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Program introduces students to the cello

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Westborough – Kindergarteners are used to listening to stories, but Sandy Kiefer and her “Talking Cello” gave them their first opportunity to hear a musical instrument tell the story Nov. 12. They even got to hear the cello tell a story they devised, with Kiefer’s guidance

Sponsored by the Fales Parent Group, Kiefer’s performance held the students in Nancy Stanton’s class spellbound.

Keifer introduced the students to the instrument step by step, starting with the rules: no talking, and questions at the end of the presentation.

“They know the two rules,” she said after knock ing on her cello case. “Will you come out now?”

Kiefer walked the children through the cello’s structure, asking them to guess names of elements, such as the bridge, and what the bowstring is made of (horse hair). Then she had the cello tell a story by providing sound effects, including a purr for the cat, buzzing bees, a blustery wind, a telephone, and even climbing uphill.

“How on earth did I get those bees to come out of my cello,” she asked. Then she showed them how different strings, and different ways of plucking and playing the strings provided the sound effects.

The children then helped “write” a story for the cello to tell. Kiefer began by asking them to vote on whether the story would be about a dog or a cat; they chose a dog. Was its best friend a bird or a turtle? Did they live in the country or the city? The children eagerly voted on each element of the story.

Finally, the story was settled: A dog and his best friend, a bird, live in the country and travel to a mountain, where they escape a storm complete with thunder and lightening, by running into a haunted house. After climbing three creaky steps, they find a mysterious box with a cell phone inside, so they can call for a helicopter to pick them up. As she told the story through once, Kiefer added the sound effects. But that was only the beginning.

“I’m taking away all my words,” Kiefer told the children. “The cello has to tell the story all by herself.”

The cello barked and sang, crashed and thundered, creaked and beeped, whirred and even tinkled with the sound of sunlight. After listening in silence, the children applauded the story.

Kiefer’s Talking Cello program is part of the Young Audiences of Massachusetts. She has a master’s degree in music from the New England Conservatory and is on the faculty of the University of Rhode Island. She has taught the Suzuki string method for five years, teaching the cello to students ages 4 through 8.

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