Getting down to Earthworks

By Kyle Leppek

Music collective teams up with Red Cedar Elementary students for concert

When musician Chris Dorman visited students during music
class at Red Cedar Elementary School in East Lansing, they were excited to have
a star in their midst. Melissa Sigh, the school’s music teacher, recalls the
children questioning Dorman about his fame in terms of how many fans he has. In
order to reply, Dorman labeled the schoolroom floor as “no fans” and set the
ceiling equivalent to Beyonce’s fame. He then, humbly, gestured around knee-height.

a member of the Michigan-based Earthwork Music collective, visited the school
in January to begin work on a collaborative concert between the collective and
Red Cedar Elementary School students.

The Earthwork Music collective is a
group of folk musicians, and a record label, working together to promote and
encourage music primarily in Michigan.

Sigh, who previously worked in the
Holt school district, had brought in guest musicians before with success and
wanted to try something similar in East Lansing. Sigh contacted Dorman and the
rest of the collective and set up the concert.

The concert will feature 11 songs
of both Earthwork original music and other favorite American folk songs. The
group e-mailed Sigh with a list of songs they could perform and with her
students' abilities in mind she whittled down the list.

Three of the songs being performed
during the concert are from the collective’s new children’s album, Earthwork
4 Kids
, which will be released and
available for sale during the concert.

Dorman, who has a 2-year-old son,
said his new experience as a father moved him towards the concert. “I’ve grown
a great appreciation for kiddos,” he said. “[Red Cedar students] are so excited
and creative. It was a perfect fit with us.”

students will spend the day before the concert with the musicians working in
music and Earth Day related workshops before heading to the concert later that

says Red Cedar’s student population represents 50 different countries and 30
different languages with English as a second language for many of the students.
The chance to bring together many different cultures also appealed to Dorman.

can learn a lot on a computer, learn a lot with books, but going to a country
and learning from a different country is such a different experience . . . it’s
a whole wide world out there.”

students, from 10 different classes, will stand behind the 10 Earthwork
musicians on stage. The students will join during choruses and other selected
parts in addition to performing choreography to accompany the music. One song
will feature a percussion solo from a third-grade student.

plans to record the concert as an album and a DVD to possibly replicate but
also use as an example to show other groups she hopes to work with in the
future. The cost for the performance was underwritten by several grants Sigh
applied for and admission to the concert is free.

concert will be held Friday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Michigan State
University Community Music School’s auditorium at 841 Timberlane Dr in East