Florence and the machines: ‘Junk 2 Funk’ at FRES

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • Jeff Erwin introduces third graders at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton to 'Junk 2 Funk,' teaching them teamwork and resourcefulness. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/16/2017 7:30:24 AM

The gymnasium at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton is filled with piles of garbage. There are pans and silverware, trash barrels and street signs, pipes, a spade, a washboard, a dryer and so on. One of the signs says “one way,” but its purpose at the school is to show that there is more than one way to see a piece of garbage.

With “Junk 2 Funk,” students will be using these found and recycled materials to play music, at once learning to make the most of the materials they have, and learn to come together to put on a show.

For the school’s artist-in-residence program, an annual engagement in which FRES students learn the arts from a regional professional, it brought in Jeff Erwin and his “Junk 2 Funk.”

Erwin launched the educational tool in 1998, and it has taken many iterations. He was a third-grade teacher in Rochester at the time, and was inspired by seeing the Tony-award winning production Stomp, which he saw in Portsmouth. Stomp uses anything but instruments to make a rhythm, an idea that translated perfectly to working with kids.

“There’s a green message, an environmental message that you can take found objects and make something,” he said. “But there’s also instilling confidence; there’s no wrong way to play a bucket or pots and pans.”

Despite no formal music background, he figured out how to make the enrichment work, first as an afterschool program, then on tour.

“I was the kid on the bus who always got the bus in rhythm playing on the seats and the walls,” he said. “I felt like I was at home when I started this because I’ve sort of always been doing it.”

Last year, the students painted a mural near the main entrance, but Principal Tim O’Connell likes alternating between visual and performing arts. “This year we decided to go with the performing arts,” he said, highlighting “Junk 2 Funk’s” teachings on the science of sound, how to be good stewards of the earth and, most importantly, collaboration.

The performance will feature students playing on the recycled instruments, as well as singing hip-hop and showcasing multimedia skills with sound and light technology. There will even be a parody of Taylor Swift.

“I want the kids to be rock stars, and I’ll be in the background,” Erwin said. He added, “That’s how we grow, right: we try things that challenge us, so I gently nudge them to challenge themselves.”

“Junk 2 Funk” started Erwin’s enrichment programs. Now, his company Trashcan Lid Productions has another anti-bullying program called “Sticks and Stones.”

Based in Southern Maine, the former Portsmouth resident is no stranger to the region. In addition to being a part of Peterborough Arts Festival in years past, he is a jury member on the New Hampshire Council on the Arts.

Florence Rideout students are set to perform their rendition of “Junk 2 Funk” at 5 p.m., Friday, March 17.


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