Musician Johnny “Johnny B” Bushell and author Sharon Bushell demonsterate the similarities between music and writing during a residency at McNeil Canyon Elementary School.-Photo provided

Musician Johnny “Johnny B” Bushell and author Sharon Bushell demonsterate the similarities between music and writing during a residency at McNeil Canyon Elementary School.-Photo provided

McNeil multiplies kids’ creativity

  • By McKibben Jackinsky
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2014 6:24pm
  • News

Make that not one, but two artists at McNeil Canyon Elementary School. Musician Johnny Bushell, who performs under the name “Johnny B,” and author Sharon Bushell just completed a residency that has kindergarteners through sixth-graders well versed in the creative flow.

The double residency, a brainchild of McNeil teacher Debbie Piper, began Jan. 6 and wrapped up with a celebration Jan. 30.

“I knew both of them had great strengths in very different art forms,” said Piper. “Sharon is a delightful author. Johnny B is an incredible musician. … We wanted to get kids excited about writing by understanding that writing is like any of the other art forms in terms of being a way to express ideas, be creative and having to be organized.”

Using her Bernie Jones series of children’s books, Sharon Bushell shared with the students the process she uses as an author. 

“Johnny B talked about how music paralleled the writing process, how you have an idea, you think about it awhile, you go back and remove and change things, make it better,” said Piper. “It takes awhile before you get to the final product.”

McNeil teacher Lenore Swanson built on what the husband-and-wife team was teaching, with the fourth-grade physical education class choreographing a dance to one of Johnny B’s songs. Piper took the Bushells’ writing-music lessons another step, translating what the students were learning into visual arts.

It was not the first time the Bushells have worked with students at McNeil, but it was the first time they have been there together.

“The kids are so lucky out there,” said Johnny B. “The staff is just an incredible staff. McNeil has always had a great reputation and it was such a pleasure working, not only with the teachers, but with the kids. … We had a great time.”

The Bushells’ schedule was six lessons a day, and included more hands-on activities for the younger grades and more talking with the older kids. 

“The bottom line was that once you have an idea, there’s a process you go through,” said Johnny B. “It’s the same whether you’re putting dance together, a piece of art, music or writing a story.”

After hearing Johnny B play a piece of music inspired by a New York City snowstorm, the students created a mural depicting the storm as it approached and finally descended upon the city.

“It turned out beautiful and is hanging in the school hallway,” said Piper. “People are saying, ‘oh, we hope you don’t take that down.’” 

While the mural will eventually come down, the students have one creation that will remain: “Friends,” a new school song for which they wrote the lyrics and Johnny B wrote the music. A video of the students singing, Johnny B performing and images of the mural can be seen on YouTube, youtu.be/8yPjlS-KxvU.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at  mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

 

More in News

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Homer City Council candidate Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Traffic moves north along the Sterling Highway shortly after a fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The state is seeking federal funding for a project aimed at improving safety along the Sterling Highway between mileposts 82.5 to 94, or between Sterling and Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to federal funding for Sterling Highway project

The project is aimed at improving highway safety between Sterling and Soldotna.

Ethan Benton (left) and Laura Walters of Kodiak win the vaccine lottery for the Alaska Chamber's week one vaccine lottery giveaway "Give AK a Shot." (Screenshot)
State names winners in 1st vaccine lottery

A Valdez and Kodiak resident took home checks for $49,000 each.

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
A podium marks the beginning of a StoryWalk at Soldotna Creek Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The project was discontinued in August due to vandalism.
Vandalism ends Soldotna library program

The StoryWalk was made possible by a $2,500 donation from the Soldotna Library Friends.

Juneau Empire file
The Coast Guard medevaced a 90-year-old suffering stroke-like symptoms near Ketchikan aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium like this one, seen in Juneau, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Coast Guard medevacs man from yacht near Ketchikan

The 90-year-old suffered symptoms of a stroke.

James Varsos, also known as “Hobo Jim,” poses for a photo during the August 2016, Funny River Festival in Funny River, Alaska, in August 2016. (Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Hobo Jim’ opens up about recent terminal cancer diagnosis

Varsos was named Alaska’s official “state balladeer” in 1994.

Most Read