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Mariposa in the Schools

By Sandy Byer

Volume 13 Number 4

Mariposa in the schools (MITS) began during the 1969-70 school year as a small service provided by and through the Mariposa Folk Festival. The festival organizers wanted to bring traditional folk music into the schools, as well as to develop future audiences for the festival itself. The three founding members -- Sharon Hampson, Chick Roberts, and Klaas Van Graft -- handled all the promotion, booking, and typing, with help from the festival office. The program was initially funded by the Toronto Musicians' Association Trust Fund, and adopted the fund's practice of providing two performances for the price of one.

As the program grew, MITS acquired its own co-ordinator to handle bookings and contracts.

Goals and standards were introduced, and all performers wishing to become part of MITS were required to audition their programs. The provincial government, through the Ontario Arts Council, gave us the grants that ensured our growth. They provided the funding for us to print and distribute our catalogue to all the schools and libraries in metropolitan Toronto and to reach people outside of Toronto. MITS was then able to expand its boundaries and include other kinds of performers, including dancers, storytellers, and puppeteers.

The cornerstone of MITS has been the classroom workshop, which brings together one (or more) performers and one class in an informal setting. This process encourages group participation; students not only listen, but also make music themselves. Traditional and contemporary folk material is presented, making the workshop entertaining as well as education. Other goals include imparting to the students an awareness and appreciation of folk traditions in their many forms, and of the heritages and cultures around them, and making students aware of the possibilities for musical expression outside those offered by modern mass media.

The program also tried to help teachers use folk traditions to supplement and extend the regular school curriculum in many subject areas. In addition, MITS offers concerts and teacher workshops from the nursery school level through high school and college. There are full-day and half-day fees.

MITS now has 30 performers in its catalogue.
They include: Rick Avery and Judy Greenhill, Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein Bram Morrison (Sharon, Lois, and Bram), Eric Nagler, Ken and Chris Whiteley, Jerry and Kim Brodey, Sandra Beech, Bill Russell, Deborah Dunleavy, lan Bell, Bluma, Sandy Byer, Ray Gordezky, Shelley Gordon, Andrea Haddad, Caroline Parry, Joe Hampson and Ted Roberts (of the Travellers), Marylyn Perringer, Chris Rawlings, Chick Roberts, Beverlie Robertson, Olga Sandolowich, Rina Singha, The Whole Loaf Theater, and Dan Yashinsky. As one can see from the above list, many of the well-known children's performers have their roots in MITS (including Raffl whose other commitments precluded continued MITS participation).

A great variety of programs are offered by MITS performers. These include: Canadian songs, Celtic music, creative song writing, folk instruments, folk dances and games French songs and stories, homemade musical instruments, introduction to folk music, jugband, multicultural dance and music, puppet theater, recorder, sound and voice, storytelling, string games, and programs presenting specific themes and seasons. These programs are suited to the needs of individual students, whether they are in nursery school or high school. Special education programs are also available. All workshops and concerts are designed to encourage a great deal of group participation. To counter mostmass entertainment that promotes passive listening, MITS performers encourage students to sing along, chant in stories, dance, and make music in a variety of ways.

In 1979, the MITS performers pooled their talents and energy to produce their first record, Going Bananas, which was highly successful and nominated for a Juno award. One of the goals of this record was to be a resource to the classroom teacher, particularly as it covered a wide range of folk topics. In 1984, the MITS performers again pooled their talents to produce their second record, Banana Split, which was released in late November. This record has also met with critical success. There are songs from many musical traditions, including French Canadian, English Canadian, West Indian, Black American, Western Swing, as well as singing games, dances, counting songs, echo songs, sea songs, partner songs, and stories. It was produced in an entertaining, enjoyable, and enriching manner by veteran Ken Whiteley (producer on all Raffi's records).

Since 1983, MITS has become a separate legal entity. Although it still maintains close ties and shares common goals with the Mariposa Folk Foundation, it now has its own governing body. MITS performances occur all over Ontario, and the number of students touched by MITS since 1969 is now approaching one million. We are still growing and sharing our programs wherever we came MITS performers are interested in extending their services to the rest of Canada and may be contacted through MITS at 525 Adelaide St. E., Toronto, Ont., M5A 3W4, (416) 366-2320.

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1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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