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Students Band Together With Roving Music Man
Songwriting Sessions Bring Out Style, Creativity
by Jill Saito, Ft. Collins Coloradoan, October 14, 1997


     Ken Lonnquist walked into McGraw Elementary School on Wednesday, guitar by his side, and looked into the audience.

What he saw was his next songwriting crew.

     Lonnquist, a singer-songwriter from Madison, Wis., has traveled to schools for years to share his love and talent for music with kids.
“I am here today to begin with you a three-day workshop extravaganza,” Lonnquist told the McGraw students.

     By Friday, students in McGraw’'s six grade levels were singing six original songs they helped write with their artist-in-residence.
While the second-graders worked on a ditty about a bragging baby, fifth-graders fine-tuned a love song about an annoying boyfriend.
     “I got diapers from The Gap, I keep ‘'em in a drawer," the second-graders sang. “So if one gets stinky, I always got more...”

     The songs may never reach the airwaves, but they’'re musical hits among the kids who wrote them.

     “We thought of a lot of ideas babies would have and put them in there," second-grader Ashley Dunn said. "I like how it came out.”


     Lonnquist, who has recorded songs for children and adults, is spending time at three local schools to do songwriting sessions with kids.

     McGraw, Beattie and Werner elementary schools raised money to bring Lonnquist to Fort Collins. Parents and teachers will get to hear their school’'s new songs during concerts Lonnquist is performing with kids at Rocky Mountain High School this month.

     "It’'s a very intensive process, and you put a lot of energy into it," Lonnquist said about the residencies. "They’'re always good for learning the artistic process of how a songwriter writes a song---a building block for all kinds of written expression.”


     After the students agree on a topic for their song, Lonnquist works with them on choosing an appropriate mood and musical style.
     "You want them to build awareness about why certain music is chosen to go with certain words," he said. "They don'’t tend to think about music and the underlying reasons for the choice of musical style.”

     The fifth-graders’' song about an annoying boyfriend who picks his nose called for a pop-rock rhythm. However, the second-graders’ song about a bragging baby required a more finger-snapping beat.

     Lonnquist has released eight records for children and five for adults. His own daughter, Natalie, was the inspiration for some of his music, most notably “Nattie of the Jungle,” which is about her messy room.

Their Own Songs

Artist-In-Residence Tunes Up Richards School
By Melinda Kozulis, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal

     Students at Richards had a toe-tappin'’, knee-slappin'’ good time last week composing their own music with nationally-acclaimed children’'s singer-songwriter Ken Lonnquist of Madison. 

The grand finale of the three-day music-in-residence program, which is sponsored by the school’'s PTA, was a concert in which Lonnquist performed some of the songs the students wrote.

     Students in grades 1 through 5 worked in small groups with Lonnquist for parts of three days. By the final concert, Lonnquist had linked all their songwriting efforts together and created unique and entertaining songs that he performed with the entire group. 

During the individual sessions, the kids learned how and why people create music. They discovered how music can tell a story, express ideas, teach or entertain. 

     Through various activities, they experimented with adding music to words to change the mood or energy of a particular song. They learned different ways songs are constructed and how to choose the right musical style and tempo for their songs.

Richards music teacher Kathy Riebau said she was impressed with Lonnquist'’s ability to relate to children and by his talent as a musician. 

     “"He’'s fun, engaging, and just an excellent performer,”" she said.
“"I wanted this program to inspire the kids. I hope they’'ve learned how capable they are of creating their own music, and hopefully this experience will motivate them to start esxpressing their own musical ideas.”"

     Riebau expressed gratitude to the PTA for sponsoring the event. The group provides the funding for the program and volunteers ar responsible for all the organization and planning. 

Catchy Lyrics Turn Kids On To Music

     Ken Lonnquist has been performing professionally since 1978. Children especially love his catchy, ‘anything-can-happen’ lyrics.
His original songs, such as ‘One Speed Bike’, ‘Nattie Of The Jungle’ and ‘Tobacco’ were favorites at Richards School last week when Lonnquist worked on songwriting activities with the children as part of an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the PTA.

