As a member of the Alaska Artists in the Schools program, I maintain a special Alaska AIS page for Alaskan Educators interested in having me come to their school through that program or as a volunteer.
I began doing lecture-performances on American Folkmusic in K-12 schools and colleges while I was in highschool. After over 30 years of doing various programs, I'm able to work in a wide range of situations. I have two basic programs, one centered around the hammered dulcimer, and the original American folkmusic program. I've also developed some other more specialized programs.
Recently, teachers have encouraged and advised me to offer the program to more schools, nationwide, telling me that my programs are a seriously valuable educational resource and that I am a good teacher/presenter. So I have decided to start by making this descriptive package on the programs available.
I have educational programs and performances for all levels, from preschool to college. The first program covers the hammered dulcimer, its history and primary role in the development of music, other instruments, and musical styles as it spread around the world; and my personal story of adapting it to modern music and building the first electric solid-body. The second program focuses on viewing history and culture through folkmusic, using the facts and stories behind the songs as I play pieces of them, from the Revolution right up to the present.
I can talk about the life of an artist, and of developing art in your life as just good, satisfying fun. I can also teach the specific skills involved in the work and practical business that make an artist professional, in my particular niche in the music biz. I teach focused programs, usually, but I can talk about all of it generally, in one sweep. As a performer, I illustrate my points with bits of songs and music, and finish in a class period!
I personally feel that it is part of my duty as an artist, especially as a musician, to participate in the lives and education of students, and also to inspire and teach, to do my part to pass the torch to the next generations of musicians.
American folkmusic is a serious educational tool, not just for music education, but as history, sociology, science, and literature; and still be entertaining. Music is an integral part of our lives and has always been so, and much of what we are and what we do is reflected in it. It is important to make live arts, and all trades, and the interaction with working artists, available to students. As well as being enjoyable, special programs can help bridge the gap between the detatched academic environment and the personal, vibrant, "real" world.
I never bothered collecting recommendations, I just did my work in the schools. These two just represent how long I have been at it. As I am trying to do more with the music, and the school shows, I am I'm collecting some more recomendations and references. These are as important as what I can tell you about of the programs, maybe more. I can't know what a show is like to experience, and judge its qualities and effects, except by the responses I get from others. What other teachers and administrators think of my programs, from their perspective as educators and audience, is a practical, realistic measure of my programs. In fact, it is because of these enthusiatic responses that I have had to actually think about the programs, and their importance, and to try offering them to a wider audience.
Though not specifically EDU related, here's a link to some comments from my guestbook. This is still another perspective upon my shows, which is that I reach people, and, of course, "the first step in teaching them is reaching them"
Brian is an entertainer of professional quality with a program that is worthwhile as history, folklore, and entertainment.
He is excellent for high school and junior high school classes studying American History and culture,
or for any group interested in superior performances of this sort of music.
Jack McKeon, English Teacher
Brian Clauss has an amazingly entertaining and informative show for kids of all ages as well as adults. He has been to my school two years in a row now and I can not wait for him to return again next year. Not only does his show change each year, but it is always applicable in my music room as well as many other areas such as history. My colleagues enjoyed the presentation as much as the kids and found everything correlated in some way to what they are studying in their classrooms.
Brian brings his own instruments to play, and the most loved by the audience is his self-made hammered dulcimer. He integrates the instruments, songs, and stories mixed in with history to make the lesson fun. I was amazed as to all the details the kids remembered after he left and we dialoged on the experience. His program helped the lessons that I was teaching to my students reach another level of understanding. The kids were excited when they were able to correctly answer his questions and be a part of the program. I highly recommend to any music teacher to take a day and have him come to your school.
At this point, I should make a quick comment on this subject, and my motvations and roots; in keeping with my general statement of principles, which trys to explain why I have no set fees for performances.
I make my programs available to all regardless of their ability to pay, and I will continue to do so. I volunteer because it makes it easier to make it happen, and I feel teaching is too important to worry about wether I get paid to do it. I really haven't had the time to think much about getting paid for teaching, though I have been occasionally. I feel that working in the schools, and teaching in general, is just a part of the music, part of my job. I never expect any specific part of the music or show to pay, yet manage to get by on what the music provides, stay in the black, but not worry about just who is specifically paying for what. Sometimes schools are able to make donations, which are seriously appreciated in helping support all the schoolshows I do, but again, they too are really contributing to the whole show.
