, he planned to buy a farm for the orphans.

Soon the Jenkins Orphanage Band was playing on street corners and in other venues. Many of the kids were descended from the Geechee or Gullah people who lived on islands off the coast of South Carolina, and they played the old band music with their own special rhythm, called “rag.” “A couple of Geechee boys would lead the band by doing a dance—twisting and twirling and tapping their toes, knocking their knees, and flapping their arms.” People loved the music, but most South Carolinians were poor and couldn’t donate much to the orphans. Reverend Jenkins decided to take his band to New York City. The band took the city by storm! People loved when the kids played their raggedy music and soon were imitating the Geechee boys’ dance. “Hey, Charleston,” they’d shout, “Give us some rag!” They called the dance “the Charleston,” and soon everyone was doing it.

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The orphans made so much money they were able to buy a new house, and the music instruction became so renowned that families began paying to have their children taught along with the orphans. The band continued to travel around the United States, and they were even invited to perform in the inaugural parade for President Theodore Roosevelt. Finally, they were able to buy the farm Reverend Jenkins had dreamed of.

In 1914 the Jenkins Orphanage Band was even invited to play for Britain’s King George V at the Anglo-American Exposition in London. While they were there, however, Britain entered World War I. The British government ensured that the band had safe passage back home, but many other Americans were stranded in England. Reverend Jenkins offered to lend these citizens the money needed for them to return home as well.

The ship sailed silently through the dangerous Atlantic Ocean until it reached an American port. Once safe the passengers shouted, “‘Hey, Charleston! Give us some rag!’” Happy to be home, the band tuned up their instruments and played loudly and enthusiastically for the shipboard audience. As the passengers disembarked in New York Harbor, crowds greeted them with a hearty welcome. Back home “as they lay down to sleep that night, those band players knew they had done what Reverend Jenkins always taught them. They had turned bad into good.”

Anne Rockwell succinctly and clearly relays the story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band while also retaining all the heart and soul of this fascinating group of children and their dedicated caregiver. The true-life tale is mesmerizing, not only for the historical details of the growth of ragtime music and the Charleston dance but for the accomplishments of the orphans once given love, acceptance, and education. Rockwell’s conversational tone contributes to the story’s smooth, flowing pace, which will keep listeners or readers rapt from beginning to end.

Colin Bootman’s bold two-page spreads illuminate the sights and sounds of the early 1900s for readers. Emphasizing the personal connections between Reverend Jenkins and the orphans as well as the band and their audiences, Bootman’s vibrant paintings are full of people watching, dancing, marching, and celebrating these boys’ awesome gifts.

Ages 6 – 10

Carolrhoda Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761355656

World Music Day Activity

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It’s Instrumental Word Search

 

Triangles may not get a lot of play in an orchestra, but there’s plenty of play in this printable It’s Instrumental Word Search that contains the names of 20 instruments! 

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