     Children of all ages loved ‘One Speed Bike’, a song about a kid whose scientist-uncle straps a rocket on the back of his clunky one-speed bike to make it the fastest in the neighborhood. 

     The engaging ‘Nattie Of The Jungle’ is about a wild, dirty-faced girl who won'’t clean her room. The song has an ape-like “"ooh-ah, ooh-ah"” grunt in the background that turned everyone into bongo players, using their own thighs as drums.

     Lonnquist has won the Parents’ Choice, American Library Association, WAMI, Madison Audubon Society and Dane County Kids awards for excellence in family entertainment. He has released eight recordings for children and three for adults. In Milwaukee, Lonnquist has performed at Summerfest, the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, and the Schlitz Audubon Center.

Quack? Quilts? Quarries?

Budding Lyricists At Burleigh Elementary Learn To Make Hard Choices
by Adam Kirby, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, April, 2005

     Ken Lonnquist has done musician-in-residence programs at dozens of schools over the past decade, but Burleigh Elementary School is the only one he has toured on three separate occasions. 

"It’'s no coincidence," Lonnquist said. "The students are exceptionally creative, and the teaching staff are as supportive as any staff anywhere," he said.

     "It’'s very cozy that way. You don’t have to be worried about making a misstep,”" he said.

     Lonnquist’'s third Burleigh residency (his previous visits were in 1995 and ’1999) wrapped up last week, capped by a concert sung by the very students who helped write the lyrics.

The songs the students created featured a different style --- R&B, pop, folk, calypso, and some bluesy-folk. Each grade level collaborated on a song, with lyrics inspired by curriculum the students were studying in their regular academic classes.

Third graders, for example, wrote a song about diversity, based on the themes of a book they were studying called “"Whoever You Are"”.

The ABCs AS They Relate To Wisconsin

     Fourth-graders, who were studying Wisconsin culture, wrote a song about the ABCs of the state. Each line in the song included a letter correlating to some of the Dairy State’'s famed offerings. 

     "That’'s how they learn --- all mashed together, not in separate departments,”" said Burleigh music teacher Katie Bart. “"Blending music with other subjects is magical for the kids.”"

     The students got pretty passionate about the lyrics, lobbying for changes right up until show time. How about Vernon County instead of Venison? Zoo instead of Zinc? Quacking ducks instead of quilts and quarries?

     “"At some point you'’ve got to stop making changes and sing the song,”" Lonnquist patiently told the agitated songwriters.

The musician-in-residence experience offered advantages for the students and Lonnquist. From his vantage point, the residencies tend to rejuvenate his love of music, he said.

     "They take you into the joy of their own experience --- it’'s immediate, and all their barriers are down. They haven'’t learned to be ‘appropriate’ all the time, and in art, that’s good,”" Lonnquist said.


Students Like The Change


     For the students, the musical interludes were a change of pace, an example of the learning-made-fun ideal.

“"It was kind of like poetry, and it was real exciting working with Mr. Ken,"” said fourth-grader Alisha Harper of Brookfield. "“it makes me feel good to know there’'s somebody out there writing songs for kids not just, like, rap.”"

     Said fourth-grader Carrera Powell of Brookfield: “"To write a song with him, it makes me feel really special. It’'s a step out of the ordinary.”"

     Moreover, the songmaking process itself was a valuable learning tool, Bart said. "It helped students understand that being creative is not automatic, that it takes experimentation and time," she said.

The songs the students created are to be archived at the Burleigh library. Some may even be incorporated into Lonnquist’'s stage show, or the albums he sells on his Web site, And the music will almost certainly be adopted by a few of the t\     eachers to complement their curriculums in the future.

     "I like when residency songs are curriculum-based,”" Lonnquist said, “"because at the very least, you create something that the teachers can use year after year when they come back to that topic.”"

​Artist-In-Residence Lonnquist

Brings Creative Song / Story Process To Lakeshore

By Laurie Ottery, Fond Du Lac Reporter

     Artist Ken Lonnquist spent a week at Lakeshore Elementary in Fond du Lac as the artist-in-residence. The Madison musician, songwriter and singer met with classes several times to take their stories and put them into one cumulative effort complete with songs representing each grade level at the school.