These days, I volunteer in Alaskan schools every year for a few weeks. Motivated by the response in Alaska, I'm willing to try and make the programs more available. I'll be able to do a few schools all along the circuit, if I can fit them in convieniently, and I have the time to spare. But realistically, I can still only afford to volunteer so much time, money, and energy.
So, part of the specific purpose of packaging the programs here is to look for funding, or more, to make it easier for others to arrange funding. I can only afford to volunteer so much time and energy to the schools, no matter how important it is to me. It is still just one part of my efforts dedicated to music. The economic reality is that I would be able to expand my present efforts with funding and administrative logistical support. I'm happy to let educational programs take a larger place within my life as a touring recording and performing artist. Though I will still have that to do, so I probably wouldn't be able to stay in a single area, or state, for the entire school year. Still, I have no iron-clad expectations, or even a clear idea of what is possible, so I am open to any suggestions. I do know the more flexibility I have, the more I'll be able to juggle the conflicting demands of the music.
I am putting together this information specifically as my part in helping people get funding for my programs, in any way. I'm trying to provide an organized and detailed descriptive package with supporting references, and eventually with audio and/or video documentation/previews available. If there is anything else that would be helpful, please suggest it.
Here is a brief descriptive list of the various programs with links to detailed descriptions of the individual programs when available.
There are the two basic programs, and the rest are focused on specific subjects. I talk about and demonstrate a serious list of specific points, themes, and facts in a very fast-paced presentation. I continually illustrate the presentation with pieces of songs and music. I have been doing these for many years in a wide variety of circumstances and situations, so I improvise pretty easy and tailor the presentation to the group and situation, and can often connect to presently relevant subjects or themes from their regular classes. Though my programs are very specifically educational, I am an entertainer, and my basic programs are a great up-tempo show as well.
Practically, I can work in classroom or assembly, from a single student to the entire school. I find the best general arrangement is working in groups of one to four classes in a large classroom, like the music/band room or a "common" area. The shows are visual and I interact with the students, asking and answering questions, so working fairly close in is best. Though I can fit a show in a 30 minute period, 40-45 is better, allowing more time for music and a less hectic pace. I can do continuous classes back to back all day, and usually do one school a day, though sometimes two.
I work with all age groups. Generally, I have three levels, k-6 and 7-12, then college, with a specific K-PreK class as well. With the older grades I can cover ground faster to either add more depth, or more and longer examples, or combine the subject matter of two or more basic programs in the same class period, or spend more time answering questions. Other progams, like digital audio and video production, can be covered as a basic working introduction in a single class period or as a series of classes stretched over weeks, from introduction to completed student projects.
I include the beginner music classes because in some schools there are no regular music teachers, and its possible for me to teach this as well, or substitute for a regular music teacher, while doing programs, too. Though the programs are my unique contribution, I realize that teaching basic music classes as well the programs might be more useful.
THE HAMMERED DULCIMER: "Around The World From the Stone Age to the Age of Rock"
I first demonstrate the development of music and the dulcimer in prehistoric times. I circle the globe and follow world history as the dulcimer appears in different countries, and show how it's principles were evolved into the other stringed instruments. I follow the dulcimer to the USA and demonstrate its primary role in the traditional music, roots of modern. I connect to modern times with my personal history as a musician, my discovery of the dulcimer. I tell how I built my first accoustic dulcimer and my latest, the first electric solid-body dulcimer, and how I have adapted the traditional instrument to modern musical styles. Which is about when the program ends, as I demonstrate different styles of music. Though at the very end, I have the students line up and pass by the dulci on their way out, to either hammer it a bit, just touch it, or ask more questions. Throughout the class I am connecting to a lot of basic principles, from "practice!" to working together; and facts, from geography to math.
I begin by explaining what folkmusic is, and music's role in society and culture from prehistoric times on, reflecting and perserving history and culture. I then demonstrate with a tour of American Folkmusic, and its role in American history and cultures, peoples and places, and the evolution of American music; from the Revolution to the present. I include a bit about the role of the dulcimer and the introduction of other instruments, and how they were adapted to folkmusic and effected by it. I can also include or focus on specific places, peoples, cultures, historical periods, or other themes that might be relevant to the student's present studies.
ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE W/ SCHOOL GROUPS
My music mixes easily in ensemble with others. I can work with any semiproficient group, and I can work with any group as a sing-along, with the possibility of some students, or teachers, on drums or other instruments. I can look over any ensembles list of present and past performance pieces and often chose ones I know from it, and pre-arrange to play these together. For older and/or more proficient groups, this is also a real-world exercise in backing a performer. I have done this program and then successfully included the school group (a chorus) in part of a benefit performance I did at the school that evening.
