CLARKS SUMMIT — A different kind of petting zoo is coming to town: one without animals. Instead of the “ba-a-a-as” of sheep, the “neighs” of horses and the “he-haws” of donkeys, the sounds drifting from this menagerie will be musical notes and chords coming from various instruments.
The Instrument Petting Zoo will be open to children and adults of all ages from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 18 at The Gathering Place (lower level of the borough building). Admission is free.
“It is going to be a day (when) children and adults can come to The Gathering Place and try a new instrument,” said event organizer Colleen Ruddy. “We’ll have violins, cellos, upright bass, electric bass, harp, a dulcimer and a ukulele for people to try.”
The professional bassist and arts education advocate, along with other “zookeepers” will be on hand during the event to supervise and assist, as well as demonstrate some of the different sounds each instrument can produce.
“They (attendees) can pluck the instruments, they can use the bows, they can hear the sounds, they can feel the vibrations of the air coming through the different instruments,” she said.
But the fun doesn’t have to end there.
The Gathering Place is offering introductory group music classes, taught by Ruddy, at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, from April 12 through May 3, with local dealers offering short and long term instrument rentals. In addition to the introductory stringed instrument class, Ruddy is also forming a chamber music group for more experienced players. More information about both can be obtained in person at the Instrument Petting Zoo or online at gatheringplacecs.org.
While learning to play an instrument is certainly the aim of the classes, Ruddy said there is another goal just as important: people coming together.
She got a small taste of this during the recent Clarks Summit Festival of Ice when she set up a booth at The Gathering Place to promote the Instrument Petting Zoo. Countless people visited the table, picking up information about the event and touching the ukulele and bass that were on display. But one group in particular stands out in her memory: A non-English speaking family she believes to be refugees.
“The whole family was there, and they came over to me, and the kids just lit up,” Ruddy said. “I put the ukulele in their hands and they strummed it, and looked at their parents hesitantly, and then the parents took pictures of all three kids with the ukulele. They were so happy with the instruments in their hands, that they just lit up. That was a really special experience.”
It is that connection that transcends language barriers that Ruddy hopes people participating in the musical events at The Gathering Place will experience.
“I think music has the capability to really bring people together,” she said. “So through music education I’m hoping to bring people together to learn more, to listen more to different types of music – to do it together.”