     "Many of my ideas come from my own childhood,”" said Ken. “"I was the youngest of eight children and had to make a lot of noise to be noticed. I’m not above making animal sounds, imitations, or silly faces to capture the attention of a young audience, even if only for the length of a song. Face-to-face time with children and no TV is the most valuable thing we can offer.”"

     At age twelve, Lonnquist received his first guitar and today uses the instrument in the classrooms to work with students writing and singing original songs. 

     At Lakeshore School, the main story was about a grove of pepper trees which continually spread clouds of pepper making everyone sneeze. 

     "Before I arrived, each grade picked out a story or theme the oincorporate into our project,”" said Ken. “"We used that knowledge and their ideas to give us background information toward the end result. Together, we wrote on cumulative story and songs that related to each grade’'s chosen theme.”"

     The end result was a performance at the Performing Arts Center on March 25, with students narrating the story and Lonnquist singing the songs with the classes. They managed to take an original idea, and using their combined effort, along with a vast knowledge of creativity, composed one story, complete with a problem-solving ending.

     Besides performing around the country, Lonnquist also composes for the Children’s Theater of Madison, and has written ten musical theater productions. To his credit are CDs of original children’'s songs including the illustrations on the jacket covers. If anyone is interested in his recordings, they are available at

     The successes of his songwriting workshops, residencies for schools, universities, teacher and environmental conferences become part of his song repertoire, many from working with children. He has received several awards for his efforts including Entertainer of the Year by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. 

With thousands of songs composed and over 300 recorded, Lonnquist is an artist the Lakeshore children will remember for a long time to come. The time spent together gave them the opportunity to be composers themselves.

Melodies Carry Strains Of History, Government & Character

Artist-in-residence helps students write lyrics for class lessons
By Stephanie Scott, Greenfield Observer, 1/26/06

     Ken Lonnquist strums his guitar, creating a dramatic flamenco sound. He tells a tale of determination, loss and the ragin' sea --- the story of Ferdinand Magellan.

     While a story about the 16th century navigator who proved the earth is round most likely will not make Billboard’'s Top 100, it is perfect for a fifth-grade class studying world explorers.

Lonnquist, a Madison-based singer and songwriter, worked with students at Glenwood Elementary School as part of an artist-in-residence program Jan. 24 through 26. He spends time with classes from each grade level to compose a unique song based on some part of the curriculum or classroom learning experience. 

      "It’'s just great how this combines all the things the students are learning this year,"” Principal Jeff Krumbein said.

     The fifth-graders picked the song topic and described the trials and tribulations of Magellan. They fed him the facts and he helped them find a lyrical method of communicating the story as evidenced in the song’s chorus:


Viva Magellan!
On a voyage so compellin’'
Over ocean waters swellin’'
We fell into tellin’'
The tale of Magellan!

     "Coming up with the song topic was easy but creating the lyrics became a challenge," fifth-grader Caleb Krochalk said.

But songwriting "has many similarities to recent class lessons," classmate Hannah Scherkenbach chimed in. "We'’ve been doing poetry in class,"” she said.

     After brainstorming six verses and a chorus, Lonnquist congratulated the budding songwriters.

     "This was brutally hard, but you really stuck with it,"” he said.
While the fifth-graders focused on history, the fourth-graders concentrated their creativities on explaining how U.S. government operates.

     "We could write a song about anything, but for me a meaty curriculum topic is fun and challenging,”" Lonnquist said. “"I like when there’'s a combination of song and lesson.”"

     He keeps all of the songs he writes and records many of them. Lonnquist combines his teaching degree with a background in performance that goes back professionally to college. 

He believes the government song with a chorus referring to the “black hole where the money goes” will delight children and their parents.

     "This song has got '“legs”'. I’'m thinking of recording this one,” he said.

     Each songwriting session included lessons in descriptive writing, vocabulary and rhyming patterns ---- even if the students do not actually recognize the learning aspects, teachers said.

     As the grade levels go down, song topics get broader. The kindergarten classes spent their time creating a tune about friendship. "They talked about their love and relationships with family and schoolmates," teacher Nancy Freitag said.

