MOUNT SAVAGE, Md. (AP) — To third-graders at Mount Savage Elementary School, Tom Hawk’s yodeling sounded strangely familiar — even though the genre originated in Europe and is associated with the American West.

“All you’ve got to do, when you’re feeling blue, Yo-del-ee-a-ee-yo-del-ee-dee,” sang Hawk, one of more than a dozen regional artists participating in this year’s Arts in the Schools Week.

“All you’ve got to say to drive the blues away, Yo-del-ee-a-ee-dee.”

“Who noticed something interesting about the letters he was yodeling?” Principal Gary Llewellyn asked about 40 students gathered for Hawk’s hour-long performance.

“They’re vowels!”?students said.

Sponsored by the Allegany Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Allegany County Board of Education, Arts in the Schools Week brings singers, dancers, storytellers and other artists into two area schools each spring to try to cultivate an interest in the arts.

This year, programs have been taking place all week at Mount Savage and Northeast elementary schools.

“It is a real exposure to a lot of different art forms,”?said Llewellyn, who so far has welcomed the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, a pair of blues singers and a Caribbean steel drum band into the school. Some children have also designed greeting cards and created pressed dried flower works.

Other visiting artists this year include Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Center and Chamber Choir, Frostburg Dance Academy and Greg Latta, who performed traditional Appalachian music.

Thursday’s yodeling performance at Mount Savage was just for third-graders, who actually learned how to yodel, sort of.

“So you guys know knock-knock jokes?” Hawk asked, after teaching students the basics. “If I say knock-knock, you say … ”

“Who’s there?” students shouted.

“Little Old Lady.”

“Little Old Lady who?”

And they were off.

A retired professor, Hawk, 71, took up yodeling in 2007, after he saw a performance by “America’s Got Talent”?contestant Taylor Ware, who reminded him how much he loved yodeling as a child.

“When I was about your age, I would go to the movie theater with friends,”?Hawk told students. “It was called the Saturday matinee. We would see black and white Western movies of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Tex Ritter and Hopalong Cassidy. Most of the time there were cowboy songs in the movies. About half of those songs had yodeling in them. That’s how I really got to like yodeling.”

Four years ago, Hawk sent away for an instructional DVD and spent six weeks teaching himself to yodel. Then he practiced by singing along to some of the 40 or 50 yodeling CDs he bought.

These days, he performs at local events, maintains a website and recently released a CD of cover songs.

“I’m interested in being an ambassador for Western music, in general, and Western yodeling, in particular, here in an area where people rarely hear it,” said Hawk, who wore a crisp yellow shirt, a bolo tie and cowboy hat for Wednesday’s performance.

Students were rapt as he strummed his guitar and sang.

“Every time I’ve sung for elementary-age kids, they get really excited,” Hawk said. “It’s a musical genre that is simple in its construction, and basically fundamental in its chording. … It’s easy for them to connect with it.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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