Calling Kansas home

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Thad Beach is not a native of Kansas.

But he has lived here long enough to learn its long, rich history. And he thrives on sharing it with others, especially young school children.

Beach, a touring performer who now lives in Salina, was in Hays this week, visiting local and area elementary schools, performing Kansas Day programs as part of the annual Hays Arts Council residency program.

Beach and HAC Executive Director Brenda Meder today finished up their tour of 12 schools in five towns across three counties in four days.

Beach's performance is much the same at each school, and he said he is impressed with the children's knowledge of Kansas.

Thursday at Lincoln Elementary School in Hays, students of all grade levels shouted correct answers to his questions about their native state.

Beach's presentation at schools includes storytelling while incorporating music and playing several instruments.

During his program, Beach pulled out a ukulele, flute, harmonica, jaw harp and banjo.

Beach, a native of Ohio who moved to Kansas from North Carolina in 1996, pulls a lot of his knowledge of the state from the state seal.

"You look at that seal, and there is so much history in that," said Beach, who wore a black T-shirt with a bright, colorful seal on the front. "What a great thing to build a program around."

He talked about the Indian tribe from which Kansas got its name, and the flutes the Kansas tribe made as youngsters.

"And why are there 34 stars?" he asked, to which he got a quick reply from the crowd.

"Because Kansas is the 34th state," several children said at once.

Beach also talked -- and sang -- about the state bird, grain, insect, flower and rock. The students knew them all, and for anyone who might need their memory refreshed, those are the meadowlark, winter wheat, honey bee, sunflower and limestone.

Meder, in her 23rd year at the local arts council, has been bringing performers to Hays for approximately 20 years in conjunction with Kansas' birthday, which is Tuesday.

Besides the six elementary schools in Hays, Beach also visited the public and Catholic grade schools in Ellis and Plainville, as well as Victoria and Russell.

More about Beach can be found at www.thadbeach.com or thadbeachmusic.com.