     The songwriting task played well into the curriculum.
“"We had just finished studying rhyming words," “ she said. “"The kids would come up with the rhyming words and sentences would come from that.”"

     They proved so apt at songwriting, they tackled a second ditty --- this one about animals. One student came up with the concept of a giraffe who drank from a carafe, vocabulary that impressed Lonnquist, Freitag said.

     At the end of his time at Glenwood, Lonnquist performed the 10 songs he created with students during an evening show for parents.
“"My biggest challenge is tremembering all these new melodies!"” he said.

This Land We Love:

Crafting A Song Writing Legacy
By Kathleen Regnier, Peninsula State Park Naturalist,
and Joan Blackwood, Coordinator for Friends of Gibraltar

EE News, Environmental Education in WI, Summer, 2001

     Last fall, 2nd and 3rd graders from Gibraltar Elementary in Fish Creek, WI, participated in a musical arts residency celebrating the legacy and landscapes of Door County’'s many State Parks.

Thanks to a Wisconsin Arts Board grant and funding from the State of Wisconsin, the Friends of Gibraltar organization was able to hire Madison’'s playful and imaginative singer-songwriter Ken Lonnquist. 

Lonnquist, a 20-year veteran of writing songs, helped the children develop six songs with an environmental focus. Students took a field trip to each of the five parks in the county, enjoyed classroom visits by naturalists, toured a state park art exhibit, and attended song-writing sessions. All of these experiences culminated in two concerts where students gave musical expression to their state park experiences in front of over 500 people.

     The remainder of this article describes the residency methodology and demonstrates how techers integrated environmental education into their curriculum at many levels.

Focusing on Local Landscapes

     The connection to local landscapes was especially exciting because Door County has the greatest number of state parks  of any county in Wisconsin.  These parks embody the peninsula’'s rich heritage with their ancient burial sites, farmstead and cottage foundations, massive Icelandic-style structures, rocky bluffs, pristine shorelines, and rare species like dwarf lake iris and dune thistle. The residency helped children appreciate and understand the landscape around them; the very places for which they may become stewards. 


Crafting The Songs


     This arts residency enhanced the existing parks-school relationship and supported academic standards related to communities,. While at Newport State Park, students learned about it's history as a pioneer town. Later, they crafted a song that revealed what they had seen, heard and felt on the field trip. Lonnquist helped students discover “mood” and they created a wistful, steady melody, which evoked powerful imagery. The “bones” for example, refer to wooden beams from Newport’'s old foundations and dock:

There’s a road that disappears
Overgrown by flowers and years
It leads to a forgotten town
Bones scattered all around

Where a sawmill used to stand
Wooden beams lie on the land
And what used to be a dock
Is only a pile of rock

Can you tell me what became
Of the town whose last remains
Whisper with the wind’'s caress:
Newport Wilderness...


     “"Don’'t ever underestimate a child’s ability to recall events, to have opinions on subject matter, or to create a unique tune,”" said Lori Free, Gibraltar music teacher, in a program evaluation.

For 2nd grade teacher Sue Olson, the arts residency was a reminder. “"One thing that was reinforced for me was the quality gained by allowing children to do.”"

     Sue’'s observations were evident in the scientific detail created in the following verse, expressed so vividly because students walked the beach, touched the sand, and had it's secrets revealed by a naturalist:

Sand, multi-colored
The black, magnetized
You’'re apt to find many shapes and sizes
Beaches wider
Than not-long-ago
Growing more narrow as water rises


     During the residency, naturalists told tales not in a classroom, but on the very site where events may have happened, with cedar trees reaching skywards and blue water all around. Such a sensual landscape surely made tha land’'s stories more understandable and memorable, and it is places remembered that are preserved.

Planning For Success

     School and park staff ensured success through extensive planning one year in advance by securing the grant, contracting and scheduling with Mr. Lonnquist, and scheduling naturalist programs as soon as possible.