I can perform as well, and put on a regular show for students, or for other school functions, as after-school activity, or for school benefits or other functions, public or private.
In explaining what the dulcimer is, and how it works and sounds, I give a quick, simple demonstration of the roots of music, and what folkmusic is. The rest is a sing-along, with maybe some dance or drumming thrown in. Though they get an interesting lesson just in what the dulcimer is, the important part is to get them singing, participating in the the music; developing their natural ability, and experiencing music as an easy and positive way to have fun. I can still mix in concepts like practicing and working together. For the final part of the class, they get to take turns playing the dulcimer, again a few at a time, but often I take the time to give them more time to play with the dulci.
The HAMMERED DULCIMER and "The Music of the Spheres"
This is a workshop on the practical aspects of songwriting drawn from my experience as a singer/songwriter. It is not a technical critique of lyric writing styles, but a non-technical, personal account of how the process works for me, what experience has taught me, what I have learned from other songwriters, and how I have applied that to my songwriting. Throughout the program I try to draw on examples from my songwriting, and encourage students to offer their examples of what works or what they are having problems with.
DIGITAL AUDIO PRODUCTION
I travel with my own digital recording gear. I can teach both a single class covering the basics of digital recording and production based around the home computer, demonstrating on my gear. I can also teach it on a seminar basis, taking recording projects from start to finish over a series of classes. The more time I have, the more depth I can go into on any aspect of the progam, from literally assembling/modifying a computer for audio, and installing the studio gear; to recording, mastering, and final production. Though it is possible, and espcecially useful with computer skills, to finish a "hands-on" project as part of the program; the ability to use any gear effectively is the focus of the course. Practically, learning audio processing is similiar to learning word processing. The program enables students to start and complete a project on their own later, using whatever software and hardware they have available.
I have helped schools set up their own systems. For one school, in the course of a two week seminar, we recorded two songs and produced a CD that they later sold as a fundraiser.
DIGITAL VIDEO PRODUCTION
I also carry digital video gear, and can teach a program similiar to the audio production program. I can combine the two programs as well.
THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC: THE SOLO INDIE ARTIST
I cover the specific details of what it takes to work in music as a solo indie performer, and relate my personal experiences as a working artist on the indie fringe. I am not covering the entire business of music at all, but going in depth about my particular route to "success". I do touch on the edges of other routes in passing, and many of the resources and methods I use are the same, so the program is of general interest to anyone thinking of making a career as a performing artist or in any art.
DULCIMER PLAYING 101 TO ADVANCED
This is pretty self-explainatory. Though I cover traditional styles, I like to focus on my unique style of playing, to accompany vocals. My usual method at this point is to cover a lot of ground in one or more class periods, but video the lessons, to allow the student to review and learn at their own pace after I am gone. This seems to be the only effective method since I can't stay around long enough for a student to learn what I have to teach.
BASIC MUSIC; VOICE, GUITAR AND PIANO: BEGINNER TO INTERMEDIATE
I can also teach basic music, covering the intellectual ground work in history and theory, and the practical ability through singing and drumming, and relating that to instruments. I can specifically teach the two instruments and voice as well, though intermediate is focused generally on my styles of singing and playing rather than instrumental styles.
BUILDING THE HAMMERED DULCIMER
This is a potential program, though I have done adult workshops on this subject, I haven't taken it into schools, though I seno reason not to, except that there isn't much demand for this! This program I would have to deal with the cost of materials and the rest, so is more involved, but beyond that, it isn't a problem. If there is interest, I can assemble what is needed pretty easily.
This really is several programs, of course. Practically, the easiest would be assembling a small but complete electric dulcimer in a classperiod, which is left with the school. This is available for all levels, though best for K-6 music classes. At the 7-12 level, I can also teach how to build an accoustic or electric dulcimer in a single class period, covering the construction techniques and details to allow a student to build their own in shop or at home, demonstrating with the small electric and/or precut pieces for an acoustic. In a seminar of 4 to 5 classes I could lead students through the entire process of building an acoustic dulcimer, start to finish.
Though the basic process is building or assembling a dulcimer, I use the dulcimer to demonstrate the principles of music as well, from basic to advanced science for the highschool level. This can actually be the main focus of the program, rather than specifically "building a dulcimer".