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Buzz Kids: From musical literacy to #QuarantineHaikus to virtual museum tours

This week’s Buzz Kids opens with a musical question for everybody. It continues with an exploration of the value of writing poetry for entertainment and hope, and another of the importance of including art in your study-at-home plans while school is out.

Musical touchstones

Music is a powerful force in our world that can bring joy in dark moments and smooth out confusion with catharsis. It also can give people who don’t realize how much they have in common a chance to see what they share.

That’s why it’s important for everyone to have a basic literacy level in all different kinds of music. We all have our favorite genres of music, but there may be varieties of music out there that will join your list of favorites once you’ve heard them.

We are fortunate to live in a time when it’s easy to download music from all around the world. Parents who are trying to figure out how to add the arts to home lesson plans have access to all kinds of resources, from local musicians’ websites to radio stations.

Try learning about a new genre of music each day. Not familiar with country music? Try tuning in to a local country station, such as 99.7 CYK or WCVL-FM 92.7, and listen together.

The next day, listen to hip-hop, classical or rock. Write down what you like about each kind of music. If different composers, songwriters or performers inspire you, go online to learn more about them. Where do they find inspiration? What events in their lives influenced their music?

And here’s where everyone can help shape an arts lesson for all ages, as well as a community conversation: Who, in your opinion, are the five most influential performers or composers in your favorite genre?

While newcomers are learning to appreciate different genres of music, here’s a chance to shape a musical literacy curriculum for everybody while we’re in a learn-at-home mode. Let’s create a community playlist so we can learn more about each other.

Even if you don’t listen to rap or punk or pop every day, it’s important to know who the most influential shapers of each genre are and were. Fans new to punk, for instance, need to know about the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys. Newcomers to Baroque music should know about Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach.

When I was growing up, my parents insisted that I listen carefully to an artist or genre before deciding I didn’t like it. You know what? They were right. To this day, I love hearing new-to-me artists. You, too, may discover something meaningful that you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life.

Music is a great way to sort through all kinds of emotions, from sheer joy to confusion and heartache, which can be comforting and inspiring right now. It’s also a wonderful way to bring people together — to dance, to discuss important issues in people’s lives, to sing together and feel more connected.

Please join the conversation by emailing your top five in your favorite musical genre to, and explain why these musical figures should be on everyone’s radar.


If you want to try writing your own poetry, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative has a new effort going on that invites families and individuals to write haikus, film themselves sharing them, and then email the results to The Bridge.

The haiku is a poem that expresses a thought in 17 syllables — five in the first line, seven in the second and another five in the third. For this project, The Bridge is requesting haikus written about hopeful and encouraging topics to help keep everyone’s spirits up while we’re observing social distancing.

Write your haiku and then use your smartphone to film yourself reading it. Keep your video to 30 seconds or so.

Email the video and text of your haiku to, and be sure to include your social media handles so the folks at The Bridge can share your creation with fans of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

“We’ve had a really great response so far,” said Alan Goffinski, executive director at The Bridge.

Many folks are sending videos — there are at least 50 so far, with more in the inbox, Goffinski said — and other creative people who don’t use smartphones are mailing in haikus with drawings and artwork. When possible, though, Goffinski said, please include that 30-second video. Your smile may be just the thing to turn someone else’s tough day around.

“That’s a key element of this,” he said. “We’ve got so many videos of smiling faces. We know this is a hard time for everyone, but we are encouraging people to be uplifting.”

Art in a time of coronavirus

Goffinski offered encouragement to parents and other grownups who are coming up with lesson plans on the fly while children are home from school. By including the arts in your homegrown curriculum, you’re giving every subject room to grow.

“I think the biggest benefit when you allow kids to explore their creativity is they get to learn more about themselves and their surroundings,” he said. “That’s very self-exploratory. You’re putting yourself out onto the page or onto the canvas.”

Goffinski said art can be a “therapeutic and enlightening” subject to study at home. He recommends staying open to possibilities — and avoiding placing too many limits.

“Art, in a lot of ways, has the same mental health benefits and awareness as meditation or journaling,” Goffinski said. “It gives you self-awareness.”

In a lesson plan, “doing art within a set of restrictions or prompts is a really exciting and empowering experience.”

Art also can be a great way to express the enthusiasm of making discoveries in other subjects. Many of us learn and reflect more while our hands are busy making things. If you’re learning about architecture, for example, draw a building that could be accessible to everyone or help preserve precious resources. If you’re studying space exploration, drawing or making models can help you visualize the concepts you’re learning.

“Artists are writing about what they know,” Goffinski said. “If you’re learning about something in the sciences that’s exciting, why wouldn’t you?”

Virtual field trips

While you’re doing without educational field trips, use your imagination and initiative to find virtual field trips that can bring fulfilling new experiences.

If compiling your top-five musical lists got you interested in learning more about country music, for instance, go to the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol at to watch videos and download activity sheets. There’s a coloring sheet that teaches fun facts about the history of the banjo, and another activity that shows you how to create your own banjo out of everyday items. And if you’ve ever wondered how many grooves there are on a record, try the trivia game video.

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture offers online enrichment, too, online at The latest exhibition, “Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today,” has its own new virtual tour.

Look for virtual tours of “The Story of Virginia” and “Landscapes of Virginia,” and keep checking back for “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality,” which is coming soon.

For all kinds of resources, go to


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