     Teachers assisted with planning, and their dedication to integrate the project with class studies and standards was critical. During the weeks between field trips and songwriting sessions, teachers engaged students in several classroom activities. Students created bulletin board displays using their digital photos, learned from additional naturalist presentations, studied aerial maps of the county and photos of park plants, and wrote about their outdoor experiences.

     During the field experiences, teachers and naturalists covered several subjects. For science, students learned about local plant and animal life and the habitats found at each of the parks. To enhance the social studies curriculum, park naturalists taught about map skills for studying different types of communities, and the uniqueness of both rural and urban settings.  


Making The Grade


When the residency was complete, one of the organizers said, "The value to students, teachers, and community was worth the time, money, and planning.”"

     "I feel happy, proud, and glad when I write my own songs,”" said Charity, one residency 3rd grader.

2nd grade teacher Sue Olson recommends that other teachers “"Go for it! Ir’s a blast and an experience that you and the children will never forget.”"

Students Learn About Mayville’s History

Summer school program focuses on area'’s backyard
By Colleen Kottke, Fond du Lac Reporter, 7/10/03

     For years, the Rock River and Horicon Marsh have played a major role in the history of the Mayville area and in the lives of residents residing along the banks and shores.

     Mayville summer school students have woven the lifetime experiences of area elders and historians into a tapestry of living history that will be presented during the Sense Of Place Celebration
beginning at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 11, at the Middle School.

The project is a collaborative effort between the school district, Main Street Mayville, the Mayville Chamber of Commerce, Rock River Headwaters, Lake Sinissippi Association USFWL and the Deptarment of Natural Resources.

     "The Sense of Place project demonstrates the value of the communities and landscapes in our own bac yard,”" said ranger Molly Stoddard of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “"The Rock River and Horicon Marsh both have a rich history that can still be learned firsthand form our elders who lived it.”"

With the support of a DNR Lakes Planning Grant, the Mayville School District tailored the 2003 summer school program to spotlight on the the Sense of Place program, with many courses focusing on the impact the Rock River and Horicon Marsh and people have on each other.

     For weeks, students have been meeting with local community members, recording their oral histories of times past. Nine-year-old Tiffany Wiedmeyer was especially impressed with the stories 100-year-old Louis Mueller had to share.

     "As a boy, he talked about swimming in the Rock River near the dam and told us that we need to take care of the river for our children someday,”" Tiffany said.

     Mueller surprised and delighted students during the interview at his Mayville home, entertaining them with tales of skating along the Rock River from Mayville to Theresa as a boy of eight.

     “We would strap our skates onto the bottoms of our shoes and set out,”" Mueller said. “"Because the river meanders, the trip was actually 10 miles in length and took us about two hours. We also had to be careful of the barb-wire from farm fields crossing the river. We skated the river only a couple of times a year before the snow covered the ice.”"

     Ten-year-old Duffy Hoffman said, “"Back when he was young, he had to work just to have fun. They would work half a day just to clean the ice off of the Mayville mill ponds just to have a skating rink.”"

     Local history buff James Schinderle also met with students and recalled the early role of the Rock River in producing water-power for saw mills and gristmills and providing cooling for the blast furnaces of the ironworks factories.

     "Over the years, the river has been getting cleaner,”" Schinderle said. “"I told them if they want the river to last, they have to take care of it.”"

     Award-winning Madison singer/songwriter Ken Lonnquist has been working closely with students as an artist-in-residence, helping to fashion the elders'’ “tales” into songs. Armed with his guitar, Lonnquist draws out ideas from students, fleshing out the framework of a melody with lyrics and phrases generated by the students.

     "I’m just a cog in the wheel,”" Lonnquist said. “"In a couple of cases, I have come up with the idea for a melody, and the kids will shape the verses based on an underlying theme like the colors of the river." The Sense of Place Celebration will be a multi-faceted presentation with the kids performing a mock radio show called ‘Rock River Radio’, telling of events in the history of the marsh and river in addition to performing three new songs and displaying their artwork.”

     Mayville teacher Diane Wieneke said, “"You can just see the interest of the kids growing as as they get more and more into this. They feel a certain sense of ownership in this project, knowing that a phrase or idea that they contributed is part of a song.”"