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Ellis County students hear Kansas tunes

1/23/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A good way to get children to participate in a musical performance is to involve them in the action.

That's what Ann Zimmerman is doing in the Hays area this week, with favorable results.

Zimmerman, a songwriter and performing artist, is performing as part of Hays Arts Council's traveling artist program.

Zimmerman, an attorney in Salina, travels the state performing and giving workshops for audiences of all ages.

She has a knack for getting children involved in the performance as she sings and plays the auto harp, keyboard and guitar.

Zimmerman often spends an entire day at schools, giving similar performances to different classes. But the HAC's annual music residency program features performances in front of entire student bodies.

On Wednesday at Washington Elementary School in Hays, Zimmerman was able to keep students in kindergarten through fifth grade engaged in the performance, and teachers as well.

"She's got a beautiful voice," said Sharon Howard, longtime fifth-grade teacher at Washington as she watched her students, sitting on the floor in the back row of the gym, sing "Home on the Range."

Brenda Meder, executive director of the HAC, annually brings artists to Hays area schools this time of year as part of a Kansas Day musical residency program. Students are familiar with the artists' performances as they study Kansas history leading up to Kansas Day, which is Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Zimmerman performed in Ellis and Plainville. She was scheduled for Hays schools today and Friday. And she will conclude her four-day visit with performances at Victoria and Russell.

This is Zimmerman's first trip to Hays schools since 2009.

"I often continue to go back and get artists but try to space them out," Meder said of repeat artists. "For instance, this year's fifth-graders were kindergartners when (Zimmerman) was here last."

Zimmerman has released multiple recordings, and this week, each school is getting a copy of her CD "Meadowlark: Songs for the Child in You."