By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Storyteller and musician Caroline Johnson will entertain children of all ages with an interactive program, “Woody Guthrie Children’s Songs” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Stillwater Public Library.
“Children can play along with washboards, spoons, horseshoes, tambourines and other percussion instruments,” Johnson said.
As an elementary music teacher at Riverfield Country Day School in Tulsa, Johnson shares Woody Guthrie’s music with her classes throughout the year and gives folk music presentations across the state.
“I grew up in Oklahoma with folk singing and I love to share songs with my autoharp,” Johnson said.
The autoharp is an American-made instrument that could be found in the Sears and Roebuck catalog and “back in the day, you could order an autoharp and have it delivered up your holler so the instrument was used widely in country singing.”
Johnson’s musical program is part of “One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads Woody Guthrie,” which is designed to foster a sense of community through a shared reading experience, along with deepening an appreciation for Guthrie as an Oklahoma musician, writer and artist. Free copies of Guthrie’s autobiographical “Bound for Glory” have been made available through the generosity of the Stillwater Public Library Trust, Friends of the Stillwater Public Library and the Oklahoma Humanities Council. Johnson will focus on Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” to explain all the verses.
“He was the voice of the people,” Johnson said. “His lyrics send a message to today’s children that music can be a powerful voice. The songs touch on Woody as a father, his ties to his home state, his love of language, his love of land and commitment to social justice.”
In an age in which bullying has become a hot topic, “Guthrie was ahead of the times, emphasizing using your words to speak up for the common good in songs like ‘Don’t you push me down,’” she said. “He wrote about issues that we are still dealing with in the world.”
“Woody’s music is magic and pulls children in like a magnet,” Johnson said. “He played around with words and captured the immediacy of being a kid.”
As a Merchant Marine, Guthrie served in World War II and used his music to spread the message of freedom in America. Families enjoy the musical programs because grandparents can sing the songs with everyone chiming in with the simple choruses, she said.
Many more “One Book, One Community” events are scheduled in March and April. There is no cost for any of the programs. For a full list of events or more information, visit library.stillwater.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 405-372-3633. The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. at the corner of Duck and 12th Avenue.